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Willowbrook arts camp recognized for 30 years of enhancing kids lives

by: Submitted photo SUMMER FARE – One of the plays presented by Willowbrood students was “Beauty and the Beast.”

Rebecca Pratt and her mother have boxes and boxes of mementos from the past 30 years of Willowbrook arts camp, but they don't really need them. Pratt and Athlea Pratt-Broome remember the names and faces of the students who have come to the camp year after year enjoying Pratt-Broome's unique style of running a summer camp.

This week, the city of Tualatin gave back, awarding Pratt-Broom and the Willowbrook crew with the city's second Community Enhancement Award, presented by the Tualatin Arts Advisory Committee.

Willowbrook began with 25 students at Pratt-Broome's home, the historic Sweek House in downtown Tualatin. Students learned Shakespeare, writing, painting, nature, ceramics and more. Pratt-Broome's philosophy was that students should be permitted to choose what they did, so they were allowed to freely roam between the different stations at the camp, sampling all of the different arts or focusing on just a few.

'We too often pigeon-hole people,' Pratt-Broome said. 'You shouldn't do that to children.'

Her philosophy worked - Willowbrook hosted 1,800 students at its peak summer. Students from around the world come every summer, and new ones keep on coming.

The camp quickly outgrew Sweek House and moved to Brown's Ferry Park shortly after the city acquired the property. In the early days of camp at the park, Willowbrook used military tents and had to bring in drinking water from a different park for students every day.

Pratt has started collecting files of Willowbrook alums and their success stories. Kaitlin Olson, a star on the FX network's 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia,' has said in interviews that she fell in love with acting on a Willowbrook stage. And countless professional and hobbyist actors, directors, writers and artists who went to Willowbrook as students, send their kids back to the camp each year.

For more information about Willowbrook Arts Camp, visit willowbrookartscamp.org.