Maybe it’s the mile of sandy beach, or the mist rising from the Salmon River Estuary, or the campfires among tall spruce and pine trees: Camp Westwind is infused with a kind of magical solitude that allows people to reflect not only on the natural world around them, but also on themselves.
What began as a YWCA camp for girls in 1936 has now become a place where more than 5,000 people journey for multi-day camps, workshops and retreats amidst 529 acres of forests, marshes and beaches that quickly come to feel like “home.”
Each summer Westwind hosts more than 1,200 campers—families and youth—for traditional and inclusive camp programming. Close to 20 percent of those campers are awarded “Camperships” by Westwind, allowing them to attend for free or at a reduced rate. During much of the spring and fall, Westwind hosts more than 1,500 youth from districts around the state for four to five days of Outdoor School. The program has been run by the Northwest Education Service District for more than 40 years.
“At the core of our mission is sustainability and living lightly with the land,” says Monalisa Diamond, Development Coordinator for Camp Westwind.
The kind of transformative experiences that happen at Camp Westwind rely on the basic functioning of camp. With support from the Gray Family Foundation, the camp made a number of improvements from 2015-2017, with more to come. The camp rebuilt two outhouses to be more comfortable for campers, a change that helps kids generate a positive attitude about what it means to be outside, Diamond says. A new stove and commercial warming rack were added to the kitchen, and dining hall tables and benches were rebuilt with native wood and metalwork hand crafted by Westwind staff.
The original caretaker house was repurposed into a health center, with new beds, large capacity washer and dryer and a renovated kitchen. Westwind also rebuilt its river shed to properly store paddles and life jackets for boating adventures and the traditional ferry ride across the Salmon River. Wilson Lodge—Westwind’s center of camp—received a fresh coat of paint and upgraded its water supply lines, both regular repairs and maintenance rarely funded by other foundations or grant sources.
“We wouldn’t be able to do a lot of these repairs without the funding from Gray Family Foundation,” Diamond says.