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Ward activities are not only about food and fun - they're also about increasing family love and ward unity.

One popular activity among wards during the summer is a campout, where families spend time together in a nearby forest.The Corvallis 1st Ward is among the scores of wards that have done just that. Ward members traveled recently to a nearby campground in an area surrounded by majestic foothill forests. Needless to say, the foothill forest is also a popular place for family outings, Scout events and girls camp.

And Corvallis 1st Ward members discovered - as do other Latter-day Saints throughout the world - that ward campouts, organized within Church budget policies and guidelines, build family traditions and togetherness.

Bishop Lorin R. Davis said the ward's annual campout is a highlight

of the year, especially for children. This activity also offers an excellent chance to fellowship less-active members. "Our activities committee has a calling committee, and we particularly try to get less-active members to attend. It is a good time to get to know each other.

"This year's campout helped in a number of ways," continued Bishop Davis. "It gave families a chance to be together, it helped the members bond together in unity within the whole ward, and it also helped members appreciate nature a little better."

This year, he said, some new families attended and became better acquainted and felt more a part of the ward. "They had a great time and joined in group activities."

He added that the Corvallis 1st Ward campouts are very informal.

Among the most eager campers this year were the children of Ruth and Craig Heninger - Alan, 8; Alison, 5; and Janae, 1.

"When Alan and Alison heard the family campout announced at Church, they came home excited to go," Sister Heninger related. "We told them it might not be possible to go this year, but they were so sad and upset that we canceled other plans and started packing for the campout.

"We realized that our hoped-for family tradition of camping was taking hold. We'll build on that in years to come."

The family traveled about 20 miles to the campsite, where the children immediately began exploring.

Another family, Philip and Cindy Stringham, even brought Max, their golden retriever, along with their children, Jesse, Luke, Zachary and Andrea.

"We had a good time," Brother Stringham reported. "We found that television can't hold a candle to camping. All of us, including Max, loved looking in the creeks for salamanders. We're lucky to have such a fine camp so close to Corvallis."

Steve and Donna Hammon and their family took creative camping honors. They brought along their big trampoline. During the day, the trampoline was the top attraction for children, youth and even some daring adults. At night, it became the bed on which the parents slept, along with their three daughters, Heather, Amy and Brittnee. Seventeen-year-old Anabel Bray, a visiting student from France, came to the campout with the Hammons. This was her first-ever campout.

"But not the last," she emphasized.

Bishop Davis said dry conditions and camping regulations prohibited open campfires, so family cooking in the evening was over small, protected fire pits.

But the food tasted good to hungry campers after a hike and games. Bishop Davis, his counselor David Bird and executive secretary David Tingey drew cheers for their breakfast. The menu included orange juice, scrambled eggs and a dazzling array of pancakes with peaches in or on top, or with such treats as bananas or chocolate chips. There were also the old favorites: buttermilk or buckwheat.

Xavier Brown, young son of Kelly and Rose Brown, opted for chocolate chips and whipped cream on his pancakes.

Xavier summed up the pancakes, and whole camping experience, in three words: "I loved it," he said.