News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Upward Bound offers multitude of summer camp sessions

Upward Bound Camp offers lots of fun activities for campers and visitors.                                          Courtesy of Upward Bound Camp

Upward Bound Camp is busy getting ready for summer fun!

“We are offering eight weeks of summer camp,” said Diane Turnbull, director of the Gates camp that has provided Christian-based recreational and educational camp experiences for people 12 and over with special needs since 1978.

“Our themes include sports, drama, grafts, gardening, cooking, Fourth of July Celebration week, and a Christmas in July,” she added. “We are also adding weekly horseback riding through Horses of Hope.”

During camp sessions, UBC will also broadcast Zoom Dances on Thursday nights as well as from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 21 and June 18. The Zoom link is on the camp’s website. 

Upward Bound Camp was directly impacted by wildfire that took out much of Gates in the fall of 2020. Four of the buildings onsite were lost, including the main building that held the chapel, offices, craft rooms and bunk rooms. UBC was able to host several weeks of camp last summer, using tents and other donated facilities. 

This year, due to ongoing wildfire restoration, Turnbull said campers will sleep in tents and use portable toilets and showers again this year. 

“But we plan to have our commercial kitchen in the Old School Building back up and running this summer,” she said. 

Last year, Upward Bound staff were only able to serve ten campers a week due to COVID group size restrictions with limited camp offerings, according to Turnbull.

“But we recently learned that this year, we can serve 20 campers a week,” she said. “That is pretty exciting for us as well as our campers!”

Turnbull expects running the camps to be easier this summer than last. 

“There is still a lot of work to do,” she said. “With the expanded camper numbers, we need a little more space for our sleeping area and tents, so we are leveling the ground where the bus barn and the maintenance shed was before the fire. Getting the kitchen up and running is a big project, too.”

The camp currently has no running water, no electricity and the septic system requires some repairs prior to camper arrival, Turnbull said. 

“Last month, we had an AmeriCorps crew on the property, a shared endeavor with Camp Taloali that has worked out beautifully,” she said. “We needed the help but had no space for the crew to sleep or cooking facilities to get them fed. We have several volunteer weekends coming up and hope to have community support to keep the momentum going.”

The dates for upcoming volunteer weekends are:  May 27-28, June 3-4 and 17-18. Those who want to help but can’t make one of the weekends can set their own time to help by calling the camp. 

“We are also working on establishing a Gates community garden so be on the look out for information related to helping out with that project,” Turnbull said. “I think we are doing pretty well. We lost a few staff since we didn’t have as much work due to the fires and COVID, but many have hung on and just keep showing up whenever we need them.

“Not only are we working to rebuild the camp itself we are restoring the Old High School building,” she added. “Most of our grant efforts are focused right now on raising money for the restoration. The building has been designated the ‘Most Endangered Place in Oregon’ for 2022 through Restore Oregon, which we understand
will help us with our fundraising efforts related to the restoration.”

Turnbull encourages to register early as summer camp sessions fill fast. A new online registration system makes signing up for summer activities easier for Upward Bound campers. For offerings and sign-ups, visit or UBC’s Facebook page. 

Upward Bound Camp is state-licensed program that is nationally recognized for creative programming by the American Camp Association. UBC is also a member of the Christian Camp and Conference Association. 

For more information or to donate, call 503-897-2447.

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