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

Camp for deaf and hard-of-hearing youth ready for summer of fun

Contributing writer for The Canyon Weekly

Youngsters come first at Camp Taloali.

“Our passion is kids are No. 1,” said Janet Johanson, who serves on the camp’s board of directors. “As always, we are here for our campers, and also here for our Santiam Canyon neighbors. We offer our deepest gratitude for the support and warmth show us the last two years.”

Camp Taloali offers a traditional summer camp program to deaf and hard-of-hearing children and youth, and space providing, their siblings, immediate family, friends, and children who wish for a camp environment that focuses on accessibility for American Sign Language users. 

The camp offers include archery, fishing, swimming, biking, disc golf, low and high ropes, tower climbing, nature studies, arts and crafts, drama, backpacking and wilderness survival, overnight campouts, horseshoes, games, STEAM classes (ecology, forest, animals, fauna), gaga ball pit, basketball and volleyball courts, and a nature/fitness trail.

“With a wonderful, generous donation from an anonymous donor, we added a zipline this winter,” Johanson said. “This has been a high demand request from our campers, so we are really excited about this!”

Last year, the camp wrapped up its Wildfire Survivors Lodging Program just two weeks before summer camp started, and then hosted the two-day Camp Taloali Wildfire Benefit the day before campers arrived, according to Johanson.

“With the massive effort and help of many volunteers and community supporters, we were able to have the cabins and grounds ready for campers,” she said. “We also had some very rigid restrictions from the Oregon Health Authority to follow for COVID-19 precautions, which required a higher staffing number in order to comply, plus restricted the number of campers we could accept and accommodate.”

Board member Randall Smith joined Johanson in relating that some of the grounds are still unusable because of the large quantity of fallen trees from the windstorm that accompanied the wildfires.

“So, we adapted our activities around those barriers,” Smith said. “This year, we are still dealing with the mounds of fallen trees, but also challenges in fundraising for camperships since many of our traditional donors have been tapped for the multiple emergencies in our state and have been limited in their own fundraising activities. 

“We also have OHA guidelines to follow in terms of COVID-19 precautions,” he added. “We have also been impacted by staffing shortages.”

Camp Taloali is looking for a full-time property manager and a seasonal food services manager for summer camp and for the National Association of the Deaf’s Youth Leadership Camp held from mid-June to mid-August.

“Our deaf and hard-of-hearing were impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown more severely than other kids due to the social isolation – separation from deaf/hard of hearing peers and adults,” Johanson said of last summer’s campers. “Also, language isolation due to few people in household and neighborhoods who sign, and the difficulty of learning and interacting with teachers and community via laptops and in-class learning where people are wearing masks and thus missing many visual cues and non-manual markers that are essential to communicating in ASL. 

“It was a joy for many of our staff to see each other after such a long pause, and then see the kids arrive filled with enthusiasm for camp and getting back together,” she added. “Most of our 2021 staff is returning, and we expect the same joy of reconnecting again.”

Johanson and Smith agree that the help the camp has gotten from volunteers has been immeasurable. The AmeriCorps team helped with invasive species removal and debris removal from the disc golf course, and the relocated Challenge Course (low and high ropes). 

AmeriCorps also worked one week at Upward Bound Camp in Gates to help them with wildfire recovery, Johanson said. 

Johanson credited camp readiness to volunteer help from the deaf community, Latter-day Saints service groups, Lions clubs, disc golfers, NW Hub, the Camp Taloali Board of Directors, Western Oregon University Interpreter Training students, and World Deaf Timberfest, as well as many other individuals.

“We were able to hold camp last summer primarily with the support of a large allocation from the Oregon Legislature in partnership with the Oregon Alliance of Camps,” she added. “We are applying for this funding again, in hopes that we can provide camperships to most of our 120 campers. The Lions Clubs of Oregon continue to be our biggest supporters, as well as groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism:Terra Pomaria, which held a silent auction last weekend at Bar Gemels and donated $1,817 for camperships. Rentals and disc golf course user fees are an important source of revenue for supporting our camp program and the campgrounds and facilities.”

This summer’s camp program dates are Session 1: July 31-Aug. 6 and Session 2, Aug. 7-13. The link for registering deaf and hard-of-hearing kids and siblings, and children from families with deaf parents (CODAs) is https://form.jotform.com/CampTaloaliAdmin/2022-camper-application. 

Other children with emerging sign skills who seek immersion in a deaf-centered program are accepted if space permits. Residential camp fees are $750 per week, and day camp fees are $400 a week. 

Camp Taloali is 111 acres abutting the North Santiam River. The camp offers lodging in cabins and bunkhouses as well as a mix of full and partial RV hookups. The large pavilion and grounds are a favorite for family celebrations, festivals, cosplay, retreats, church camps and private group camps. The camp is about 14 miles from Salem on Highway 22 in Stayton. 

For information, contact [email protected] or visit www.taloali.org. The camp is also available to rent by emailing [email protected]. 

To help remove fallen tress from the Labor Day windstorm of 2020, contact [email protected]. 

Camperships help bring deaf and hard-of-hearing kids, and donations can be sent to Camp Taloali, Inc., P.O. Box 32 Stayton, OR 97383 or made online at https://camp-taloali.square.site/product/1-week-session/27.

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