Top 12 of 2012

Post-Record file photo Chloe and Carson Connors hold a painting she created, called “Hope,” which was sold in a silent auction to raise money for the Teen Challenge Metro Men’s Center. The two hosted a “Challenge for Change,” event in honor of their brother, who overcame a heroin addiction.

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The 2012 Nicaragua Mission Team from Gateway Church in Washougal joins forces with locals in Tipitapa to expand its church building.

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Contributed photo Camas resident John Grall, 14, was selected as the keynote speaker at a black-tie fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metorpolitan Area. The “Night of Angels” paid tribute to Linda Rae Hickey, Henry Swigert and Brot Bishop Jr.

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Students from Taki, Japan visit historic Fort Vancouver during their trip to Camas in October. The students stayed with host families, visited local attractions and attended classes with Camas students.

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Post-Record file photo Retiring teacher-librarian Rosemary Knapp gets a hug from CHS graduates Cassidy Hines (left) and Atalie Allen.

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Post-Record file photo Camas resident and chef Karen Lasher demonstrates French cooking during a class at Clark College’s Columbia Tech Center. Lasher’s goal is to make everyone feel comfortable in the kitchen.

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Contributed photo Hope (front) and Annie Garcia perform “A Midsummers Night Dream,” in November. Both girls have participated in several productions with The Portland Ballet.

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The popular Kids' Parade kicked off the annual Camas Days festival the last weekend in July. Thousands of people flocked to the area for the two-day event, which featured games, vendor booths, music and the popular Wine and Microbrew Street.

2012 was a year filled with changes and unforgettable moments, both nationally and locally. In Camas and Washougal, whether it was high school graduations, Challenge Day or mission trips in foreign countries, change was a constant. The Post-Record has decided to take a little time to reflect on the people and places that filled the paper’s Hometown section, and has selected the top 12 most memorable stories. We hope you enjoy the look back.

January

“Going the extra mile”Mike Broderick never intended to be a career school bus driver. But that is exactly what happened.

Broderick retired in December 2011 with much fanfare, after nearly 28 years ferrying students to and from school in all kinds of weather.

He subbed for three weeks in Washougal at the start of his career, then something very unusual happened: A driver quit and Broderick was offered her route, which was unheard after working for a school district that amount of time.

After four years of driving the route, Broderick was offered a promotion as mechanics assistant at the Cape Horn-Skye bus barn.

He stayed there for his entire career.

When asked what he’ll miss most about working for the district, Broderick said his fellow drivers.

“It just seemed like every day we could laugh at each other and joke around,” he said. “And I’m also going to miss the kids. On my last day, I stood up and told my high school kids that when they came back, I wouldn’t be here, and I got hugs from some of them.”

February

“A legacy of hope”When Geri Pope Bidwell’s three sons, Jack, Will and Rob Warren were killed in a tragic plane crash in 1999, she could have easily sank into a well of depression, fear and grief that only a parent who has lost a child can possibly begin to comprehend.

But she didn’t.

Instead, Bidwell decided to get busy living: She channelled her rage, loss and fear into a single-minded determination; and helped build a center in her boys’ hometown that would honor them and provide refuge to other children. In 2002, the Jack, Will and Rob Boys & Girls Club, known as the JWR Center, opened in Camas.

It was the result of a an extensive fund-raising effort, creativity of some of the area’s top designers and architects, and the single-minded focus of a mother who wanted to leave a legacy of hope for other children.

On Feb. 23, Camas resident and JWR Center member John Grall spoke at a black-tie fund-raiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area. The ‘Night of Angels’ paid tribute to Linda Rae Hickey, Henry Swigert and Brot Bishop Jr., who played vital roles in the creation and continuation of the JWR Center.

Grall has been a member of the JWR Center for several years. His first time there was a cold, rainy night in 2004, when his mom, Kelly, told him, “grab an umbrella, we’re going somewhere special.”

“I was hesitant to leave my house to go into the storm,” Grall said in his speech. “As we walked, my mom shared with me the story of a mother’s loss of her three sons and how she channeled her grief and pain into a love and passion to build a place to keep all kids safe, and to develop them into productive and responsible adults. Where we went that night was a port in a storm, for me and hundreds of kids.”

March

“A motive for change”“Be the change you want to see in the world.”This famous quote by Mahatma Ghandi calls people to action. It is also the theme of Challenge Day, an event which provides participants with the tools to break down the walls of separation and isolation, and build new levels of respect and communication within their schools and communities.

Washougal and Excelsior high school students, along with teachers, administrators and community members, had the opportunity to participate in Challenge Day.

WHS counselors Christina Mackey and Owen Sanford first heard about it from a student intern, who said he’d participated in it at another school and it, “changed his life.”

The goal of Challenge Day was to make Washougal and Excelsior high schools more welcoming to all students, increasing feelings of self-esteem, and to eliminate the acceptance of teasing, bullying and violence. Participants were selected by counselors, teachers and administrators.

“Trying to plan it all felt pretty overwhelming, especially since none of us had done it before,” Mackey said. “Kris Henriksen, who oversees the Clark County Teen Talk program, did so much detailed logistical work. We are very grateful to her.”

Just as the counselors weren’t sure what to expect, neither were the students who were invited to participate. Everyone was called to an assembly in the WHS gym and some students were given pink slips of paper. They came from all different peer groups and socioeconomic status, so none were quite sure why they were being grouped together for the event.

By the end of the day, students involved were calling the event “life changing.”

“I know that’s hard to believe that something like that could happen in a day, but it did,” said junior Cassidy Saunders. “It was the most hurtful, heartbreaking, life changing day I’ve ever had.”

April

“Adding new dimensions to their lives”Talking on your cell phone during lunch? Being rude to the server? Wrinkling up your nose while looking at the menu? While this may sound like an episode of a bad reality television show, it was actually a demonstration of what not to do while dining out. The lesson about appropriate (and inappropriate) restaurant manners was conducted by Linda Haines and Jocelyn Lindsay, who are spearheading a program for fifth-grade girls at Hathaway Elementary School in Washougal.

Young Women in Action was started several years ago at Washington Elementary School in Vancouver. It is designed to help fifth-grade girls gain confidence and realize different opportunities, according to Haines.

“The whole idea is to get them to open their eyes to what is out there, and that they can do anything they want to do,” she said. “Also, we want to get the girls closer to each other before they go to middle school, to make the whole transition easier. Each session is meant to add a new dimension to their lives.”

May

“Getting comfortable in the kitchen”Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of some people like the thought of preparing a meal from scratch. Local chef Karen Lasher is hoping to remove some of that anxiety by offering classes aimed at taking the trepidation out of cooking.

“I just love teaching,” said Lasher, a Camas resident who works as personal chef at the PeaceHealth Corporate Cafe in East Vancouver.

Lasher, former owner of Around the Table restaurant in Camas, has taught everything from kids cooking classes to gourmet meal preparation for adults.

On May 10, a tantalizing mix of aromas filled the lobby of Clark College at Columbia Tech Center, where Lasher was teaching a class on French cooking.

“French bistro food is not difficult to prepare, and is earthy but elegant,” Lasher said. “These classes are really about instilling confidence and getting people excited about cooking.”

June

“The class of 2012”Students from Camas High School, Hayes Freedom High School and Washougal High School participated in a whirlwind of graduation activities in June.

“Tonight, we have a clean slate, an opportunity to pursue anything we want. Let’s move on to the next stage of life and push back our comfort zones,” said Alex Pien, Camas High School valedictorian. Pien certainly understands pushing the comfort zone as a distance runner, but on Friday, June 15, he was addressing his 359 classmates participating in CHS commencement ceremonies at Doc Harris Stadium.

The class of 2012 was the largest in school history, but was still a tight knit family, said Principal Steve Marshall.

At Hayes Freedom, excitement and elation were among the emotions of the day.

“Remember how you feel now, accomplished and hopeful,” said Principal Amy Holmes. “Let it guide your decisions.”

In Washougal, it was all about the journey.

“What a journey high school has been.” These words, spoken during a speech by Washougal High School Class of 2012 co-valedictorian Katherine Ludwig, were likely also on the minds of most of the 169 graduates who sat before her on June 19, during commencement ceremonies.

Held at Fishback Stadium under surprisingly sunny skies, the event included a plenty of laughs, a few tears and plenty of Pomp and Circumstance.

Each speaker who took the podium touched on a similar theme that focused on “The Journey.”

July

“Camas Days is a crowd pleaser”Under skies that turned from cloudy to clear, the ever-popular Camas Days festival attracted families, teens and single adults alike.

The event kicked off with the popular Kids Parade, which began with Cams Fire Chief Nick Swinhart walking alongside one of the shiny red vehicles.

Items from sunglasses to garden art were available from vendors at the festival, and the tantalziing aromas of elephant ears, exotic cuisines and good old fashioned hamburgers wafted about.

During the evening, adults 21 and older enjoyed live music from bands Zuzo Blue and Stranded, as well as wines from Maryhill and Columbia wineries, microbrews and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

August

“A ripple effect”When most people hear the word, ‘Nicaragua,’ they think of a war-torn, violent place.

But members of Gateway Church typically think of their mission teams, which have gone to the country every year since 2003 to help build churches and do outreach projects.

This year, the team traveled to Tipitapa, a suburb of Nicaragua’s capital city, Managua, to expand the first church they helped construct in 2003.

Team members Larry Basham and Mike Lamb were part of the original group, so it was a homecoming of sorts.

This year’s trip included Basham, Lamb, Jackie Miller, Harvey Miller, Susan Warren, Josh Warren, Doug Haase and Paige Haase.

Paige Haase, a freelance photographer, said those who want to do mission work should not be discouraged because they lack construction skills.

“We don’t have to have the same exact skills they do,” she said. “This is something I wouldn’t normally do at all. To learn from them was a good experience. Harvey and Mike brought plumbing and electrical skills, and my husband works in sheet metal.”

September

“Finding light in the storm”

I’ve seen a storm, I won’t wait for another. Lord with your help I will make a change. Guide my hands to the brokenhearted. Help me shine the light on the rain. Shine light on the rain...

Carson Connors of Washougal wrote the “Singe Light on the Rain,” after seeing his brother struggle with a drug addiction.

On Sunday, Sept. 30, he and sister Chloe will help shine a light on the realities of substance abuse when they host “Challenge for Change,” at the Jack, Will and Rob Boys & Girls club in Camas, to raise money for Teen Challenge.

They both received Junior Youth Achievement awards in the “inspiration” category, for their efforts to coordinate the event.

October

“The language of friendship”Despite thousands of miles and cultural differences that separate the United States from Japan, those who have spent time with host families in either country know one thing: We’re all pretty similar.

Twenty middle school students and their host families discovered that during five days they spent together last week. A group from the town a Taki, a sister city of Camas, included mayor Yukio Kubo, a high school principal, English teacher, interpreter, city clerk and travel guide, in addition to the students.

They stayed with families from Liberty and Skyridge middle schools. The visit was organized though the Camas Sister City Association, in collaboration with Camas schools.

November

“The spirit of the season”Cindy Ontkean has such a great time showing her decked-out house during the Holiday Home Tour four years ago, she’s back for a second round.

“IT was such an enjoyable experience,” she said. “People were so appreciative that we had opened our homes.”

Ontkean’s Lacamas Shores home and three others will be featured on the fourth-annual Holiday Home Tour. The event, held Dec. 8 and 9, benefits the Downtown Camas Association and Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal.

The tour will feature tow historic and two notable homes. The former as a French country cottage style residence, and a classic Victorian near Crown Park.

The two contemporary homes are on Lacamas Lake, and include an Asian-influenced home and French country-style estate.

December

“Passion, pain and perseverance”Whomever thinks of ballerinas as dainty waifs has never met Annie and Hope Garcia.

These young women are tall, strong and athletic to the core, spending several hours every week practicing ballet.

They study and perform in the American ballet style, described as “intensively aerobic and athletic.” It requires a combination of skill, attention to the minute details, athleticism and the ability to push through pain, all with a smile.

“I’ve heard some people say that ballet looks easy,” said Hope. “It looks easy because we make it look that way. You have to smile no matter how it feels.”

Adds Annie, “The aching muscles, blisters and sore feet are rewarding to me, because I’m putting my all into something I love.”

Hope, 17, and Annie, 15, are students at Camas High School. Hope is a senior and Annie, a sophomore. Both have lived in Camas for 15 years. At least three days a week after school, both girls board a bus for an hour plus ride to Portland, where they rehearse and perform with The Portland Ballet.