Llewellyn students and parents pitch family campout on playground

by: David F. Ashton “This is perfect for everybody, the school and children too,” says dad Ramon Sosa, as he finishes setting up their tent with daughter Sofia.

For those unaware of the plan, who were passing Llewellyn Elementary School on the evening of Friday, June 10, it must have seemed a weird sight: dozens of camping tents set up in the playground field.

'We're calling our event 'Llewellyn Under the Stars',' explained John Donovan, co-chair of the event, a member of the Llewellyn Educational Foundation, and parent of an eight-year-old second-grader at Llewellyn grade school.

'We were talking about creating an opportunity to have one more activity this year,' Donovan continued. 'We realized that June is when many families start getting their camping gear out, and setting it up in the back yard or going on a trip.'

The natural thought progression was to sponsor a school-based overnight camp. 'After talking with Portland Public Schools (PPS), and getting great support of Principal Steve Powell, we solved the logistics that made it possible.'

By early evening, as many as 50 families were pitching tents, setting up camp, and bringing food. Hours later, some 150 family campers had settled in on the school's property along S.E. 14th Avenue in Westmoreland.

As the adventure began, Donovan outlined the evening, for THE BEE: 'We're starting out with crafts: making tie-dyed T-shirts and camp flags. We'll have a potluck supper, and then have storytelling and singing around a make-believe campfire. Around our fake campfire, we'll have a circle where we sing camp songs and tell stories. Finally we'll have cartoons shown in the school's cafeteria to help kids settle down at the end of the evening.'

A line of clean porta-potties were lined up for overnight use. And, even though the school was locked after the 'lights-out' cartoons, Principal Powell slept on a cot in his office, in case of emergencies.

In the morning, families arose and enjoyed donuts, bagels, coffee, and milk, packed up their tents, cleaned up their campsites, and headed back home.

In addition to being a fun evening, Donovan explained that the event was also a fundraiser for the school's educational foundation. 'Our school foundation works to improve the quality of our education here at Llewellyn; we also support the Portland Public Schools Foundation.'

The event was sponsored through the support of Dr. Curtis Thompson of CTA Labs, and benefited from donations from QFC Market, Wilhelm's Portland Memorial Funeral Home, Starbucks, and the Portland Public Schools.