Camp History

Gales Creek Camp was founded as the Diabetic Children's Camp Fund in 1952. Doctor John "Jack" Stephens began studying diabetes in Montreal in the late 1940s. In July of 1950, he transferred to the Joslin Clinic in Boston and was asked to be the camp physician at the Joslin Camp for Boys with Diabetes. Dr. Stephens moved his family to Portland the following year and brought with him fond memories of his experiences at a well developed camp for children with diabetes.

In early 1952, Dr. Stephens and his associate, Dr. Blair Holcomb, began discussions with patients and parents of patients to attract interest in starting such a camp in Oregon. Their interest led Doctors Stephens and Holcomb to enlist the help of LeRoy Staver, head of the Trust Department at U.S. Bank. On December 31, 1952, the Diabetic Children's Camp Fund was founded.

"The primary use of the fund shall be in the acquisition, maintenance and operation of a camp in Oregon which shall provide special facilities for supervised education and recreation for children with diabetes under conditions which will encourage them to fully adjust themselves to special diets, self-administered insulin, special physical exercises and other prescribed treatments."

This statement remains the core of our mission.

Shortly following the Fund's founding, a board of directors was formed that included four parents of children with diabetes, eight adults with diabetes, two doctors and a representative from U.S. Bank.

The first camp was held in July of 1953 at Camp Wyeth, a former CCC camp near Cascade Locks, Oregon. The 23 campers who attended that first year were cared for by two nurses and a dietitian from Good Samaritan Hospital and Dr. Stephens, who made his way to the camp each evening for three weeks. The next two camps, 1954 and '55, were held at the Lutheran Church Camp in Colton, Oregon. The camps were held in June those years and the weather turned out to be cool and frequently rainy. This signaled the board to develop a permanent location for camp.

The board soon discovered a preschool camp that had been operating in Glenwood, Oregon, for some years. The owner had just completed building a retirement home nearby and the camp was up for sale. Several buildings, including a dining hall and two buildings with cots, were in usable condition. The site was beautiful, wooded, covered 26 acres and spanned both sides of Gales Creek. Once the purchase was complete, plans were drawn for a building that would become the heart of GCC: the Health House.

In the early years, for a child to have time away from home, to be at camp, was a cause for some parental concern. This anxiety slowly mellowed, and then faded completely. As GCC and its programs became known, both campers and parents were eager to attend. Not only were children excited to return, but parents discovered that they, too, were looking forward to a valuable week of respite. By 1965, GCC was serving more than one hundred campers each year and has continued to grow ever since.

Last year, Gales Creek Camp served more than 500 campers and their families.

Original documentary about Gales Creek Camp, from the late 1970s.