Monday, July 28, 2008

The Tradition of Girls' Camp, or Why YW Leaders Turn Grey

Ah, the bliss of girls' camp. ;) I suppose I'm pondering this subject because next week our ward will be participating in the annual stake girls' camp adventure. I've lost count of how many years I've attended girls' camp. It began when I was the ripe age of 12. I was a naive Beehive who sponged for things like the ever popular snipe hunt. I won't reveal how long I sat under a tree waiting for the infamous snipes to make an appearance that night, but long enough to gain an appreciation for this fine endeavor.

Girls' camp was a magical time. Leaders let their hair down---literally. Some of them looked quite interesting by the time camp was over. Actually we all did. It was part of the fun. Along the way, we girls learned the importance of tying knots, not getting lost during hikes, cooking over a fire, how to live without makeup or curling irons, and how to light a fire without matches. Always there were fun crafts, hilarious skits, and spiritual boosts like testimony meetings around a campfire.

I only caught myself on fire once during my years as a girl camper. It happened during my fourth year of camp. There we were, diligently learning to light a fire using only flint and steel. I had a slight handicap---I had broken a finger the week before during a softball tournament. (I had caught the fly ball that won the game---just with the wrong hand. The one without a glove. Story of my life, but I digress.) My broken finger was wrapped with gauze and taped to a small splint. It proved to be a nuisance during that entire camping adventure. But on the day that we were building fires, it really made things exciting fun.

I was thrilled when I saw smoke---after I had scraped the flint and steel together for what had seemed like hours. All of a sudden I heard one of our leaders scream, "She's on fire!" I was immediately thrown into a nearby creek---as my leader landed on top of me. Not one of my finer moments. ;) In the process of lighting a fire, I had caught the gauze on fire. Good times. On the bright side, I was given full credit for lighting a fire.

The years passed and along the way I found myself called to serve in the YW. This time I would be attending girls' camp as an adult. It was awesome, despite entertaining moments like the day some rambunctious girls smeared Icy Hot on the toilet paper. The girls' camp director later commented that camp that year had left her with a warm feeling. (She was the only one who was affected by that prank. She warned the rest of us as she ran screaming toward a creek.)

Then there was the time when a "Koala Bear" invaded our camp. The girls ran screaming down the hillside, flattening their leaders in the process. All we heard was "BEAR!!!" "IT'S A BEAR!" Then one girl screamed out: "IT'S A KOALA BEAR!" Highly unlikely in Idaho, but worth a look. When I took a flashlight up to investigate, I found that a raccoon had crawled inside of their tent and he or she was enjoying a handful of crackers from a box that had been left open in the tent. We still tease this young lady about the time she found a Koala Bear at girls' camp. =)

After serving in YW for nearly 5 years and attending girls' camp almost every summer, I was released from YW and found myself shanghaiied into Primary right off the bat. That next spring I was called to be the girls' camp director. Our bishop at the time wrote my name in magic marker on the ward calling roster, stressing that this was a permanent thing. I didn't mind. I'll admit, we had a lot of fun. I love working with the youth and each year we made a lot of fun memories. I think we were all disappointed when I was eventually called to serve in the stake R.S., and had to be released from the joy of girls' camp.

About a year and a half ago (2 weeks after being released from my stake position) I was called to serve as the YW president for our ward. More girls' camp adventures. =) Last summer, our stake had the opportunity to attend the Heber Valley Girls' Camp facility in Utah. It was a wonderful week. By far one of the most spiritual girls' camp adventures I've ever experienced. If any of you ever get the chance to attend camp in this location, go for it. It's very much worth the expense and adventure getting there.

Here's my take on why the tradition of girls' camp is important. Girls' Camp provides a setting where the YW and their leaders can get to know each other a little better. It's a chance to show the YW what you're made of, and vice versa. The YW learn important survival skills that they may or may not need in the years to come. I can honestly state that as a YW leader, I have used everything I ever learned during my youthful girls' camp days. I've also used these skills as the mother of all sons who loved to camp, hike, and fish.

The best part of camp I think, is the night some dread, the night when girls and leaders are given a chance to share what's in their hearts around a warm campfire. There's a special feeling in a forest setting, not found anywhere else.

I'm looking forward to this year's camp. In an ironic twist, one of the girls (pictured above) that went with us years ago to Camp "Koala Bear", is now serving as the secretary in my YW presidency. She will be going to camp with the girls this year and she is so excited. She is seeing for herself that life is a circle. I have no doubt that she will have the time of her life as the baton is passed to another generation of girls' camp leaders. I will have to share one bit of wisdom with her before she heads up---always take along your own supply of toilet paper. This alleviates a lot of potential problems. =)

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Kerry Blair said...

LOVE the pictures -- and the koala bear story.

Some of my fondest memories as a YW leader are of Camp LoMia here in AZ. Beautiful place -- actually and spiritually.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Thanks Kerry. =) I have no doubt you were an awesome YW leader. One of those who made camp fun and memorable. Girls' Camp Forever, eh?

Anne Bradshaw said...

Good for you, Cheri! What an amazing accomplishment--all those years with Girls' Camp.

By the way, it's contest time again on my blog. Come on over and take a peek. Great book prize.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Thanks, Anne. And I will pop over for a peek. Sounds like fun. =)