A Letter From Summer Camp

November 2016


A letter to Jack Artz

Frederick “Jack” Artz was a Portland area businessman and long time supporter of community speech and hearing centers and speech therapy summer camps in Oregon and Washington, donating his time to serve on their boards and donating millions of dollars for their financial support. I got to know him quite well for eight years as we sat together on the Board of Directors of Camp Meadowood Springs. Jack died in 2008 at age 86.


July, 2016

Dear Jack,

First, know that I miss you and think of you often. I know your heart for kids with communication disorders and I know how much of your time and money you put into agencies that support them. I wanted to write and tell you about a new summer camp in Oregon called Camp More, a five day four night camp on the Oregon coast for teenagers who stutter. This year’s camp, our first, included 14 teens who stutter, most from the Portland area, ten graduate student clinician/counselors from Pacific University and Portland State University and six of us in leadership roles. The actual camp site was at Camp Magruder on the Oregon coast near Rockaway Beach. Camp More owes its creation to two determined speech language pathologists, Kristin Mangan from OHSU and Sarah Herr Davies, from Portland Public schools.

Jack, the purpose of Camp More was not to make stuttering “go away” or even reduce it significantly. First of all, as you know, that is unlikely, especially if the person has been stuttering for some time. Second, almost all of our campers had previously had extensive speech therapy aimed at learning to use techniques to manage stuttering. They knew how to be fluent and they also realized how hard that was to do when all you wanted to do was just talk. At Camp More, we focused on changing campers’ attitudes toward their own stuttering and toward talking freely. Jack, you may remember Dr. Joseph Sheehan’s famous Iceberg Model of stuttering, where the tip of the iceberg represents the actual stuttering, the repetitions, prolongations, and blocks, and the much larger underwater part of the iceberg represents the attitudes and feelings that develop because of the stuttering, including shame, embarrassment, loneliness, isolation, anxiety and fear. It was on this part of stuttering that Camp More focused. The purpose of camp was to introduce kids who thought they were all alone with their stutter to other kids who stutter and to move them toward accepting stuttering by improving general communication skills and self confidence and by creating a resolve to say what they want to say even though there might be stuttering. The campers worked on goals which included the word more: more talking, more friendships, and even more stuttering (and less avoiding).

Each afternoon at camp, invited persons from the Portland support group for adults who stutter spoke to our teens. We had amazing speakers who stuttered to help us get our message across including Michael Turner the director of the new movie The Way We Talk. Other speakers who stuttered included two engineers, an attorney, a brand new college graduate, and a high school art teacher. All spoke of their experiences growing up with stuttering and all, either directly or indirectly, encouraged the campers to not let stuttering hold them back.

The daily schedule at camp included breakfast, then morning activities (nature, sports, arts and crafts). Lunch was followed by group therapy. Campers divided into groups of three and each group met with two student clinicians whose job it was to facilitate discussion. The purpose of group therapy was to determine how much stuttering was holding back each camper from developing as a person, then to choose goals to work toward (for example, taking risks and talking more, making more eye contact when speaking, saying one’s name, telling jokes, using the word stutter and talking about feelings.) The initial session was dedicated to developing goals while the second and third sessions were aimed at progress toward goals and at topics including self acceptance and self esteem, responding to questions about stuttering, and disclosure: letting others know about one’s stuttering and why that might be important.

After group therapy there were afternoon activities to choose from including swimming, kayaking, archery and beach time. Following that was time devoted to listening to the speakers who stutter. Then came dinner and our evening activities, which usually included a campfire. On the last night, we had a beach campfire and a short closing ceremony where each camper was recognized for the positive changes that staff had observed. These changes included an increased willingness to let one’s guard down, to talk more openly, to share oneself more, and to talk more openly about feelings. Our ten amazing student clinicians/counselors were also recognized for demonstrating attributes such as acceptance, desire to form relationships, authenticity, willingness to be vulnerable, and ability to connect and bond. Most were moved by their campers and helped their campers in three days move to a different place. All demonstrated open and expanding hearts.

On the last night of camp, just before the awards campfire, we were treated to a ride on an excursion train pulled by a steam locomotive. The train took us to Garibaldi, a town just a few miles south of camp. Jack, there was magic in that short ride. We sat on well-worn benches in the open excursion car, open to the evening breeze and open for unencumbered views of small lakes and Tillamook Bay. The steam clouds from the engine and the clattering noise of wheels on rails and the deafening throwback locomotive whistle and the puffy clouds in the twilight sky framed more magic going on in the car: new friends sitting together, groups of campers and counselors chatting their way from bench to bench, one group of boys and girls face painting each other with someone;s lipstick and shrieking with laughter, and everyone with smiles so wide their faces had to hurt for hours. It was an image that deserved freezing and keeping forever. Yes, all these kids stuttered but that train ride was a snapshot, a small example, a microcosm of what had happened at camp: they had found their people and they could just be kids.

Camp ended on a Sunday morning with hugs all around as the parents came to pick up their campers. The counselors packed up and said goodbyes with tears and then the staff did the same. We stopped in Tillamook for lunch, then drove the miles back to Portland. It was an amazing time. An amazing group of youth surrounded by a tight community in a beautiful natural setting.

So that’s it. Camp More was a success. Hearts and minds were opened and attitudes and lives were changed. Plans are already being developed for Camp More II in 2017. Jack, please know that Camp More is one way that your commitment to youth with communication differences continues to be carried out in the Pacific Northwest.

Your friend,

Glenn Weybright

© 2016 Glenn Weybright. All rights reserved.

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