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Camp Fire USA, today!

Yep, we’re still called Camp Fire Girls by some, and we are, but we’re also boys and families and so much more. We became co-educational more than 30 years ago, but that’s still new news to a few. Camp Fire has worked to evolve with the changes in families and society since its inception almost 100 years ago.

When Camp Fire was created in 1910, it was important to the men and women who founded the organization that girls get the chance to experience the outdoors in ways they’d rarely been able to before. Back then, it wasn’t acceptable for boys and girls to interact in that environment. The organization invited boys to join in 1975, realizing that boys and girls learning to work together early understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and give back to the community, which is crucial to their success in life later on.  

Family life these days is often joyful but stressful: both parents working, blended families, single-parent families and a score of commitments on everyone’s plate. That’s why Camp Fire created Community Family Clubs. Groups of families come together to share a meal, enjoy age-appropriate activities, develop leadership, foster compassion and have fun. And we welcome whatever “family” means to you: neighbors, friends and colleagues, grandparents, aunts, uncles, partners. Community Family Clubs are a great way to make time for everyone to be together and learn together. 
Our newest early learning/school readiness group program for preschoolers is Little Stars. Recent research shows that the better children are prepared for school, the better they succeed there. We don’t try to teach the three “R’s”; rather, we help children get ready to learn them. Camp Fire USA’s curriculum for Little Stars helps them learn who they are as unique individuals, how to interact in healthy ways in a group setting, with adults and in a community. Little Stars are encouraged to explore their creativity and appreciate the environment. We also teach healthy habits, healthy eating and personal safety.  

And, well, when it comes to teens, we’ve been getting them off the couch since 1992 through our Youth Volunteer Corps, or YVC. YVC is a program of Camp Fire USA that engages teams of youth ages 11-18 in service opportunities that meet community needs and are educational, challenging and fun. The projects qualify for service learning hours for high-school-age youth, and all YVC projects are free. YVC projects occur all over King County. This summer, just a few of the things with which YVC youth will be helping include: the Seafair Marathon, working at the Lifelong AIDS Alliance thrift store, harvesting produce for low-income families at Marra Farm, taming invasive foliage at Interlaken Park, working with developmentally disabled adults at Elderhealth and putting together gift bags for children in the hospital. Last year these teens provided 10,000 service hours to the community.

Seemingly gone are the days when your mom told you to go play outside and she’d call you when dinner was ready. Today’s kids spend an average of 47 hours a week in front of some sort of screen and only three hours outside. The National Parks in California, Oregon and Washington saw 1.3 million fewer visitors in 2006 than in 2005. We say we love the outdoors, but are too busy to go there. Send your kids to camp. Better yet, go to camp with your kids. Camp Fire USA offers a variety of resident camp opportunities (Mom & Me, Horse Camp, as well as traditional camp) plus various specialty sessions, including culinary arts, windsurfing and kayaking, marine adventures and environmental education through the schools. We also have 11 area day camps where kids can play, meet local heroes, do crafts and learn camping skills. These are safe indoor/outdoor environments for learning, fun and friends. All of Camp Fire USA’s staff members are trained and have background checks.

Did you know Camp Fire USA also offers licensed child care in two locations in the central Puget Sound area? Camp Fire USA also offers Special Saturday Club at five locations — an opportunity for parents of special-needs children to receive five hours of licensed child care for their special-needs child (and siblings, special needs or not) so that parents can rest, revive and take some time for themselves or other projects.

As society evolves, so does Camp Fire USA. YVC and Camp Fire USA welcome all youth and families without regard to race, gender, creed, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, economic status or mental or physical disabilities. Our youth are today’s kids and tomorrow’s leaders. We really do build more than just campfires!

Camp Fire is one of ParentMap’s 2007 Giving Together partners. For more information, visit www.campfire-usa.org.

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