facebook page twitter flickr youtube Donate Now
Light the fire within

Our Stories

Girl Climbing Rock Wall

Next Steps in Rock Climbing Require More Than Good Rope

According to Kate Maxwell, a member of the Camp Fire Alaska Camp Si-La-Meo leadership team as well as a rock climbing coach, "Rock climbing is great exercise for the body as well as the mind. It requires a different kind of athleticism from ball games or most team sports, so kids who don't excel there get a chance to really shine. It's not enough to be strong or agile when rock climbing; you also have to exercise your brain and work out your next steps in advance to succeed. It really is a total combination of body and mind. And as one gets stronger, the other grows as well."

Each week throughout the summer, youth aged 8 and older get a chance to try rock climbing on the rock wall at Camp Si-La-Meo, the council's day camp. With a growth mindset, staff coaches encourage youth to set goals (such as reaching the top of the wall or trying a new, more challenging route each time) and to shift gears and keep trying even when fear or a failed attempt sets them back a step.

Camp Fire Collaboration Supports Connection Between Mind and Body

Two years ago, Camp Fire First Texas began meeting with the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) with the focus of collaborating to better support connecting the youth and families in North Texas to the outdoors.

It only took a few meetings for other groups to take notice, including The Andrews Institute of Mathematics and Science and Project ISIS (Innovating Strategies, Inspiring Students), a pilot program in local schools that uses the Finland model, which allows for frequent "brain breaks" in the day in the form of unstructured play, giving the brain time to catch up and digest what they have learned.

This collaboration continues to grow and be strengthened through cross integration of programming and resources. BRIT has utilized Camp Fire's outdoor education and camp for environmental studies with their youth; Camp Fire and Andrew's Institute programs are implementing Project ISIS' model of brain breaks; and all the organizations are looking at how, together, they can expand the body of research that ties outside play to better learning outcomes.

For more information on Camp Fire First Texas partners:
The Andrews Institute of Mathematics and Science
Project ISIS

Sample Youth Response Text

Youth Respond to Camp Fire Snohomish County Grief Camp

A grief camp for youth who experienced loss in the March Oso mud slide that devastated a number of communities in Washington State began June 21. In advance of the camp opening, one child sent a note that clarified and confirmed the ongoing need to reach out and help these young lives. According to Dave Surface, Camp Fire Snohomish County Executive Director, all 120 funded openings will be filled, thanks to the outpouring of generous support.

Kids Riding Side-by-Side Bike

Outdoor Fun for All

Over the Memorial Day holiday, more than 130 kids with special needs, and their families, participated in the Camp Fire Central Puget Sound Special Family Weekend. Families stayed in camp-style cabins; enjoyed meals together; and spent the weekend boating, swimming, fishing, visiting with llamas, taking hikes, and participating in a talent show. The Outdoors for All Foundation generously provided adaptive bicycles so that everyone could enjoy cycling fun. More than 30 specially trained volunteers and staff delivered all the activities and provided two hours of respite care for parents.

Kids Playing in Gym

Camp Fire Columbia School - Year Programs Enter Summer on a High Note

Another school year successfully navigated, and what a year it was for Camp Fire Columbia. More than 1,400 K–12th graders participated in Camp Fire's programs across 21 different schools and three school districts. Along the way, students learned, laughed, discovered their sparks, served their community, and grew through out-of-school-time enrichment activities and mentorship.

Following are a handful of highlights:

  • Over 1,400 Camp Fire youth and families capped the year off with a bang by celebrating their children's achievements in year-end student showcases and special events. It was a great way to conclude an amazing year and involve families in their children's accomplishments.
  • Hundreds of middle school students visited the council's Camp Namanu on a recent field trip as a reward for hitting their second semester goals. Those goals included improved attendance, grades, and personal aspirations.
  • Eighty-six percent of seniors in the high school program graduated this year, surpassing the graduation rates of their peers. This is extraordinary, since many of these students had reentered high school after spending some time out of school, enrolled in Camp Fire because their attendance or credit accumulation put them at risk of not graduating, or faced other obstacles toward earning diplomas. With the right mindset, goal plan, and supports, every student can achieve success both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Camp Fire kids were also busy running service-learning projects in the community: They raised money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, sold homemade dog biscuits to benefit the Oregon Humane Society, coordinated a community health fair, and much more.
  • There were also those little moments that make this work so special, such as when a student listed his heroes as his Mom, Dad, and Camp Fire instructor. Or, when a high school student shared that if it weren't for the opportunities he had found in Camp Fire, he'd probably be in jail. Actually, these aren't "little" moments–they're huge.

The kids who participated in Camp Fire Columbia programs this year challenged themselves, tried new things, established goals and met them, practiced their leadership skills, and built up their confidence and respect for themselves and others.

Camp Fire Work With Thrive Foundation Is Transformative

A recent video created by Camp Fire Columbia is a great reflection of the work of the council's staff and commitment of their youth over the past few years. This year, Camp Fire Columbia has joined the work of the 30 Thrive Early Innovator Councils and has participated in cohort work in addition to integrating within summer programs in 2014.

Scamper for the Campers

With a solid turnout of runners and walkers taking the course, Camp Fire North Shore held its first annual Scamper for the Campers 5K and Kid's Fun Run at Camp Lion, in early June.

"We were thrilled with the turnout for our first annual Scamper for the Campers race," said Laurie Hamill, Executive Director of Camp Fire North Shore. "We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day, weather-wise, and are incredibly thankful to our sponsors for their support."

The 5K race drew 99 runners and walkers on a course that incorporated the neighborhood surrounding Camp Lion. The Kid's Fun Run, a one-miler that took place shortly after the end of the 5K, drew 28 youngsters.

Camp Fire North Shore serves over 3,000 children through several programs throughout the year, including after-school, self-reliance, Teens in Action, club, and a 10-week summer camp for kids aged 5–13.

Make Nutrition Fun

Melissa Hanson, Camp Fire Vice President, Program Planning and Evaluation, is a self-avowed tree-hugger. "I really am," Melissa proudly admitted. "I love my trees, I love being outdoors, I love connecting the health of my body to the food I eat." During the hectic–yet fun-packed–days of summertime, she is particularly mindful about paying attention to three important "must-do's" to stay healthy–and keep her kids healthy–during the hotter days ahead.

The first priority was water. "Not soda," clarified Melissa. "Not Gatorade or other drinks that are often packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners." Per Melissa, the go-to drink should always be good old H2O. The only substitute could be fruit. "Especially watermelons," she shared. "Any highly concentrated, water-heavy fruit is better that something sugary."

Her second reminder was to make it as easy as possible to be nutritionally healthy. "Prep ahead," Melissa suggested. "When families are running between activities, they too often take out fast food instead of taking the time to make the wiser, more nutritional choices. We need to make it easier (and preferable!) to grab some carrots or other veggies out of a baggie tucked in a cooler."

And the third suggestion was to make nutrition fun. "Start a garden, either in a garden plot or in containers. Go camping. Hike. Integrate healthy habits into how you spend your time," Melissa encouraged.

The summer months are the time to kick back and enjoy. Nobody should deprive themselves of anything. Yet when you're thinking Popsicle, just remember, they're as easy to make with sugar-free fruit juice as sappy, sweet syrup.

Enjoy! And...send us your healthy summertime recipes. We'd love to share!

For specific websites on healthy living and eating click here.

Leaders building a wall

Camp Fire Teen Leaders Build Walls of Protection
By Lauren Dixon, Camp Sealth Environmental Education Assistant, Camp Fire Central Puget Sound

What happens when a group of 16 teen leaders, one Camp Fire executive director, two Camp Sealth trained adult counselors, and a Washington Service Corps member join resources around a worthy project? Walls happen—specifically, an improved seawall, leaving it capable of battling the raging waves of wintry Colvos Passage. And in today's compromised environment, that's an important improvement!

The Puget Sound landscape region was shaped through the melting and withdrawing of the Vashon glacier some 15,000 years ago. In the millennia since, the lands that remain in this area have been competing with the tectonic activity of the Juan de Fuca plate moving under the North American plate, as well as the shoreline tidal cycles around the Puget Sound. This affects us here at Camp Sealth, because our location is set on one and a half miles of shoreline, putting the base of main camp at risk for coastal erosion and flooding.

To keep our property, facilities, and habitats safe, it is important to maintain a seawall. The wall on the Vashon Island coastline is composed of boulders, spalls, rocks, and pebbles. It is vital for us to repair this wall on a regular basis by taking loose rocks along the beach and filling in the holes and gaps along the seawall. This service project was exceptionally fitting for a group of teen leaders because it practiced problem solving, teamwork, and communication in order to maximize efficiency and safety. The project connected our teens to the environment by teaching about the world of physical oceanography and coastal habitat protection.

We hope that these leaders will continue to take pride in seeing the impact of this work whenever they return to Camp Sealth in the years to come. Everyone involved thanks them for their Service to Sealth!

Thriving in the Kansas City Public School District

JaMekia Kendrix, Teens in Action Senior Program Specialist, Camp Fire Heartland, works with Kansas City Teens in Action at Success Academy, an alternative school for the Kansas City, Missouri Public School District (KCPS). According to JaMekia, "If a student is having difficulty in a regular classroom, teachers and counselors can refer them to Success Academy. If they continue to have difficulty, the kids are referred on to the Phoenix Lab. The Phoenix Lab is a last chance." Camp Fire is the only program allowed to operate with these disenfranchised, often discouraged, teens.

One day JaMekia walked in to her students and announced, "Camp Fire wants to create a program that allows you to use your spark, or whatever it is you're passionate about, to create schools that meet your needs." JaMekia continued, "If you had the opportunity to participate in a program like this, what would it look like?"

"The next steps were like pulling teeth, because teens aren't used to having free reign over creating a program," remembers JaMekia. "One student said 'Does it really matter what we do, because they are going to shut our schools down anyway?'" (KCPS has been unaccredited since January 2012.) JaMekia refused to allow this sense of hopelessness. Instead of letting the kids give up, she asked, "So, what do you want to do about it? What if people listened to what you had to say?"

JaMekia believes giving young people a voice is what Camp Fire is all about. "It wasn't my job to tell them what we needed to work on. It was to my job to pull the solution out of them." Of course, getting young, disenfranchised youth engaged wasn't easy. "Initially when I said 'what if people listened,' we had a whole discussion about why people wouldn't. I had to keep asking, 'What if they did?'"

From that confirmation of their value, the students created a list of educators, local officials and state legislators they wanted to talk to... and a plan. JaMekia told them if they didn't have access to the people they wanted to meet, it was her job to help them. It was also her job to help them find their voice. So she did. The results have gone beyond anyone's expectation. Especially the youth who found a voice that was much different from "Does it really matter?"

Outcomes since JaMekia's first conversation with the youth include:
  • JaMekia met with KCPS Superintendent Steven Green, the Kansas City School Board and other local officials to build relationships prior to introducing the students.
  • The rapport she built culminated in two events on March 10th: (1) The teens organized a student town hall, the first in Missouri, for students to have input on decisions made about an accredited district. They were encouraged to identify specific questions for the town hall. (2) A meeting via Skype with Missouri Education Commissioner Dr. Chris Nicastro, in which they presented their ideas for improving the district.
  • On March 20, the students gave up a day of their spring break to travel to the state capitol to see the process firsthand, attending a State Board of Education meeting.
  • During the meeting, one of the students remarked, "I think they listened to us a lot because some of the things that we brought up, they brought up."
  • During the March 20 meeting, the Board of Education adopted the school improvement program, which it says will be about early intervention and prevention to keep districts accredited. This was an idea the Camp Fire teens presented.
  • During the meeting, Dr. Nicastro gave them a shout-out for making sure that student voice is heard.
  • The commissioner, who has been very impressed with their work, will go to Success Academy in April to speak one-on-one with the students who organized the town hall.

How Was Thrive Methodology Integrated Into the Process?

Through the process, JaMekia realized the best ways to incorporate Thrive was to "pull it out through reflection." She said that most often, when the youth are engaged with an activity, the issues that emerge are issues with mindset. Because most projects are built around team building, goal management is also important. "When we're in discussion about an issue, I'm always recording what the kids are saying," JaMekia explained. "When I reflect it back, I use Thrive language."

One example of goal management was the idea to put out a newsletter about actions the state was considering and then distribute it to all students in the district. At that time, five or six plans were being considered. The teens wanted to get the plans, review them and then provide a summary to the students. However, after JaMekia brought in the 70 pages to review, they realized they were not going to get through it all. Their frustration was clear. "So what do we do now? What do we do if we don't give a summary? How do we get the information to the students?"

Instead of answering the questions herself, JaMekia replied that the teens needed to come up with their own ideas. What strategies did they want to pursue if their goal was to get information? They shifted gears by going through a process for how to get information to students. After discussion, they finally landed on doing a presentation for students with the leaders they needed to hear from, came up with the idea for a town hall, and invited the students.

Instead of answering the questions herself, JaMekia replied that the teens needed to come up with their own ideas. What strategies did they want to pursue if their goal was to get information? They shifted gears by going through a process for how to get information to students. After discussion, they finally landed on doing a presentation for students with the leaders they needed to hear from, came up with the idea for a town hall, and invited the students.

How Did JaMekia Create Space for Youth Voice?

According to JaMekia, "If you concentrate on asking questions that are not leading questions, then you get answers that come from the youth themselves in their own voice. If I put out a question with two options, they'll take one of the two rather than coming up with their own," said JaMekia. "So I have to make sure that as I'm asking questions I'm not throwing out options. Instead, I'm allowing them to brainstorm. Even when they come up with stuff that may seem ridiculous in my mind, I have to be quiet and allow them to process their own decisions. To make sure youth voice is heard, I have to make sure I listen way more than I speak and instead of offering suggestions I ask questions that get them to think deeper about what it is they are doing."

Americas Most Talented Applauds Florida Youth
America's Most Talented Applauds Florida Youth

Camp Fire Gulf Wind celebrated Absolutely Incredible Kid Day (AIKD) with spokesperson Chloe Channell, America's Got Talent season eight quarter finalist. Chloe launched AIKD at a local book store, singing a few of her favorite songs. She chose to support Camp Fire's special call-out to kids because she wants to encourage others as she has been encouraged. Maverick, the local (championship!) ice hockey team mascot, teamed up with Chloe to encourage people to write letters to children in the community. With this "incredible team," more than 1,000 letters were collected from college and high school students, businesses, organizations and individuals. They'll be delivered with family letters on March 27, 2014, to students in area school districts.

Absolutely Incredible Kids Celebrated with Red Carpet Treatment
Absolutely Incredible Kids Celebrated with Red Carpet Treatment

Parents of the Good Samaritan after-school program and shelter celebrated their children in celebrity style, thanks to Camp Fire Central Coast of California. Twenty-four children walked a red carpet leading to a room full of streamers, snacks, games and cupcakes.

In addition to red carpet treatment at the shelter, they were treated to a surprise party at the Santa Maria Camp Fire cabin at a local park. The event included pictures at the door, a water balloon toss and a cake walk. Most significantly, parents wrote letters of encouragement to their children and presented them at the event.

Council board member Shari McCarthy shared AIKD's intent with the community: "The day is meant to give adults pause to think about children in their lives, to take the time to provide encouragement to children and help each child discover his or her own sense of dignity and worth."

McCarthy said she persuaded six different California cities to pass proclamations declaring the day Absolutely Incredible Kid Day and inviting everyone to write a letter to a child that is special to them.

"I've seen some parents light up like I haven't for months," said Alexis Barnard, Central Coast of California Coordinator of the Good Samaritan Shelter. She said it was special for the parents but an important sentiment for the children as well. "I think for the students they feel special and needed and to have a day that's all about them–to be spoiled and taken away from all the chaos in their lives."

Annual Candy Sale Raised Over $200,000
Annual Candy Sale Raised Over $200,000

The Camp Fire Central Puget Sound Candy Sale was a huge undertaking for group program participants, parents, and staff. According to candy sale coordinator Mary Olsen, "Nearly 350 youth, ranging in age from 3 to 18, did an amazing job selling candy across the area. The council also sends out a big "Thank you!" to the unsung heroes of the sale–council volunteers–who generously carve time out of their busy lives to serve in key volunteer candy sale roles."

The sale also enjoyed the support of 30 Merchants of Merit (those businesses that purchased at least 15 units of candy). Thanks to Camp Fire Central Puget Sound, the USO will be receiving over 1,272 units of candy for our troops, purchased and donated by candy sale customers.

Tea, Treats, and Thank-Yous
Tea, Treats, and Thank-You's

Camp Fire Georgia's Shooting Stars Starflight Club hosted a tea party for members of their local park board in mid-February. Club members planned the party themselves and treated guests to an array of finger foods as well as a variety of hot teas in a beautifully decorated setting. Board members were presented with hand-decorated plates thanking them for their dedication and service to the park and to the community.

Beach Walkers Illuminate Life at Night
Beach Walkers Illuminate Tidal Life at Night

Youth from Camp Fire Snohomish County recently learned about pollution in Puget Sound while working toward earning an emblem called Trail to the Environment. Sandra Christiansen, Camp Fire club leader, said it was the first outing of this kind for many of the youngsters. "The most interesting part for children is getting to see what's under the water," Christiansen said.

Home | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Compass | Store
© 2013 Camp Fire