Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fanning the Flames of Faith and Friendship: Girls Camp 2014

By Kasey Tross, Chesterfield Stake Media Relations

Every summer 65 to 80 teenage girls from Chesterfield willingly do the unthinkable: they leave behind their cell phones, their tablets, their mp3 players, and boys, and spend 5 days camping together as a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Chesterfield Stake Girls Camp.

71 girls and 25 leaders attended this year's camp held from June 23 to June 27th at the Church's Eagle's Nest Adult and Youth Camp in Dudley, North Carolina. The girls slept in partially enclosed structures furnished with plywood bunk beds.

Most girls attend camp from Tuesday through Friday, with the 16- and 17-year-old Youth Camp Leaders (YCLs) arriving earlier on Monday for additional training and camp set-up. Each girl is responsible for paying for her own camp fee of $40, and girls are encouraged to organize and participate in fundraisers or work to earn the money. All additional expenses come from the Chesterfield Stake budget.

Girls are organized into levels by years they've attended camp, from First-Years (12-year-olds) through to the YCLs. During the week at camp, each girl works with her level to earn certifications in different areas, including survival and self-sufficiency skills, spiritual and self-improvement skills, and other elective activities, such as sports and crafts. This year's popular activities included making clay pendant necklaces, tie-dyeing socks, archery, shooting rifles, hiking, canoeing, and kayaking.

Chesterfield Stake Girls Camp Director Amanda King said, "Girls Camp is absolutely a unique program in what it provides for girls and their leaders, all of whom are women. The primary purpose of Girls Camp is to bring the girls to the Savior and better understand their relationship to Him and their Heavenly Father. Other purposes include appreciation for the world that has been created for us and an escape from the pressures and attitudes of the world by being away from it all."

Building relationships is also at the heart of the Girls Camp program. Jamie Woodbury, youth leader and mother of 13-year-old Girls Camp attendee, Taylor, said, "I see girls learn patience as they learn how to interact with one another in such an intimate environment. I see girls' love for one another blossom and grow as they meet new people.”

Her daughter agrees, saying that one of the main reasons she goes to camp is to be with her friends, and that her favorite memory from this year was "heart attacking" some other campers by sneaking into their cabins and covering their beds in hearts. "It was a lot of fun and the girls we served really liked it."

While it's true that teenage girls aren't usually known for cheerful and loving attitudes toward one another, that's exactly what you'll find at the Chesterfield Stake Girls Camp. Laurelin Webb, 17, served as a Youth Camp Leader this year and said, "there wasn't a bad attitude to be seen anywhere."

King remarked, "I don't know of any other program in which you can get over 70 teenage girls together and they show such love, service, support, and kindness to one another.”

Leaders take advantage of those great attitudes and channel them into positive learning opportunities. King said, "One of the greatest things that I see as a benefit of girls camp is that it…teach[es] girls to be leaders themselves. They, with support from adult leaders, teach certification to other girls, lead campfires, plan and carry out devotionals, and can completely set the tone for the spirit at camp. I am consistently amazed at how through learning and accomplishing basic leadership tasks the girls grow and are stronger."

Laurelin agreed, saying, "There was a lot of planning involved, but it was well worth it because it was super fun. I gained a lot of leadership skills, as well as a lot of ideas for when I'm a leader myself."

The confidence the girls gain leads to greater personal insights as well. King says that this year, "The camp theme was Discover the Beauty Within and [the girls] really made a noticeable effort to see past each other's outward flaws and look at one another as God sees them."

Laurelin says that during her time at camp she realized "how our inner beauty can radiate when we realize our potential as His daughters."

Taylor had a similar experience, and said, "This year I learned so much about the beauty I have inside of me…I like the spirit I feel at camp."

King summed up the camp experience by saying, "All of these experiences strengthen the girls and prepare them for their futures in countless ways. They learn basic first aid, they learn cooking skills, and self-reliance skills. Best of all I think they learn better confidence in themselves and in who they are and what they can accomplish and become both physically and spiritually."