Oregon City children who come from families with limited income will face fewer barriers to enjoying summer camps, thanks to new sources of scholarship funding.
In March, Oregon City Parks Foundation was notified by OnPoint Community Credit Union of a successful $2,000 grant application for OCPF's Elyejah Dean Hauff Camp Fund.
"We are grateful and honored to receive these funds from OnPoint, who is so active in our community," said OCPF President Roger Fowler-Thias. "This funding will help enable children to participate in Oregon City Parks & Recreation Day Camps. OCPF would also like to thank B&B Leasing, another very active community business for their donation of $1,000, which OCPF will add toward the awarded grant monies."
OCPF is partnering with the city's Parks & Recreation Department to facilitate getting funds out to help pay the summer camp fees through the foundation's Elyejah Dean Hauff Camp Fund. Families who may not be able to afford their child's camp fees now have access to the fund by filling out a confidential online application detailing their income qualifications.
Elyejah Dean Hauff, who lived in the county's low-income housing in the Park Place neighborhood with his family, loved spending his summers outdoors and in parks. While Elyejah took his own life in 2019 at the age of 9, it is the park foundation's hope that Elyejah's family will find comfort in knowing that many more children will be able to enjoy their summers safely through the Elyejah Dean Hauff Camp Fund.
Elyejah's mother, Phillesha Bradford, thanked OCPF for naming the fund after her son and for the outpouring of donations from the community.
"Wow, I'm mind blown away right now," Bradford said. "I'm beyond happy and surprised how much my son's death has made an impact on people's lives."
Last year's Pamplin Media Group article provided additional details about the fourth grader at Holcomb Elementary School in Oregon City who took his life Dec. 10, 2019. "Boy's death puts focus on mental health care" was selected as the 2020 recipient of the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) National Media Award for Best Print Reporting on Suicide Loss.
Bradford said her son's story winning a national award was "bittersweet" for her as she continues to grieve his death.
"It's bitter because he's no longer here, but it's sweet because maybe his story will help the next family who is having trouble," she said. "It's cool that his story got out so that now more schools and more businesses will take it more seriously next time if they hear that a child is considering suicide. Now they want to do more for kids to prevent another suicide, but it's too late for my son. I always told him, 'Don't give up and keep trying,' but now I realize that sometimes you can't always keep trying yourself."
As part of the media award, SAVE gave out a $150 cash prize, which the author of the news article, Editor Raymond Rendleman, donated to the Oregon City Parks Foundation last year. OCPF used the donated award money to kick-start its annual Elyejah Hauff memorial fund.
SAVE established its Award for Excellence in Reporting on Suicide to "recognize members of the media who demonstrate responsible reporting on the topics of mental health and suicide." Elyejah's mother said several factors that experts say can increase the risk of child suicide were in play for her son in the months leading up to his death. Experts warn against providing details about suicides or pinning the blame on any one cause, pointing out that suicides usually are the result of various factors.
Pamplin Media Group sought to provide news coverage of the 9-year-old's death sensitively, to change public misperceptions about suicide and reduce stigmas in ways that may encourage people at risk to seek help.
Details about Elyejah's life and death were presented by the newspaper alongside free resources for families in crisis. Elyejah — who was biracial and had experienced bullying — had talked about discrimination; felt a lack of support with struggles at school and with classwork; and was having trouble getting a therapist.
Oregon City School District's suicide prevention efforts now include training for staff with special considerations in preventing suicides among the district's minority populations. In the summer of 2020, Unite OC received the school district's support to implement a program called No Place For Hate.
Oregon City has announced it has extended its application deadline to April 12 for scholarships to participate in supervised summer camps.
For more information, interested families can contact the Oregon City Parks and Recreation Department at 503-657-8273, or go to the scholarship page that explains how eligibility is determined at orcity.org/swimmingpool/scholarship-information.
For camp information, visit orcity.org/parksandrecreation/ocpr-community-camps.
Those wishing to make donations toward the Elyejah Dean Hauff Camp Fund, visit oregoncityparksfoundation.org/giving or mail your donation to Oregon City Parks Foundation, P.O. Box 963, Oregon City, OR 97045.
More to the story
Clackamas County-based Neurotherapeutic Pediatric Therapies Inc., works to end suicides across the community. We spoke with Executive Director Karen Brelje who says the resource can be free for many families
• National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
• Lines for Life YouthLine: 877-968-8491
• Text: 'Hello' to 741741.
• Chat online: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
• Clackamas County's 24-hour crisis line: 503-655-8585
Editor, Clackamas Review/Oregon City News
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