Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Big Week Coming up for Crowell/Hilaka

I have been basically braindead this past week studying for finals and working too much due to an assistant manager gone crazy. So kiddies, this will just have to be a short one for purposes of a quick update only.

AUGUST 2 - Friends of Crowell/Hilaka meeting.

AUGUST 4 - Architect/Property expert from GSUSA visits Camp Crowell/Hilaka, members of GSNEO board and property committee and 2 members of FOCH will be present.

SOMETIME NEXT WEEK - Board will meet to discuss the near future of Crowell/Hilaka as well as Great Trails, another GSNEO camp in jeopardy.

I will keep everyone posted on any decisions made.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

What I hope for Hilaka in the future...

Obviously, Hilaka's future is quite uncertain right now. We are unsure at this point if GSNEO will even authorize us to help repair the camp or raise funds to do so.

At the meeting last week, Council gave us a list of repairs that needed to be done at Camp. These items were CLEARLY rough figures, and they had a hard time answering where the estimates came from. Many items on the list were very vague, for example, "Roads, Culverts, and Ditches" - it is unclear if this means that they want to pave more of the roads, or do they need more gravel, or do the ditches need to be filled in? There was a lot of doubt on whether or not some of the repairs on the list were even necessary.

Other things that stuck out from the list was a $350,000 cost of repairing the pool and poolhouse. We were all extremely confused about this particular item because obviously the state of the pool should not hold back the use of the camp. The pool was mainly used for resident camp anyways, and since they did away with that years ago, the pool should NOT be a top priority. Obviously, if Council plans on making full use of the camp again it will be considered, but there are many other projects that need to be taken care of first, of course the dam and water treatment plant being of the utmost importance. We can re-stain the outhouses and build porches later.

The grand total was $802,000...but again, these are just estimates and I have a feeling some of these projects will be considerably MORE expensive than listed.

A property specialist from GSUSA is coming out to Camp Crowell-Hilaka on August 4, and the FOCH will have 2 members present representing our cause, and council will obviously have representatives there as well. The board will meet in the days following and decide where to go from there, maybe even IF there is anywhere to go from there. FOCH is well represented at the Aug 4. meeting at camp, but it is a bit nerve wracking nonetheless. This guy will only be at camp for a couple hours, just basically the amount of time it takes to walk through all the units. Council seems to be moving about the situation quite leisurely, while all of us at FOCH are eager to speed up the process and get the how on the road. So, we shall see how that situation pans out.

I think that we should get Crowell-Hilaka on the track to become accredited by the American Camping Association (ACA) and offer resident camp during the summers again. Every since resident camp has been taken out of the picture, the camp has gone steadily downhill from there. Camp Crowell-Hilaka currently has the most expensive troop camping rates in the State of Ohio, mostly because they are not able to make revenue from any other kind of programming. It is such a waste to let such a beautiful and historic campground go to waste the way Hilaka has been going.

I believe that within the next 3-5 years we can, and should, make Hilaka ready for summer camp again. It will be difficult, as the past nine years of non-activity will make it difficult to find staff that are as connected with the camp as the previous group of staff were. Hilaka sold off all the horses in 2005, which will be difficult as well because a good majority of girls who came to camp were in horse programs. I think that we can get back to where we were eventually, if we act quickly and with the camp's long term future in mind.

What do you guys think? What do you see in Camp Crowell-Hilaka's future?

Just For Fun!

Above are some unit pictures I have found from Camp Crowell-Hilaka resident camps. There are a few key ones missing, including Whitewater Wheelin from '99, a couple horse programs, as well as a few others I can't remember at the moment. These bring back some memories, that's for sure.

The cool thing is that I am still in contact with many of these girls and counselors still...ahh yes, the wonders of Facebook =)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Comprehensive History of Camp Crowell/Hilaka

I finally had the chance today to sit down and sort through all of the information that I have been given throughout the past few weeks of Camp Hilaka's history. I typed up this little summary of what I found, and it is indeed fascinating. Camp Crowell is the oldest standing camp in the Legacy Lake Erie Region of the GSNEO, with its inception in 1937. It is so sad that they have let such a gorgeous property fall through the cracks, especially one with such a rich and colorful history. The Friends of Crowell Hilaka are here to restore our beloved camp to the way it should be!


History of Camp Crowell/Hilaka
Compiled by Jacqui Muth

In 1936, the Cleveland Girl Scout Council began looking for a centrally located campsite that could be owned by the council. The committee found the Kirby Estate near West Richfield, Ohio, which was being offered at $60,000.

To raise the money for the camp, Mr. Warner Seely chaired a committee composed of business and civic leaders, including Julia Crowell, James R. Garfield and Linnea Friede (do these names sound familiar?). The committee received publicity from public figures such as Lee Henry Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt, who both credited Girl Scouts and camping as invaluable experiences for young women.

The Church of the Covenant widely publicized the campaign and the Cleveland Council held a benefit at their Annual Banquet aptly named “Camp Around the Calendar.” The campaign raised $61,157 from 5050 persons and secured a bid for the Kirby Estate.

On April 7, 1937, the Cleveland Council purchased 243 acres of land in West Richfield from Mr. and Mrs. Kirby, the owners of the Kirby Vacuum Company. It was dedicated to Julia Crowell, the first commissioner to the Cleveland Council, at the opening ceremonies on June 20, 1937, dubbing it “Camp Julia Crowell.” The property included a home built by James Kirby himself of timber cut and sawed on site, dedicated as “Kirby House” on August 17, 1937.

Mr. Kirby wanted a lake on his property, so he dammed a stream flowing from his half of the Upper Lake and filled a sizeable lake below, known as “Lower Lake.” They stocked the lake with fish and brought in water lilies with pink and white flowers, which can still be seen to this day.

He also built the millhouse and the first ever ball-bearing mill wheel. This wheel was so sensitive that a trickle of water was enough to generate power for his buildings. The mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks in 1978 and stands today as a museum of historical Girl Scout artifacts.

The estate’s famous dance hall was later named “Garfield Hall” on August 9, 1937 in honor of Eleanor Garfield, President Garfield’s great granddaughter-in-law and the Cleveland Council’s second commissioner. It was built on railroad boxcar springs so that it would bounce for square dancing. This was the Kirby’s recreation hall and was used as a dining hall in the early days of Resident Camp at Camp Julia Crowell.

Loa Russell, a Girl Scout in the Cleveland Council remembers her first summer at Camp Crowell very clearly: “Our Innisfree unit [a unit for older girls at another Girl Scout camp] left the camp at Burton for an overnight at the new site in Richfield. I spent a summer as a CIT and later as a ‘gopher’ at the camp then the council hosted a National Leaders’ Encampment. There were a variety of program specialists as trainers. I especially remember a person who was the song leader. She inspired me with a lifelong love of folk songs.”

Girls travelled in droves to Camp Julia Crowell (or CJC as it was affectionately known by the scouts) throughout the 30s and 40’s. It was clear that a love of camping had spread throughout the Cleveland Council, and throughout the world of Girl Scouting as well. In 1942, a new policy was adopted to allow the summer camping program to be open to girls of all ages, regardless of race. In the summer of 1943, Camp Julia Crowell become one of the first overnight camps to allow African American girls to stay. The girls stayed at “Hickory Hill,” a platform tent site. Those who attended this historic summer at camp made lifelong connections from the experience.

By the late 40’s, troop camping was done at Camp Julia Crowell as well. Doris Becker was a senior Girl Scout the first time she went troop camping. “We went to Kirby House in the winter,” she remembers. “When we arrived on a Friday night, a pasta dinner was waiting for us. We went sledding down the hill at Garfield Hall and hiked the Upper Lake. When I arrived home, I told my mom if I ever had a daughter, would want her to become a Girl Scout and have as much fun as I did.”

Camp Julia Crowell became THE place to be for camping. Girls would register individually through the council and paid a camp fee of $18 for two weeks. The camp units the girls used were platform tents, with cots on the wooden floors. Outdoor programming varied according to the girls’ interests, and often included boating, swimming, hiking, cooking outdoors, and campfire activities. Meals were served in Garfield Hall. In 1949, “Hilltop Cabin” was built, and was the first winterized cabin at the camp.

During the war, Dean Rightnour spent three summers at Camp Julia Crowell. She can still see “the last night at camp, singing at watching all the wish boats flickering on the lake.” Dean says that a highlight of her summers was tending to the camp’s victory garden. “Each unit was assigned a day to hoe, cultivate, and pick weeds. I picked weeds. I had never had a garden, so I wasn’t really too sure what I was doing. All I remember was that I was very proud of the weeds I had picked – until I was told that those nice light yellow roots were carrot plants!”

Membership in Girl Scouts continued to grow throughout the 50’s and in 1955, the council began to offer family camping at Camp Julia Crowell. Families camped together in tent units and planned their own meals and activities. Family camping was popular throughout the rest of the decade.

The resident camp program continued to grow as well; in 1950, CJC welcomed 548 girls and by the end of the decade in 1959, 727 girls attended Camp Julia Crowell for summer programming. The camps were operated by approximately 80 staff members each summer, and the woods rang with voices of happy campers. A CIT program began in 1952, and by 1958 the CIT program was so popular that it became a two-year program available to girls at least 16 years old.

Unfortunately, on August 4, 1959, a tragic event struck at Camp Julia Crowell. Lightning struck a tree at 4:45 a.m., hitting two tents at a primitive camp site killing two 13-year-old girls. The families requested that contributions be made in the girls’ names, and the following summer the “High Lea Shelter” at Camp Julia Crowell was constructed in honor of Sallie Louise Parker, one of the girls who lost their lives in this tragic accident. Another memorial shelter, “Mable Smith Shelter” was dedicated on May 18, 1958, in honor of Mable Smith, a beloved 10-year staff member.

The 50’s also gave way to an historic event that changed Camp Julia Crowell forever. In 1957, the council purchased 93 acres of land adjoining Camp Julia Crowell and the other half of Lake Linnea and brought the total of the West Richfield property to 336 acres. This parcel of land was originally the Freeman Farm, one of the largest apple orchards in the State of Ohio. The Clarence J. Neal family of the Neal Storage Company had owned the property before the council’s acquisition.

There were four buildings on the Hilaka property at the time of purchase. Mr. Neal built “North House” in 1928 as his family home. The antique brick effect in the construction is authentic since the bricks were salvaged for some of the original buildings around Public Square in Cleveland. “Amity House,” or South House, as it was then known, was built by Mr. Neal’s son as a gift to his wife. On the premises as well were the “Coach House,” and a garage. The lake is called “Lake Linnea” in honor of Mrs. Linnea Friede, a volunteer who started her scouting career in 1921.

This new acreage adjoining Camp Julia Crowell was named “Camp Hilaka” and was dedicated on June 12, 1960 by Mrs. Margaret Bates, the third Vice President of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Two tent units, each with six platform tents, were opened for troop camping, as well as the buildings already on site. Several day camp sessions were held on the site as well.

The next few years were spent in drafting the development plans for the future expansion of Camp Hilaka. A camp development campaign to raise $65,000 was held from 1963 to 1966. On May 21, 1967, Hilaka’s major facilities were completed and dedicated. These major additions included “George Gund Hall”, “Louis D. Beaumont Pool” and shower house, “Chagrin Cabin,” eight other units and a water system and sanitation plant. In June of 1967, the first campers and staff arrived to officially open the first full season of resident camping at Camp Hilaka. In 1968, the camp saw the addition of the camp office and trading post and in 1969, a brand new boathouse and pier greeted campers, thus completing the Camp Hilaka development.

Resident camp and troop camping continued throughout the 70’s, but by the end of the decade, Resident Camp was suspended due to a decline in participation. A decision was made to further develop Camp Crowell/Hilaka and use it as the main focus for programming in the newly formed Lake Erie Girl Scout Council. Camping made a comeback in the 80’s and Crowell/Hilaka was THE place to be again.

The 1990’s were Camp Crowell/Hilaka’s golden age. The camp was filled every weekend with troop campers and the summers were full of happy campers from grades 3-12. Throughout these years, council-sponsored summer camping programs at Crowell/Hilaka included resident camp, core camp, Safari/Pathfinder Day Camp and Discovery Days. The council increased its emphasis on outdoor educational and recreational opportunities such as high adventure trips for older girls, including backpacking, canoeing, rock climbing and whitewater rafting.

Camp Crowell/Hilaka saw many improvements throughout the 90’s as well: the construction of a new tack building and riding rings for the horse program, winterization and restroom additions to Gund Hall and a new storage building and addition to the camp office. Major dam reconstruction was accomplished through the volunteer efforts of the local union of the Ohio Operating Engineers. A high ropes course, challenge course, and climbing wall were built. Spiff’s Garden, adjacent to Amity House lawn, was dedicated in 1991 as a memorial to Lisa Pruett, a senior Girl Scout member. In 1999, Hi Lea Shelter was rebuilt and rededicated as a memorial to Sallie Parker.

GSLEC made the heartbreaking decision to close summer camp at Crowell/Hilaka in 2000, and later sold off all of the horses in 2005. The camp has steadily declined since due to a lack of interest from the Council, and here we are in 2009, with Crowell/Hilaka in need of close to a million dollars in repairs. Many scouts from all over the country are desperately trying to save this historic landmark and our “home away from home.“ We can’t help but wonder how Council let such a gem of a place slip through the cracks, but now the focus is on trying to restore Camp Crowell/Hilaka back to its glory as the shining star that it should be.


The Girl Scouts of Lake Erie Council. A Promise Kept: Ninety Years of Helping Girls Succeed. Copyright 2002, Cleveland Ohio.

Various timelines provided by the former Girl Scouts of Lake Erie Council.

Excerpts from the Camp Hilaka staff brouchure, circa 1990's.

Monday, July 20, 2009


So the meeting was today at council, I will do a rundown of that tomorrow...not enough time or energy left for that tonight.

I just moseyed on over to the GSNEO website to check something out that was mentioned at the meeting tonight, and what do I notice? A tab that says GSNEO CAMPS! I don't know when this happened, but I am assuming today. They finally have got the idea. I am looking at the Crowell/Hilaka page and they list all the sites and even have pictures. Well done GSNEO!!! A step in the right direction for sure.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A quick note

Here are two more councils that are really doing a great job on promoting their camps.

The first is the Girl Scouts of Western PA council. They have a web-zine aimed towards the girls called "S'More" that is a 100-page publication detailing the camp and other programs in the council. It is pretty revolutionary, because as far as I know, our council mostly gears their publications towards the troop leaders and other adult volunteers. I could be wrong, but I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary. Here is the link to the GSWPA Camp page, click on the S'More link to view the magazine:

The next website is one that is actually based entirely on Keyauwee Program Center, a camp in the Tarheel Triad Council of NC. Keyauwee is a camp available to camps during the year and is used as a resident camp during the summer, much like many other GS camps in the country. Keyauwee's program guide is outstanding, and while the website itself isn't very exciting, it certainly makes up for that in content. There is even a 7-minute long video on there promoting the resident camp and the opportunites it provides for the girls. I encourage you to check it out:

Just more evidence to further prove that GSNEO should really step up their website...there is talk with in the FOCH (Friends of Crowell Hilaka) group that perhaps using our website much like Keyauwee has used their, linking directly from GSNEO's website. Of course, we have to make sure there actually will be a camp to promote in the first place =/

Thanks to all for your continued support in FOCH and our efforts!

T-Minus One Day!

So, my first FOCH meeting is at Council tomorrow; both my mom and I will be attending, and possibly a few girls from my former troop. I'm not really quite sure what to expect, and I want to keep it that way - as I don't want to have high hopes and then end up more disappointed with the situation that I already am.

Supposedly, Council is supposed to give us a run down of the damage at camp and approximately how much everything is going to cost. We know that dam and the water treatment plants are in dire need of attention, but perhaps there could be more things that need our help as well. Apparently, the plan is to "winterize" or "snowball" the camp this winter, which would include shutting off all the water, putting anti-freeze in the toilets, and taking all the paintings and artifacts out of the house and the historical Girl Scout museum and putting them in storage. My fear is that once they take all the artifacts out of the museum, they will never put them back...

Camp Crowell/Hilaka has a very rich history, and I would hate to see all of that go down the toilet. I cannot even truly express how many people's lives have been touched by Hilaka. I was at a party last night, and I casually mentioned in conversation what was going on with camp. I didn't even say the name of the camp, just "They are closing my Girl Scout Camp," and shouts of, "Oh no, not Camp Hilaka?" rung out from the crowd. It is amazing when you realize that so many people have personal connections with the camp. Anyone who has ever experienced the camp will always hold it in a special place in their heart. I know I do, as do many of my friends.

I have received an overwhelming response from my fellow campers and former troop members who want to help the effort and save our camp! I hope that you all follow through and let Council and the board know how much Camp Hilaka means to you. We can do this!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

From my autobiography, circa 1998

In sixth grade, we had to write an autobiography as a final project for our English class. It consisted of 18 chapters, each one about one to two pages each. I remember working on it for months! My chapter on Camp Crowell-Hilaka was by far the longest at five pages - an exceptional length for a 12-year-old...heck, I'm not too thrilled about writing five page papers these days. I am so grateful to have these memories preserved in print; all the good times that I may not have remembered are forever immortalized.

I decided to hunt down my autobiography the other day, and reprint my Hilaka chapter. Some of you may find pretty boring and long-winded, but to me it is the best memories of camp that I have. I hope that one day my kids will be able to experience the joy that I did while attending Camp Crowell-Hilaka. My experiences at camp helped me become the strong willed and independent young woman that I am today...and I know there are many of you out there who feel the same. So please, share your experiences with me as I share mine. Help us save Camp Crowell-Hilaka!

Cots and Kapers
May 17, 1998

Summer camp is always my favorite time of year! I go to a camp called Camp Crowell-Hilaka, a Girl Scout camp in Richfield, Ohio. I go every summer, for different amounts of time. My first summer, I only stayed a week, then next three weeks and last summer I went for almost the whole summer! This summer I will be going for eight weeks. I can’t wait! I will tell you why.

My camp is probably very different from a lot of other camps out there, and a lot better. It is a camp that is open to Girl Scout troops during the year, and my troop always goes at least two times a year. The campsites there include: platform tents, cabins, huge mansions and places to pitch your own tents. It is reserved for campers over the summer though. For going to the camp in the summer, I don’t go with my troop. I usually bring a friend along for a few weeks or just go by myself to meet new people. Over the summer, I always stay in tents. So far it has been a coincidence that I have stayed in Faraway Pines, a platform tent campsite, every single time! I like Faraway Pines a lot, but I hope to stay somewhere new this summer.

In each tent, there is a wooden floor about eight inches or so above the ground, with four cots in each one. The tents also have canvas sides that we always roll up during the day to let the sunlight in. In each tent, there is enough room to put your bags and stuff under your cot, and still have a walkway in the center. There are different numbers of tents at each site, most commonly there are eight or nine.

For each tent site, there is a shelter that has picnic tables, a water trough with running well water (GROSS!!!), a counter and raccoon box where we can keep food in so the raccoons don’t get to it. The shelter is where we all get together with our unit and hang out and do craft projects and things like that. We also play games in the shelter and have snacks in there too. At each campsite, there is a firecircle for cooking and singing songs. Around each site, there are lots of woods and forest where we can explore and gather wood for our nightly campfires. Our campsites are always cozy and feel like home.

To get in to camp, the council sends out a big brochure filled with lots of different program choices. You get to choose a program that has activities you are interested in like horses, sports or arts and crafts. Even if your program has activities that are special, like going on a certain field trip, you still do normal activities like swimming, boating and hiking. You send in your request with a few different program choices so you can have a backup if they can’t fit you in to a program. There are so many choices that sometimes I have a hard time choosing. There are programs that are only a week long and there are a few that are longer like two weeks. You can choose for how long you want to go, if it is just one week or the whole entire summer like me! Some programs get filled up fast with more than 20 girls and I have been to others where there was only seven or eight people. When you have a smaller unit, you get to build closer relationships with your fellow campers.

At camp, I feel really relaxed and like nothing can go wrong. It is like the best vacation ever, only better! All I think about and do is have fun. At camp, I always am and always will be laughing all the time. I bring my good friend Eryn every summer for two weeks, and that experience has tightened our relationship a lot. I wish camp lasted all year long!

The counselors at camp are awesome too! They are really nice to us and usually really funny. They care about all of us, and they always are having fun. We can always tell them everything and they will listen to us, and always love to joke around with us. All of the counselors are good friends with each other too, and if they aren’t counselors at the same unit, they always try to sit with their friends at meals to talk or have a good laugh. We always try to know all of the counselors, and if you are there for a long time they will all know you too! Some of the counselors come from different parts of the world, like England or Korea or Denmark. They always have really fun stories about how life is in their country.

The counselors get to choose camp names like “Flipper,” “Butterfly,” “Scooby,” or “Spazz.” The whole time you are there, we always try to guess what their real names are. Them the very last day, they all line up at the front of the dining hall and sing a little song and go down the line to tell everyone what their real names are. Once you find out their real names, it is hard to think of them as “Stacey” or “Shyla!” If we are curious about their lives or anything else, they are always very honest and by the time we go home, we know them really well.

Even though the counselors are all really nice and can usually handle us, they must take a break for an hour a day. You can spend your break doing anything, but a lot of counselors spend their breaks at Amity House where there is TV and real food! They usually try to schedule breaks when their friends are on breaks. We always try to sneak into Amity House to try to get a glimpse of the TV or find some snacks, but they always catch us! One time, my counselor Flipper let me go in with her and I felt really special! When I leave camp, the counselors and my friends are what I miss the most.

There is always so much to do at camp, and our days are always chock full of activities. The counselors make a schedule for us the day before we get there, and sometimes we add more to it based on what we want to do. They write out the schedule and hang it up for us in the shelter so we know when we are doing something. My favorite activities to do at camp are swimming and boating. I guess I just love the water! We have a pool at camp and we go swimming every day!! It always gets really hot, so it is very refreshing on a hot day. You have to take a swimming test at the beginning of camp so you can go in the deep end of the pool, and go canoeing. I love to swim so I always pass! There are two huge lakes at camp, we mainly boat on Lake Linnea. I have only went boating on the Lower Lake one time, and it was at night so it was pretty creepy! On Lake Linnea, there is a nice big boathouse and the lake is huge! Some people use rowboats, but I like the canoes so much better. I love just going out on the boat, going around the island in the middle of the lake and relaxing. We go boating usually every two days.

We also hike a lot at camp. We have to hike around camp to get from place to place every day, but we also go on planned hikes like creek hikes and night hikes, which are two of my favorite things to do at camp! Each counselor is specialized in something, where it is regular unit counseling, nature, crafts, medical or lifeguarding. A specialized counselor will take us on a hike through the creek at camp. Once, we even went swimming in the creek! You get REALLY dirty though so we have to take a shower right after! Night hikes are really fun too, we go out at night with no flashlights and see the camp a whole new way. On these hikes, you really have to look where you are going!

We also do sports, aerobics, and yoga. There is one counselor named Cricket who teaches us yoga. These exercises are really fun and relaxing! We get really hot, and are practically dead by the end of aerobics! We do aerobics at this place called Garfield Hall, where the floor has springs under it so that it bounces when you move. President Garfield built this cabin for his daughter’s birthday party like a hundred years ago! Camp Hilaka really has a lot of history to it.

At camp there is a whole entire cabin designated to crafts, with different counselors there to help us. We make everything from clay pots to candles to necklaces to dreamcatchers to baskets to t-shirts. I love crafts, and I have something to take home to show the folks!

Another one of my favorite things to do at camp is the Low Ropes Course. The course is many different things that have obstacles that you must conquer. On is example is there is a swing that we stand about five feet away from, and below it we pretend there is a fire. We have to get everyone across without touching the fire, or we have to start over. It sounds really easy, but it isn’t! It encourages teamwork within the units, and creative thinking. We always try different ideas to get through the obstacles, and we try everyone’s idea. It is really challenging sometimes!

One activity that we do at camp that is kind of unusual is shopping! On the first day of camp, your parents can give you money, about $20 or $30 to spend at the camp store, called the Trading Post. The store is not that big, and makes you feel claustrophobic but there is always fun little stuff in there like keychains, shirts and jewelry. Sometimes we save some of our Trading Post money for field trips, too.

The most boring activity we do at camp is kapers. Within your unit, each girl has a job that makes the campsite look neater such as cleaning the latrines (YUCK!) or collecting wood for the firecircle. Camp-wide Kapers, are just as annoying, too. Each unit is assigned a job for the day, like being in charge of the flag ceremony, hopping the tables, or cleaning up the latrine by Gund Hall, which is the dining hall. Gund Hall was built by the same person who built Gund Arena. They are dirty jobs but they have to get done!

Every week at camp has a theme like “Cowboys and Indians” or “Space Aliens.” There are special activities called All Camp where the whole camp gets together to do an activity. My favorite All Camp is a Gold Rush, where there were rocks that the counselors painted gold and spread all around camp. There are bandits, who are the counselors and they can steal all of your gold! The point is to have the most gold for your unit at the end. My unit even won once! Other examples of All-Camp are relay races or playing Sardines at night!

Depending on what program I choose, we get to do different activities. For one of the programs I was in called Dreamcatchers, we learned all about Native Americans. We went on a field trip for two days, and went to Schoenbrunn Village, where there is an authentic Indian village and we got to go inside the buildings. We also went to a play called Trumpet in the Land about the Native Americans fighting the white people. It was in a huge outdoor theatre, and it was at night so it was really cool. There was a gigantic gift shop there, and we all bought so much!

Some activities depend on the counselors I’ve had. One of my counselors brought a lot of nail polish to camp and we had a nail polish party in the shelter complete with music and tons of snacks! It was so much fun! One day, we saved from money from our Trading Post money and walked to the ice cream store about a mile away from camp. We had a lot of fun and on the way back we stopped by at the cemetery when it was getting dark. That was really freaky and cool!

We also have camp outs a lot, where we don’t sleep in our tents. Sometimes we just sleep in our unit, but sometimes we go different places in the camp, like on the roof of the boathouse. That was really fun! We got to fall asleep watching the moon over the lake. It is fun camping out, and it gets really chilly sometimes out there. It is nice to see the stars, though.

The meals at camp are really fun! Before the meals, the hoppers are inside setting the tables. All of us are waiting eagerly outside, lined up at the door. When the doors open, we all rush in to find a good table. At each table there has to be at least one counselor. The hoppers have to go in and get the food for their table. When you are a hopper, you can’t sit with anyone from your unit because there has to be a hopper at every table. The units only have to hop once a week, though. The rest of the time, you can sit with your friends. The food isn’t that bad, it is usually edible, and sometimes is good!

At the table, you need to use your manners, but we still have fun of course. There is a chant that everyone at the table yells really loud so the whole hall can hear, while pounding on the table. “We are table number one, number one, number one, we are table number one, who is number two?” and keeps going until usually four or five….sometimes even up to ten or fifteen! It always stirs up the whole hall and gets everyone going. Sometimes we have special meals where we can only eat using kitchen utensils, like ladles and spatulas and can’t use any normal silverware at all. It’s always really funny to see how some people eat with weird utensils. Sometimes we have candlelight dinners where we can’t talk, but those aren’t as much fun. Sometimes we sing songs at our table too. Last summer, my camp friends and I were obsessed with singing songs from Grease, and one of the counselors named Butterfly would always try to sit with my friend Adrienne and I at lunch every day so she could sing with us!

After breakfast and dinner (after lunch we have creak for an hour back at our campsite), the counselors stand on benches in the front of the room and lead us in camp songs. It gets really crazy, especially when we sing Banana Slug, which is the best crazy song where our camp director Spazz singles the verses. I love singing songs after meals, it always gets us energized and excited for the activities for the day.

A typical day at camp is: get up around 7 AM, go to flag and breakfast at Gund, so back to the campsite and do kapers, have activities until about 12 noon, eat lunch at Gund, have an hour break after lunch, more activities and dinner and flag at 6 PM, activities until about 10, back to the campsite until about midnight just hanging out in the shelter or making a campfire, and then go to bed. Our day is always really packed, but it is always exciting!!

Leaving is the worst part of camp! The leaving process starts on Thursday, when we get to cook our own lunch over the fire at our site. Thursday night, we have Closing Campfire, which is a serious ceremony, and always sad. The counselors hold candles, and lead us down to the lake from Gund while we sing On My Honor a song about Girl Scouting. Torches are lit on the island, and the counselors canoe from the island onto the beach, and float a large box that has a fire that is contained in it. It is so pretty! Each unit makes a wish log and ties strings around it, to make wishes on. Then, when our unit goes up to sing our song we throw the wish log in the fire. At the end, we walk back to our unit, all sad that camp is almost over. Then we go to bed. The last day is always very special. We get awards about what was special about us at camp. Dinner that night is always pizza. Then we all go to Amity House or Kirby House and sit outside and wait for our parents to come pick us up. That is very sad.

Camp is so fun! I love it a lot, and I couldn’t imagine my summers without it! I want to stay there for the rest of my school years and then become a counselor. I can’t wait to go again this summer!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

GSNEO Website is truly lacking

So, I was trying to navigate around on the GSNEO website yesterday, and I'm sorry to say...its almost pathetic. No camp info....and the site is just RIDICULOUSLY disorganized: I checked out other council's websites yesterday and ours is by FAR the worst I have seen. How do they expect troops to want to camp if they don't even have any information about the camps on there? Sure, maybe a little here and there squeezed at the bottom of the homepage, but generally any information you would want to know about camp is pretty inaccessible. The majority of websites I have seen list all their camps and have pictures, reservation information, etc....generally what you would expect from a well-organized website. Girl Scouts of Connecticut even offers training online! Now how cool would that be if GSNEO was able to offer things like Troop Camp Training online...

Here are just a few examples I have found so far:

These websites are all visually appealing, well organized and contain lots of information that is easily accessible. The GSNEO site is none of the above! I think the council is really doing the girls a disservice by having the website organized the way it is. Its the information age here people, they REALLY need to step it up!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

And this is what they have been doing with the money...

Girl Scouts get a break in city: Council approves tax incentive

by Jeff Saunders
"It will be a good investment. We will be good stewards of the money you've provided us and we will be good neighbors," Fred Cash, a member of the GSNEO's board of directors, told Council after the vote.
Alford-Smith said the GSNEO is consolidating its Akron and Cleveland offices and moving those workers into the former Norandex building. The move and some renovations to the facility should be completed by the end of the year.
She said the GSNEO plans to use the MOP grant, along with the $2.3 million it received in the sale of its former Akron headquarters, to help pay for the $3 million building, which it purchased in September on what was formerly called South Park Drive, but Council this summer renamed to Girl Scout Way.

REALLY??? $3 million for a new building and not a dime for the girls. This is just shameful.

This is what I know so far...

1. The Girl Scouts of Lake Erie Council were forced to merge with the 4 other councils in the Northern Ohio area a few years back, forming the new Girl Scouts of North East Ohio Council. Things have not been the same since.

2. Camp Crowell-Hilaka has been suspended for the next program year and will "officially" close on October 1, 2009.

3. The camp is in need of major repairs involving the dam and wastewater treatment plant, among other smaller issues. Word on the street is that these repairs could cost upwards of a million dollars.

4. There is a Yahoo group called FriendsofCrowellHilaka that is trying to promote Camp Crowell-Hilaka and stop it from closing for good . They will have a meeting at the Macedonia council office on July 20, 2009 at 6 PM. I know I will be there.

5. Camp Crowell-Hilaka is one of the most beautiful places I have ever known. It saddens me to think that the new generations of scouts may not be able to experience the history and beauty that we all have.

6. This plan to close camp must be stopped. We have one year to come up with a plan and save Camp Crowell-Hilaka!