Oregon Guardsmen team up to host 46th year of kids' camp

  • Published
  • By Capt. Angela Walz
  • 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Trepidation, disbelief, anxiety... these emotions and more were seen on the faces of the 160 or so kids as they stepped off the bus on day 1 to the bumping music, high fives and cheers from the staff and counselors at Camp Rosenbaum. Fast forward 5 days and their faces now show excitement, joy, contentment.

Camp Rosenbaum 2016 began Sunday and came to a close Friday at Camp Rilea, a small military installation operated by the Oregon National Guard (ORNG) and located outside of Warrenton, Ore., on the dramatic Pacific Northwest coastline. The ORNG, Portland Police Bureau and Home Forward (previously known as the Housing Authority of Portland) partner each year to put on the camp for low-income youth from Oregon and Southwest Washington, and staff it with an equal amount of volunteers as there are campers.

"This unique partnership is the only camp in the country to bring such a diverse group together to benefit the community's children," said Espirito Meller, 2016 Camp Rosenbaum Director. Meller works full-time as an architect in his civilian career and also serves as the 142nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander at the Portland Air National Guard Base.

Camp Rosenbaum was inspired by Brig. Gen. Fred M. Rosenbaum, a late member of the Oregon Air National Guard. He realized that many children, especially those living in low-income housing, would benefit from a citizenship camp. His vision to help youth has grown into an annual event in its 46th year.

The underlying partnership of military, police and housing authority grew out of necessity as the housing authorities and police agencies saw first-hand the youth with a high potential to be served by the mission of Camp Rosenbaum. The National Guard has the volunteer capacity to round out the triad, which enables them an opportunity to also pass on the legacy of an iconic Guardsman and military leader.

The goal of Camp Rosenbaum is to give children an experience of a lifetime, while at the same time teach them life skills and provide useful tools to help them attain their goals and reach personal success. Emphasis is placed on staying in school, making good choices, avoiding gangs and drugs, and learning how to be good citizens. All of this happens in the midst of fun and adventures, among inspiring staff and new friends.

During the week-long camp, kids have the opportunity to fish, ride horses, swim in the ocean, participate in team sports and build sand castles. The educational component of camp includes arts and crafts, science, goal-setting and Gang Resistance Education and Training, which is taught by the police officers who attend camp as counselors and staff.

The kids know the Rosenbaum staff by their camp names - including Nascar, Dude, Ogre, among others - but see a different side to their mentors as they depart camp. On Friday, military members and police officers report in their designated uniforms to bid the kids farewell. This leaves a lasting impression on the campers and serves as a reminder that uniformed personnel are real people with real (and camp) names.

"Camp Rosenbaum is all about the kids," said Meller. "We have the opportunity to take a group of low-income youth, spend a week with them at Oregon's beautiful coast, teach them about good citizenship, the value of staying in school, and just let them have fun."

Fred Rosenbaum's passion to help children stems from his own childhood, having lived as a foster child after surviving the Holocaust in Austria. Camp Rosenbaum has volunteer hours exceeding 230,000 and has provided a free camp to more than 6,500 local youth. The camp has received national acclaim and awards over the years. It is funded by donations to the non-profit Camp Rosenbaum Fund via an annual 'Taste of Camp' fundraiser and the organization's website: www.camprosenbaum.org.