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Camp Rosenbaum is full of firsts for kids

By Edward Stratton

The Daily Astorian

Published on August 3, 2016 10:19AM

Counselors at Camp Rosenbaum surprised their children Friday, revealing themselves as military personnel, police officers and firefighters. Housing, law enforcement and military agencies send volunteers to man the camp each summer, teaching kids good citizenship skills.

Edward Stratton/The Daily Astorian

Counselors at Camp Rosenbaum surprised their children Friday, revealing themselves as military personnel, police officers and firefighters. Housing, law enforcement and military agencies send volunteers to man the camp each summer, teaching kids good citizenship skills.

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Photo courtesy of Camp Rosenbaum
Fred Rosenbaum started Camp Rosenbaum in 1970, offering low-income kids the opportunity to enjoy summer camp and learn how to be good citizens.

Photo courtesy of Camp Rosenbaum Fred Rosenbaum started Camp Rosenbaum in 1970, offering low-income kids the opportunity to enjoy summer camp and learn how to be good citizens.

Camp Rosenbaum campers compete in a sandcastle-building competition.

Danny Miller/The Daily Astorian

Camp Rosenbaum campers compete in a sandcastle-building competition.

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Counselors at Camp Rosenbaum were greeted by lines of high-fives Friday after revealing their service to campers, who spent the week enjoying summer camp and learning how to be good citizens.

Edward Stratton/The Daily Astorian

Counselors at Camp Rosenbaum were greeted by lines of high-fives Friday after revealing their service to campers, who spent the week enjoying summer camp and learning how to be good citizens.

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Officer Matt Huspek of the Portland Police Bureau tells Titus Cabine, right, about his police cruiser after teaching the Gang Resistance Education and Training program at Camp Rosenbaum Thursday.

Edward Stratton/The Daily Astorian

Officer Matt Huspek of the Portland Police Bureau tells Titus Cabine, right, about his police cruiser after teaching the Gang Resistance Education and Training program at Camp Rosenbaum Thursday.

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Lori Rosenbaum-Krasnowsky, daughter of Camp Rosenbaum founder Fred Rosenbaum, has attended camp and counseled youth for most of her life. Several Rosenbaums are still involved at the camp.

Edward Stratton/The Daily Astorian

Lori Rosenbaum-Krasnowsky, daughter of Camp Rosenbaum founder Fred Rosenbaum, has attended camp and counseled youth for most of her life. Several Rosenbaums are still involved at the camp.

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Kids at Camp Rosenbaum trained as firefighters, hauling victims out of burning structures and shooting fire hoses to squelch fires.

Edward Stratton/The Daily Astorian

Kids at Camp Rosenbaum trained as firefighters, hauling victims out of burning structures and shooting fire hoses to squelch fires.

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Alan Welbourn, back, and other Camp Rosenbaum campers share a laugh while riding a bus from Camp Rilea to Sunset Beach for a sandcastle-building competition.

Danny Miller/The Daily Astorian

Alan Welbourn, back, and other Camp Rosenbaum campers share a laugh while riding a bus from Camp Rilea to Sunset Beach for a sandcastle-building competition.

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Much of Camp Rosenbaum is reaching the hearts and minds of children, teaching them to be good citizens and giving them a positive exposure to law enforcement.

Edward Stratton/The Daily Astorian

Much of Camp Rosenbaum is reaching the hearts and minds of children, teaching them to be good citizens and giving them a positive exposure to law enforcement.

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On his first trip to the beach, 10-year-old Doran Gritton was buried in the sand and took a dip in the Pacific Ocean.

Edward Stratton/The Daily Astorian

On his first trip to the beach, 10-year-old Doran Gritton was buried in the sand and took a dip in the Pacific Ocean.

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Volunteers at Camp Rosenbaum took groups of kids to jump around in the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Edward Stratton/The Daily Astorian

Volunteers at Camp Rosenbaum took groups of kids to jump around in the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

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Camp Rosenbaum held a camp derby using wooden race cars cut out by Jim Cunningham, former U.S. Air Force pilot and commander of the Oregon Air National Guard, and finished by campers.

Edward Stratton/The Daily Astorian

Camp Rosenbaum held a camp derby using wooden race cars cut out by Jim Cunningham, former U.S. Air Force pilot and commander of the Oregon Air National Guard, and finished by campers.

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WARRENTON — The rows of young campers stood on their tiptoes and craned their necks toward the back of Warrior Hall Friday at the Camp Rilea Armed Forces Training Center. A look of surprise plastered on their faces, they watched as the counselors they had bonded with the past week filed in, their Camp RosenbaumT-shirts replaced by military fatigues, police and fire uniforms.

Camp Rosenbaum, a unique summer camp experience doubling as a crash course in good citizenship, wrapped up its 46th year Friday. Amid a chorus of hugs, well-wishes and high-fives, the corps of volunteers sent home 160 low-income youth with lasting childhood memories and a new respect for those in uniform.

Camp Rosenbaum is named after the late Fred Rosenbaum, a Holocaust refugee and Oregon luminary. The camp is now organized by the Oregon National Guard, Portland Police Bureau and housing agency Home Forward. Housing authorities around the Portland metro area, central, southern and coastal Oregon find kids age 9 to 11 to attend. Police, fire and housing agencies provide the volunteers, who outnumber campers, providing around-the-clock activities and life lessons in being good citizens.


All about the kids


Doran Gritton, a 10-year-old from Independence, laid on Sunset Beach Thursday while a couple of his new friends slowly buried his body in the sand.

“I actually have never been this close” to the ocean before, Gritton said, waiting for his turn with the counselors clad in wetsuits, taking groups of life-vested children to frolic in the waves.

Camp Rosenbaum is full of firsts for kids, who get to play on the beach, build sandcastles, ride horses, visit Fort Clatsop, slide down hills on cardboard boxes, fish for trout, cook s’mores, make leather and bead art and shoot fire hoses.

“A lot of these kids don’t even get three meals a day,” said Melissa Sonsalla, an employee of Home Forward and Camp Rosenbaum’s sole staffer. “Here they do.”

Sonsalla said the camp only takes about 60 percent of applicants, mostly from the Portland metro area. The kids who apply represent only a fraction of the more than 1,000 kids in the Portland metro alone who are eligible, she said. Along with their artistic creations, kids get to take home clothes, shoes and books collected by volunteers.

“The advantage we have here is that people are so committed to camp,” Sonsalla said, adding that many of the volunteers at camp spend the year doing fundraisers and gathering supplies for their activities, before spending an entire week with the kids.


Hearts and minds


Outside a log cabin at Camp Rilea Thursday, officers Matt Huspek and David McCarthy let kids crawl all over their police cruiser and motorcycles, after taking them through Gang Resistance Education and Training, an officer-taught program covering youth violence, delinquency and gang involvement.

“We’re trying to encourage them to have a community that’s much better than a gang,” McCarthy said, adding it helps giving kids an early positive experience with police.

Sonsalla said Portland police officers, who often worked as guards at the camp, became more involved in the 1990s after seeing the benefit of reaching out to kids early, and started joining the staff as counselors.

Another supporter of the camp is Jim Cunningham, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot and general, and a former commander of the Oregon Air National Guard. Cunningham, who cuts out the pinewood racers for a camp derby among children, said he wasn’t too enamored initially about coming to camp, but was hooked within the first day.

“It’s in my best interest that these become productive citizens,” said Cunningham, who also works with youth offenders trying to complete high school. “Bottom line is, we all have a vested interest in these kids.”


Rosenbaum’s camp


At age 12, Rosenbaum escaped out the window of his schoolhouse in Vienna, Austria, fleeing the Nazis. He was taken in by the Church of England before reuniting with his parents two years later and moving to Aberdeen, Washington, in 1941.

The experience defined Rosenbaum, who joined the U.S. Army at 18, wanting to fight Nazis, but he was deployed to the Philippines. After the war, Rosenbaum was an insurance salesman. He retired as a brigadier general from the Oregon Air National Guard and served for 15 years as the director of the Housing Authority of Portland, two worlds that came together during a summer family vacation to Gearhart that included a trip to an empty Camp Rilea.

“I just remember him walking around and saying ‘What a waste,’” said his daughter, Lori Rosenbaum-Krasnowsky, who has attended and volunteered at camp most of her life.

Rosenbaum went all the way to the governor with his idea, and the Air National Guard/Housing Authority of Portland Camp started in 1970, renamed after its founder within a few years.

Underpinning each day of camp are Rosenbaum’s ethics of good citizenship, such as being loyal, fair, sharing, caring and working together. Rosenbaum died in 2010, but several of his descendants still volunteer at the camp, carrying out his legacy.

“He grew to admire the country he was adopted into,” Rosenbaum-Krasnowsky said of her father. “Bottom line, this was his way of giving back and teaching kids to be good citizens.”

















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