A letter from one of our own...

Lauren Neiheisel with Willowbrook founder, Althea Pratt-Broome

Dear Willowbrook Families, Friends, and Supporters,

When we’re young, I believe we see the world as a wide-open sky of possibilities. We are innocent, blissfully naïve, and we continually make new discoveries in a way that is strictly unique to the time we spend as children in this world. For me, many of those discoveries were made at Willowbrook Arts Camp, beginning when I was just a Squirrel, through many years as a camper, Apprentice and College Assistant, and finally as a Specialist back in the Squirrel’s Nest where it all started!

I attribute much more to Willowbrook than endless happy memories, lifelong friendships, and an insane amount of boxes filled to the brim with all kinds of art projects (although those are all wonderful, too!).

Willowbrook helped me form my critical thinking skills, taught me to share, and to always try to see the best in people. Willowbrook encouraged my independence, trusted me with my own autonomy, and gave me the freedom I needed to stretch out my wings. Willowbrook encouraged my curiosity about our physical world, about why certain things were the way they were, and supported my first attempts at reading. Willowbrook was there for me through my first job (as a teacher in the Squirrels Nest – those campers are now Artisans, I’ll have you know!), my first role in a play, my first time dissecting something, my first romantic feelings, and my first tap lesson. Willowbrook taught me that it was okay to fail, as long as I always tried again. Willowbrook taught me that there are no small parts, only small actors. Most importantly, Willowbrook taught me that with enough commitment and glitter, I could change the world with my bare hands.

There are two large parts that make up who I am today, and Willowbrook has had an undeniable impact on both of them. The first is my community – my ‘roots’, as I refer to them. My roots are what keep me grounded, what remind me of where I came from, what encourage me to stay true to my values, and what support me when I feel like I’m too tired to keep going. The second is my overall outlook on my life – my ‘wings’. My wings are the part of me that look creatively at problems that seem insurmountable, the part of me that keeps going even when I feel discouraged, the part of me that tries something new if for no other reason than to experience something different and learn more about myself.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about people at Willowbrook that made them so incredibly special. You know what I’m talking about, right? There’s this sort of aura, a sort of uncontainable joy that surrounds you as you enter through the front gates of camp. I’ve come to determine that this indescribable feeling is the perfect combination of roots and wings; A large and supportive community that bands together to create a positive, engaging learning environment for children, while allowing them to discover for themselves who they are as individuals. It’s the perfect combination of a deeply engaged staff, with the innocence and wide-open sky of possibilities of childhood. It’s pure magic.

Magic, as grownups know, isn’t free, and Willowbrook’s needs are never entirely met with tuition revenue. Thanks in large part to generous donors, we were able to make important upgrades to computers and technology systems and set up our long anticipated online registration system this year. Thanks to all who contributed! Our wish list for next summer includes tools needed to keep camp in repair and build our fantastic stage sets, and a stage sound and lighting system to help our young performers shine even brighter.

I am asking today for your help in keeping the magic of Willowbrook Arts Camp alive and well for many future generations of campers; and to believe that you, too, can change the world with commitment, glitter, and your bare hands. By sending your tax-deductible donation, from $10 to $1000, you have the power to keep Willowbrook alive and strong, giving future generations of campers the chance to develop their roots and their wings during their time spent at camp.

In addition to a one-time gift, you can also support Willowbrook monthly through a revolving auto-withdrawal that can be set up on our website page, willowbrookartscamp.org/contribute. And as a reminder, Willowbrook is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, making your contributions tax deductible. The organization’s EIN is #93-0722365. We are also part of the Oregon Cultural Trust – a good thing to keep in mind regarding corporate matching donations.

On behalf of the Willowbrook Board, Willowbrook Staff, and future generations of campers – Thank you for joining us in celebrating our 35th year and for your commitment to keeping the Willowbrook magic alive!

In gratitude,
Lauren Neiheisel

Camper for fifteen years, Squirrels Nest Apprentice Assistant, Pottery College Assistant, Squirrel’s Nest Specialist, and Willowbrook Board Member.

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