Rachel and Eloise Lenz enjoy sunshine at Camp Howard during a dedication of the camp’s new welcome center in July. Both mom and daughter have participated in CYO sports and Camp Howard. “CYO gave me greater fortitude and sense of charity, as well as patience and the ability to work as part of a team,” said Rachel. (Courtesy CYO/Camp Howard)
Rachel and Eloise Lenz enjoy sunshine at Camp Howard during a dedication of the camp’s new welcome center in July. Both mom and daughter have participated in CYO sports and Camp Howard. “CYO gave me greater fortitude and sense of charity, as well as patience and the ability to work as part of a team,” said Rachel. (Courtesy CYO/Camp Howard)
It may not be on their minds as they zoom across zip lines, belt out tunes around a campfire or cheer wildly for a teammate in the pool. Yet time spent at Camp Howard and in Catholic Youth Organization sports can instill values and virtues in kids that last a lifetime.

“CYO gave me greater fortitude and sense of charity, as well as patience and the ability to work as part of a team,” said Rachel Lenz, who played several CYO sports as a youth and now has a daughter involved in CYO and Camp Howard.

In high school Lenz was on the varsity swim team, with practices at 5 a.m. “CYO prepared me for the kind of discipline needed for that,” she said.

About two decades ago, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. “I’ve learned my victories are sometimes — ‘I got up and walked today,’” Lenz said. “If I push myself by little bits, I know that will turn into bigger steps. For that I draw upon some of the fortitude and tenacity I gained from CYO.”

Charity ¬— the virtue of loving neighbor as oneself — also was a constant presence in the sports program, said Lenz, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Northwest Portland. “Everyone was welcome. It didn’t matter what level you were or your background. It was not about being a superstar but everyone coming together and trying their best.”

Lenz’s daughter, Eloise, is an eighth grader at St. Pius X School. She’s played multiple CYO sports and has attended Camp Howard each summer since kindergarten.

Echoing her mom, Eloise said she’s learned to be more open to all people. “At camp you are stuck with whomever is there with you, and maybe there are things you don’t like about a person. But you learn that everyone is the same in many ways, and the ways they are different make them special. But you have to put in the effort to see that.”

Sharon Lenz is mom to Rachel and grandmother to Eloise, and she’s witnessed the effects of Camp Howard and CYO on them both over the years. Sister Krista von Borstel, executive director of CYO/Camp Howard, and other staff “work hard to make everyone feel included and important,” said Sharon. “That gives them confidence and shapes how they treat other people — with that same love and respect.”

Peter Markgraf, a member of The Madeleine Parish in Northeast Portland, believes there’s a connection between the virtue of hope and the community camp affords. Markgraf went to Camp Howard as a kid; this year his 8-year-old daughter, Nina, had her first stint there, and the whole family participated in family camp.

“Attending Mass and having faith are definitely important parts of my life, but without the community associated with that ¬— things like parish dinners, socializing with friends after Mass and Camp Howard — I think my faith could wither,” he said. Markgraf feels the community Camp Howard provides offers a sense of hope and connection that strengthens his faith.

Among the many other values and virtues woven throughout camp were justice and prudence, recalled Markgraf. Justice was explored through discussions about caring for the earth. Prudence was cultivated, he added with a laugh, “because they expected good table manners.”