Camp Killoqua opens its doors to kids from Oso, Darrington

STANWOOD — It’s classic summer fun. It’s also a relaxing distraction.

There are no bumpy detours or scarred hillsides or tributes of ribbons and flowers.

Last week, about 22 children and teenagers from Oso and Darrington just got to be kids.

Jalen Maltos, 13, showed off a homemade superhero mask Thursday morning. He’d been enjoying his day at summer camp.

“It’s fun because you get to go do a lot of things and time goes by slowly because I think you remember everything more,” he said.

Camp Killoqua, operated by Camp Fire USA, is offering free summer camps to children affected by the March 22 Oso mudslide.

The camps would normally cost $500 or more. Organizations donated $61,515 for about 120 camp sessions this summer and in 2015. Donors include Friends of Camp Fire, United Way of Snohomish County, Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation and New York Life Insurance Company.

So far, 98 children from kindergarten to 12th grade have registered for the free camps, Camp Killoqua Director Carol Johnson said.

Camp Killoqua has seven separate weeklong sessions this summer. The last camp is scheduled to end Aug. 16. Children from Oso or Darrington may qualify to attend one week free, and registration is open, said Pearl James, summer camp director.

It’s rather informal so far, James and Johnson said. Parents explain how the Oso mudslide affected their children and someone at the camp can help them register.

Most of the Oso and Darrington kids at Camp Killoqua last week said it was their first time going to summer camp.

Campers were divided into cabins based on age and gender. Children from Darrington and Oso mingled with about 115 others. Some knew each other before camp, but most of the faces were new.

Friends Leilani Davis, Mia Green, Mekayla Smith-Day and Danielle Cook waited to splash into the cool waters of Crabapple Lake on a sunny Thursday morning. The four 9-year-olds are from the Darrington area.

They loved the camp’s cookout and scavenger hunt, where they dressed their camp counselor up as a supervillain. They swam, took walks in the woods and did arts and crafts. All four agreed that swimming and games were the highlights of Camp Killoqua.

Fellow campers Andrea Edwards, Jordan Maltos and Morgen Schoneman were already in the water, splashing and laughing.

Jordan, 11, said she and her friends wanted to come to camp “so we don’t have to stay at home anymore.”

Camp gives kids a sense of independence and camaraderie, James said.

“They get this opportunity to have a week where they’re a normal kid and they don’t have to see all the rescue efforts and rebuilding they see every day at home,” she said.

Camp Killoqua also hosted a grief camp in June for children impacted by the mudslide. Another grief camp is planned next year.

“After the slide happened, what we always think about is ‘what about the kids?’” James said. “There was all this focus on the recovery and relief efforts, and we thought, ‘What can we do for the kids?’ It came up almost immediately: Let’s get them to camp.”

The number of families who responded surprised organizers, James said, but so did the immediate swell of community support. A lot of people were looking for ways to help.

Camp Killoqua was established in 1941. Camp counselors and staff are trained and paid, James said.

Weeklong sessions teach activities like horseback riding, archery and high rope or climbing wall courses. General sessions include swimming, hiking, crafts, games and cookouts, James said.

Trent Hebert, 9, sat on a log with about 10 other boys Thursday, playing games and waiting for lunch. Another camper bounded over, wondering if the group had heard about the mudslide that happened.

Trent nodded. His house was close to the slide, he said. His family moved, and he thinks they’ll be moving again sometime soon, maybe to Leavenworth.

But Thursday, he wasn’t so worried.

It was cookout day, and the campfire was set to be blazing soon, with the promise of fresh-roasted food and new friends.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

Call Camp Killoqua at 360-652-6250 for more information about the free camp sessions.

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