Camas, WA — All 25 classes at Helen Baller Elementary gathered at Camas High School on March 23 for their annual Spring Program, which had a “Fabulous 50s” musical theme.

Led by PE instructor Amy Wing, the school celebrated their ninth consecutive program at CHS with entertaining routines featuring 50’s songs, poodle skirts, hulahoops, giant lollipops, basketballs, wheels and numerous other fun props.

Wing is noted for her ability to coach the kids and prepare them well in advance of the annual performance. The show packed the house leaving little seating space while parents, family and friends were entertained for a little more than an hour.

Here are some images from the Annual Helen Baller Spring Concert held on March 23 at Camas High School. The event, orchestrated by Amy Wing, filled the entire gymnasium. A video recap is coming.




Dance too


After months of preparation and weeks of rehearsals the cast, crew and orchestra of “The Secret Garden” are ready for opening night Friday, March 2 at 7 pm at CHS Theatre. Tickets are sold at the door, at the south entrance to Camas High School.

The play is based on the book by Marsha Norman, with music by Lucy Simon.

Show dates are March 2, 3, 8, 9 and 10 with a 7 pm curtain.

Don’t miss it!!

Some of the cast at Wednesday’s dress rehearsal
of “The Secret Garden.”


Maddie Stevenson and Alana Moffett in character.


Jason Hamann and Micah Wise rehearse a scene.


Alana Moffett as “Mary” and Max Whittle as “Dickon.”


Danielle Neblock as “Martha” with
Alana Moffett and Maddie Stevenson as “Collin”.


The scenery in “The Secret Garden” is stellar.


Haley Sawyer and Micah Wise.

The Red Caboose Getaway, located in Sequim, WA is a romantic getaway with a twist.  Once you check in at the “Station” the manager shows you to your very own caboose.  From the outside it looks like your typical on-the-tracks caboose, but once you hop aboard and open the cabin door you’ll see a warm and inviting surprise.

Each caboose has its own theme.  On track one is the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad car.  Featuring items of a railway theme you’ll be ready to sport your conductor’s hat and holler “All Aboard”.  Don’t be deceived, if you look closely you can find many modern conveniences including your own refrigerator, TV/DVD, and natural gas stove to give your caboose that cozy feeling.  These conveniences along with the beautiful original hard wood floors, and fresh flowers are found in each of the cars.  It’s a great way to get away without leaving modern convenience behind.

Track two is a representation of the Orient Express, and even if you can’t tell from the outside one look through the cabin door makes it all clear.  The fabrics bear an Asian look, and the overstuffed bed and Jacuzzi tub call out begging you to come in and relax.

Track three is the circus car, but you won’t find any animals in this caboose.  Painted in sky blue and accented with bright colors this car is sure to be a hit with the kid inside all of us.  If you can’t leave the kids behind, don’t worry, this car has room for four. Steal away your own private getaway by enjoying the Jacuzzi tub also found in this car.

Then there’s the Western Car, complete with saloon swinging doors and an authentic antique claw foot tub.

No matter which caboose you stay the night in everyone comes together in the Burlington Dining Car for breakfast. With owners Olaf waiting tables, and his wife Charolette in the back cooking up breakfast you feel like a VIP.  Of course the menu is always changing, but a visit this time of year could provide a menu as delicious as baked Washington apples, and Dutch baby pancakes filled with freshly picked black berries.  Even before that you can start off with one of the many flavors of hot chocolate, coffee, or tea while enjoying a loaf of cinnamon roll bread.  Whatever the menu, you’re sure to enjoy Charolette’s fantastic cooking and Olaf’s warm and inviting personality.

Every moment from the time you board to the time you disembark will be filled with character, personality, and most of all, FUN. To book your reservation, call 360.683.7350.  Visit the website at


Red Caboose Getaway
The Red Caboose Getaway is for people who love trains
and want something different for their vacation.


Red Caboose Getaway
Red Caboose Getaway Dining Car
The Dining Car
Red Caboose Getaway
Inside one of the train cars.
Question: What can you tell us about your current production, “The Secret Garden”?
Answer: The Secret Garden, book by Marsha Norman, music by Lucy Simon, based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, published in 1911.
Q: When will it be shown?
A: Our show dates are March 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, with a 7:00 pm curtain.
Q: How many actors?
A: We have a cast of 53 students (at last count), around 8 backstage hands, 4 dancers, 22 pit orchestra players, and 18 set construction.
Q: How many people does it take to put on a play?
A: It depends on the show, really. One can do a show with as few as two people if needed, but a production on this scale really benefits from having many specialists dedicated to particular jobs. We have students who specialize in flying scenery in and out (often a hazardous task when actors are entering and exiting), others in moving our floor-based scenery on and off, one who is dedicated to running our complicated sound system, another to operate our lighting system – and those are just a handful of the students who contribute to the show offstage. The “central nervous system” is actually our stage manager, Kylie Calzaretta, and her assistant Alex (Beiber). They call the cues for the show and make sure that the cast and crew execute the show exactly as I directed it every single time.
Q: Can you provide a list of characters/actors?
A: Micah Wise – Archibald Craven: Wealthy landowner whose wife died in childbirth. Is haunted by her memory.
Alana Moffett – Mary Lennox: Parents died in a cholera epidemic in Colonial India, sent to live with her uncle Archibald.
Jason Hamann – Dr. Neville Craven: Archie’s younger brother, cares for Colin, pines for Lily.
Haley Sawyer – Lily Craven: Deceased wife of Archie, mother to Colin, aunt to Mary. A ghost. 
Max Whittle – Dickon: Healer and naturalist, a native of the moors, brother to Martha, the housemaid.
Danielle Neblock – Martha: housemaid and Mary’s confidante.
The Secret Garden
From left, Maddie Stevenson, and Alana Moffett.


The Secret Garden Actors
The lead actors in “The Secret Garden.”
Q: Do you have to seek funds to produce a play? Or does the school provide?
A: The students pay fees into the ASB funds that are placed into our department budget, but this makes up a very small portion of the budget a musical requires. Our primary source of support comes from ticket sales. In that sense, we are largely self- sufficient. We are very fortunate to live in a community that gives incredible support to both the school at large and our program. I am very glad for the opportunity to return the gesture by giving the community a great school theatre program.

“The Secret Garden” Has Loads of Talent

Q: Who are the talents that stand out right now at CHS?
A: Haley Sawyer has one of the best sopranos I have heard in a long time. I don’t think there was any question when I heard her sing as whom I would cast her. She is a great actress as well, and a peach to work with. Micah Wise is also a standout. It’s rare to have young men who commit completely to any emotionally turbulent role, and Micah has done so with grace and remarkable power for a performer his age. Jason Hamann is another whose passion really lights up in his solos. We have many great voices in the show; Austin Miller (a freshman) as Mary’s father Albert, Sarah Brizek as Mary’s Mother, Dani Neblock as Martha – these are some powerhouse vocalists who will knock you out of your seat. There is a quartet with Micah, Haley, Sarah, and Jason that is simply awesome. Some of the best vocal performance I have had the pleasure of watching.
The Secret Garden Actors2
Edie Myers-Power and Griffin King rehearse.
Q: How long have you done this?
A: I have been involved in theatre since I was 10. My first play was Fiddler on the Roof, and I played a little jewish boy. Nothing major, but I held the canopy for the wedding of Motel and Tzeitel. My corner of the canopy tore off mid-scene, and the rabbi caught it and handed it to me. All I could do was stretch as high as I could and hold it up so the audience could see the wedding. Tzeitel was about 6 feet tall, by the way. Motel was a modest 5’7″. I was much shorter. I knew at that moment that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I have been lucky enough that that has been true. I have performed over 70 shows, and have been involved in many more. I still consider myself a newbie at directing, lighting design, and scene design, but I’m studying and I get a lot of practice! I have been teaching in the area for three years, and have directed three plays in the Evergreen School District, and designed lights, sound, and set for another. I am incredibly lucky to have found a home here in Camas, and it is my hope to continue the tradition of great theatre at Camas High School.
Q: How much do the students get involved in the production aspects?
A: The actors are required to attend six hours of set construction time on our Saturday work parties. This amounts to one day of drilling, hammering, painting, and sculpting – in reality, the kids attend many more than six hours. They truly enjoy the work, and they are developing great skills including tool and shop safety, sculpting, carpentry, scenic painting, team leadership, self-discipline, communication, and – dare I say it – practical math skills, most commonly geometry and trigonometry (though I go easy on the trig, to be honest). I have had to teach students how to calculate and build an octagonal platform, numerous triangular shapes, circles, arches, etc. I also teach a stagecraft class where we construct the sets for our shows.
Q: How do you decide what play to perform?
A: I look for good stories that move me at a particular moment. I chose Catch-22 for our fall play because it was my favorite book in high school. It turned out that it resonated with current events in unexpected ways. It was originally not intended to be political in nature, so I tried to steer clear of its reputation and focus on the story. I think that worked for us. The Secret Garden was more personal. After some unexpected diversions in our selection process this year, I found myself approaching a deadline without a musical.
This was on a short list of favored choices. It turns out that it was the last play my mother performed with my little brother before he was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. The themes of the play deal with loss and regeneration, healing, hope, redemption — all themes that touched on that loss. I began to see my family and our struggle after that loss. I wanted to send my parents a love letter for all the support they have shown me over the years – the last few in particular – and to recognize their struggle in dealing with a loss so devastating. But I also wanted to celebrate the healing power of love and hope. I loved the novel as a youth, and it always affected me deeply. I also polled my advanced drama class, and this was one of their favorites. It was a perfect fit for my first year at CHS.
Micah Wise
From left, Micah Wise and Jason Hamann.

Meet Colleen Hord: Teacher, Writing Specialist, and Book Author.And during the last two years, she’s been extra busy writing 12 books, five of which have been published, with the remaining seven being released later this year. The books cater to grades K-3 and have simple but meaningful titles, such as “My Green Lunch” or “My Safe Community.”  Other titles are: “Clean and Green Energy,” “Need it or Want It? and “What’s my Role?”

“I absolutely love to write,” says Hord. “It’s my passion.”

The books are fun and teach children about recycling, re-using material goods, conserving energy, and being safe. Hord currently teaches second grade at Grass Valley School in Camas, and it’s clear from spending time with the class, they enjoy her books, too.

Student Tyler Vanderwood, 7, says he thinks “the books are good, and they’re good for the earth.”

Kennedy Linton, 8, calls Hord her “favorite person” and loves to read Hord’s books. “She teaches us how to write better,” she adds. “And I like that.”

Hord has cultivated her 30 years of teaching experience and love for writing into a mission. “I want all these kids to learn how to write properly,” she said. “And I get so much joy from that.”

Hord’s teaching career began in 1982 at the Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana.  Her career took her to Wyoming, Arizona and ultimately, Camas, where she started teaching in 1990 at Lacamas Heights.


Colleen Hord
Colleen Hord is a teacher, writing specialist and author of 12 books.

Since then, she has taught at Helen Baller and Dorothy Fox, where she served as a writing specialist. She spent three years in Washougal, and then returned to the Camas School District. She is in her second year at Grass Valley.Grass Valley is a green school and Hord serves on the Eco team, which helps the school maintain its green certification. “It’s fitting given some of the books I’ve written,” she says.

Rourke Publishing, based in Florida, approached her several years ago to write children’s books. She started the process in 2010. During the course of 18 months, she wrote the 12 books in collaboration with Rourke’s Editor-In-Chief, Luana Mitten.

“Colleen is just wonderful,” says Mitten. “We work well together, and she really has a way of getting content to the right reading level.”

Mitten says Colleen’s experience suited her for the writing projects.

“We choose writers who know the content we seek,” says Mitten. “So we frequently work with teachers who specialize in a given subject area.”

Book production begins in the fall, says Hord, so “I work pretty hard on the weekends between September and December writing the books.”

By Christmas, Hord’s books go into a final manuscript, and then Rourke’s artists go to work on photos and illustrations. The design process lasts until May and the book goes to the printer by July.

“It’s a fun process,” says Hord. “I really get into it and do a lot of research.”

Hord says her experience in the classroom teaching the beginning reader is very helpful to the book writing process. “I can see where the needs are and I address them in the books,” she says.

The exact content of her seven books in production is hush-hush, but we can say four are children’s stories and three are biographies.

Rourke Publishing has been in business for 33 years and caters to both US and international markets. Consumers can buy directly from or (with individual books or collections) and schools can purchase collections by going to, which sells the paper back versions. They come out simultaneously with the hardcover versions.

Mitten wasn’t able to provide exact sales figures, but did say Hord’s books have been re-printed several times already. “They’re good sellers,” she said. “She does an excellent job.”

Scott McCoy, one of Hord’s Grass Valley School colleagues, agrees. “I’ve been impressed with her books and what they teach the children.”

As for what’s next? “More writing,” she says. “And more teaching – I love it!”