Camp encourages girls to get off phones and head outdoors
Jul. 29, 2017
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — The mood was festive on a recent morning — it was the first day of Camp Skimino and white T-shirts, soon to be tie-dyed, were passed around to the campers.
The air buzzed with camp energy — a mixture of nervousness and excitement for the week to come.
Camp Skimino on Fenton Mill Road in Williamsburg is one of four summer camps offered by the Girl Scouts of Colonial Coast, which encompasses most of Hampton Roads. Several camps, organized by the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast, are being offered this summer to members and non-members to get girls ages 6 to 18 off their electronic devices and into the outdoors.
In addition to Camp Skimino, the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast host camps in Franklin, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Hampton. The organization serves more than 400 campers each summer, according to Kaitlin Smith, the public relations manager for the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast.
The four camps are open year-round to serve thousands of Girl Scouts annually, Smith said.
Camp Skimino, named for the Native American word for "smooth river," opened in 1956. Some campers even travel to Camp Fury in Hampton daily and return to Skimino for a campfire and singalong songs before bed.
"We have all kinds of traditional camp activities here from archery to swimming to canoeing. Girls stay in platform tents or air-conditioned cabins," Smith said. "It's a great place for girls to unplug, spend at least a week outside in nature and just reconnect with themselves, reconnect with nature and really build new friendships."
Camp Skimino accepts day campers as soon as they begin first grade and overnight campers as soon as they enter sixth grade. Each week is tailored to the age groups while falling under a central theme, according to Smith.
Early this summer, the organization hosted a Harry Potter and magic theme. The fourth- and fifth-graders experienced "potion-making" while the second- and third-graders tried their hands at caring for "magical" creatures. "Potion-making" in this instance involved creating those tie-dyed shirts.
The Girl Scouts get help settling on themes based on camper surveys and counselor influence.
"One of the counselors was really excited about bringing that theme and coming up with the activities to surround it," Smith said.
Each day also includes traditional camp activities such as canoeing, archery and swimming, as long as the weather cooperates.
"I think it's the theme that has made this week different from the other weeks because so many of my girls came with Harry Potter cloaks, wands and owls. That's pretty exciting that there's a theme that everyone just loves so much," said Poppy "Popsicle" Crawshaw, an adventure counselor at Skimino.
Crawshaw, a Girl Scout, earned a Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, after organizing and running a seven-week basketball camp at a Title I school. She said having the accolade helps her inspire the younger girls.
"I still remember my counselor, her name was Beans, and I just really looked up to her," Crawshaw said. "And so hopefully if the girls see that a lot (of the counselors) got our Gold Award and a lot of us stuck through Girl Scouts, stayed together and kept empowering each other, hopefully they take that along with them."
In addition to providing inspiration, Smith hopes that this camp will give girls a sense of self-reliance.
"They really learn that they can rely on themselves, they can be independent . it's important that they leave with a closer sense of self," she said. "It's also great to see the girls accomplish things. The girls learn it's OK to take a risk, it's OK to fail and then pick themselves up and try again. I think that's so neat to see them do that."
Most of the younger campers seemed to just be excited about being outdoors for a week.
"I'm most excited about canoeing. I love the water, it's really fun," said Abigail Morrissette, 12, of Newport News.
Morrissette was able to attend camp at no cost because she won a local contest by selling 1,500 boxes of cookies in four weeks. Typically, a week at camp costs between $100 and $380, according to the organization's website. The price depends on the theme of the camp as well as the if campers choose a day camp or to stay overnight.
York County resident Reanne Troutman, 15, has been coming to the camp for seven years and says she returns because of the fun she has and the opportunity to meet new people.
"(At camp) you learn sportsmanship, you learn that working as a team works really well," she said. "It helps when you're doing the ropes course and spotting people, and it helps with stuff later in life. When I was really small, I used to be shy and I didn't like to talk to people, but now I like hanging out."
Camp Skimino also serves as a resting place for some coming from Hampton's Camp Fury, which promotes a similar goal of self-reliance and confidence, but swaps canoes for fire trucks. Campers at Fury learn about firefighting and other traditionally male-dominated professions, according to organizer Jami Salvio.
The camp started four years ago and offers real-life experiences in dousing fires, scaling a 105-foot wall and emergency training, all while serving to empower the girls, Salvio said.
Camp Fury is open to girls ages 11 to 18 and runs for three weeks. Cost of the camp is $185 for day camp and $360 for a week residency. It also is offered in Norfolk and Chesapeake.
On the Peninsula, local fire stations in Hampton provide the perfect community resource for girls to have hands-on experience and learn the value of teamwork in the sometimes stressful situations they're put in.
"I think girls really thrive in a more collaborative environment, which is what we try to do at Girl Scouts camp rather than that top-down situation they might get at school or other situations," Smith said. "They learn great teamwork skills. When you put two girls out in a canoe, they have to be a team to get back to the dock. So they're developing a lot of those skills."
Both camps are sponsored by the Girls Scouts, but a camper doesn't need to be one to attend.
"We really do try to get as many girls involved and have an outdoor experience as possible," Smith said.
For more information, visit http://www.gsccc.org/en/camp/our-camps.html.