How a summer camp aims to help kids heal together from pandemic, wildfire trauma

Children laugh and play with goats at Willow-Witt Ranch.
Young girls sit on the lawn while participating in an educational program at The Crest at Willow-Witt Ranch.

Coming off nearly three years in a global pandemic and wildfires that have devastated the Valley, Susanne Willow says the non-profit she co-founded, The Crest at Willow -Witt Ranch is hoping to provide a safe space for children to collectively heal.

“All of that trauma globally means that the kids have come together carrying this weight,” Willow said. “We all have it so let’s get together, let’s make a group bond, let’s gradually learn to take our time out.”

She said the educational programs provided at the ranch take a trauma-informed approach and allow space for all emotions to be felt while healing together and in nature.

Willow said parent surveys from last year’s summer program noted that it helped their kids integrate back into the community after lockdown.

“Quite a few parents saying “this changed my life this changed my child’s life, I had a child who was hesitant who was reticent,” She said. “One of the quotes was “my child didn’t even want to go to birthday parties they were so shy” and (now) they can’t think of a better place in the world to be.”

The non-profit offers weekly Nature Day camps that run from June 13 to Sept 2 and accepts kids ages six through eleven. Educational programs take place on the 445-acre ranch in the mountains of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument east of Ashland, Oregon.

“They usually have a project that involves a game, we usually start the day with games, social games getting the kids to remember each other and know each other,” Willow said.

Activities include story-telling, hiking with goats, collecting chicken eggs, studying turtles and birds, making crafts, performing garden tasks, service learning and more. Attendees are also given two baskets of vegetables to take home with them each week.

Families may sign up for as many weeks as they wish, first-come, first-served. Camps will run Monday through Friday, 9 am – 3:30 pm. Tuition is $450 per week with scholarships available upon request.

The camp includes an instructor-accompanied bus ride that begins at the Expo Center in Central Point and stops in Talent and Ashland. More information and sign-up is available on the non-profit’s website.

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The Crest is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization

The Crest nonprofit organization relies on donations to support youth programs and give community groups the chance to experience the wonders of nature to learn about and feel a connection to the natural world. Please consider contributing to this natural legacy by making a tax-deductible donation.

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658 Shale City Road
Ashland OR 97520

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