Why do we want our girls at camp? Why do we want to make it easy for our girls to get to camp?
I recently had the pleasure of helping a pair of Girl Scout Cadettes send a weather balloon to near space. Launching a weather balloon (and then retrieving it) is no simple task. It requires several hundred dollars of electronics for the tracking hardware, more money to buy the balloon, and even more money to buy the helium. It requires HAM radio licenses. It requires coordinating with the FAA. And then… after all that… you let it go, the wind takes it, and you may never see it again. The telemetry board might fail. It might land in a lake and sink. A lot can go wrong.
When we first asked the Cadettes if they were interested in launching a balloon, they had this look on their face that said “why on earth would we do that?”. For science. Not interested. For space photos. Not interested. It might end up stuck in a tree on top of a mountain five miles from the nearest road. Oh?
Suddenly they were excited. Where would the balloon take them? How would they get it out of the tree? How would they find the balloon when it was on the ground? The GPS would only get them so close…
In our push for getting our girls into STEM we often forget that STEM is not just programming computers, doing math, and building things. STEM is about exploration. At its core, STEM is about adventure. It is about challenging the world around us and making impossible things possible. It is about solving problems.
These girls weren’t interested in doing things simply because they can. “For science” didn’t do it. But the adventure! The chase! Setting off an adventure and not knowing where it would take them…
Not knowing if you will succeed but trying anyway… that is is the heart of what it means to be Courageous and Strong. Life is never certain. Life will challenge us and life will make us uncomfortable. In order to grow, we have to embrace our self doubts. We have to accept the challenge. The chase. The adventure. The uncertainty.
Try something new. Fail. A lot. These are at the heart of what it means to be an engineer or scientist. But we try anyway. Because there is a chance that we will change the world.
What happens without Camp Golden Pond? Where do our girls go to camp? Do they go to camp?
Every year for as long as I have been involved with Service Unit 416, they have hosted a Fall Camporee in conjunction with Service Unit 422. This year is no different. Service Unit 416 started their search for a new fall camp location almost as soon as Camp Golden Pond’s closure was announced. They settled on Camp Anderson and decided that this year Fall Camp would have a Pioneer Theme to symbolize the journey they have started. They put the date on the calendar and opened registration and waited to see who would come. Camp Anderson will be tent camping. No cabins, no lodges, no kitchen facilities at the camp sites. Of course there will be outhouses!
Camp Anderson is by no means primitive. It has chlorinated water. It has a bath house with flush toilets in a central location. The outhouses near the sites are well maintained.
When we toured the site with several of our older girls, they immediately fell in love with the creek, the bridges, and whimsical rhododendrons. They loved the secluded, natural feel of the camp sites. They can’t wait to try their hands at the rifle range.
But these were Cadettes and Seniors who had spent their entire Girl Scout life camping. Marg started her Girl Scout career as a Daisy at Camp Golden Pond. The other girls have practically lived at camp with their mother. These girls spend every possible weekend that they can camping.
Registration for fall camp opened slowly. When it closed we were left looking at numbers that show an almost 30% drop in attendance for an event that has sold out every year I have been involved with Service Unit 416.
Even more significant than the overall drop in attendance, the drop is concentrated entirely among the elementary aged girls. These are the girls who would start out in a lodge or a cabin, often with their mothers staying overnight with them. These are the girls we would teach that snakes are not to be feared and bugs are part of life.
We can try to blame the date. It conflicts with a Cub Scout Camp. But we have conflicted with Cub Scout and Boy Scout events before with no significant drop in numbers. We have even sold out a Spring Camp scheduled on Blue and White Weekend. The fact is, Service Unit 416 has over 400 girls to draw from.
Camp Anderson will be a fantastic camp for our older girls who already love camping. But what about the younger girls and the new troop leaders? The girls who do not have tents and are scared of bears? The girls whose parents lack the camping traditions?
Camp Golden Pond provided a safe, inviting experience to these girls. It let them go to camp and sleep in a structure with walls. It let them explore the woods without giving up flush toilets, running water, and refrigeration.
I was a Venturing Scout who loved camping and we did a lot of camping in state parks. The first thing we did when we got to a campground was send two scouts to spray the outhouse down with a can of Lysol and wasp spray. We will definitely be packing the Lysol and the wasp spray for the Camp Anderson outhouses and we will have a great time. We might even convince some of the doubters that tents are better than cabins.
But what happens to the rest of our elementary-aged girls? The ones who said tents and outhouses were too much and the distance too far? If these girls never take that first camping trip, how can they grow up to be the older girls running camp?
Camp Anderson is an amazing place that has a lot to offer our girls. But that only matters if we can convince them to show up. Camp Golden Pond was special because it provided a stepping stone for younger girls who had never spent a night away from home. All Camp Golden Pond asked of them was one little step. At Camp Anderson, that step has gotten a little bigger. A little farther. A little more rustic. The more that first step asks of our girls, the more they will say no.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.”
On July 28th, 2018, Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA officially closed Camp Golden Pond. The last arrows were shot. The last fish were caught. The last canoes raced across the lake. The last campfire was built and the last s’more was eaten. After thirty years, the last songs were sung and the last flag was lowered.
The Western Region of Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA comprises 7% of GSHPA’s 17,000 membership. That’s over 1000 girls who have just lost their camp. These are the girls who live in Huntingdon, Centre, Miflin, Juniata, and Clinton counties. But it is not just these girls who have lost their camp. Girl Scouts from the Altoona and Tyrone areas relied on Camp Golden Pond. Cub Scout packs and other organizations have relied on Camp Golden Pond. Eagle Scout projects have improved the property and couples have been married in Legacy Lodge.
Camp Golden Pond has spent the past thirty years as a community resource.
The annual report from Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA lists the operating cost of Camp Golden Pond at $90,000 per year. Their reports list $11,612 for utilities, $10,919 for insurance, and $45,710 for maintenance. That means that sending a girl to camp costs less than $100 per year. $8 per month. That’s it!
Are our girls worth $8 per month? We think so and we hope you do to. Friends of Golden Pond is committed to reopening Camp Golden Pond so that our area girls can continue to have affordable camp experiences, but we can’t do it without you.
Thank you to everyone who made it out to our community meeting. Camp Golden Pond is a valuable resource that was gifted to us through the hard work of the Girl Scouts who came before us. We will not be the generation that loses it.
We need your help.
We need you to write letters to your newspapers and your TV stations. We need you to tell your friends and neighbors. We need our communities talking about Camp Golden Pond.
My daughter has many smiles, but a special one that exudes adventure, joy, and a free spirit happens at Camp Golden Pond. When I see that smile it makes me want to know more about the place that causes it. Unexpectedly, what started as research into a camp about to be sold became the story of a thousand smiles across thirty years with a legacy stretching back decades more. It’s about the smiles that were remembered from days gone by at Camp Barree from 1938-1983. It’s about the smiles that broke the earth at Camp Golden Pond in 1987 and dedicated Lake Louise in 1988. More than that, it’s about the smiles that won’t happen if the camp closes. Camp Golden Pond is advertised as “Camp Golden Pond where girls always find their shine!”
This summer smiles that have lit up the faces of our local Girl Scouts for thirty years, with a legacy of half a century more, may cease shining at Golden Pond. Hopefully, they won’t. Even so, their story deserves to be told.
Huntingdon Daily News, May 7, 1987
The first shining smile I saw was in a newspaper photo of a Girl Scout atop a bulldozer (Huntingdon Daily News, May, 7 1987). The ground for Golden Pond was broken by the girls. It was not broken by the ceremonial shovel toss of someone in a suit. It was not broken by the workers. The ground was broken, just like the camp would be maintained and improved, by the girls. It’s fitting that Hemlock Council did it this way. After all, so many trails, facilities, repairs, and improvements were done by the small hands that love Golden Pond in pursuit of bronze and silver awards, and a place where the gold award ceremony was held.
But as I looked at the first article I found, and assumed it was my starting point, I discovered I was wrong. I was off by about fifty years. Small hands don’t stay small. Small smiles don’t stay small. Small dreams don’t stay small. And the article, and others, made it clear that Camp Golden Pond was born out of the love and dreams fostered at Camp Barree. And it was the now grown, strong, and capable hands of the women forged by their experiences at Camp Barree that made sure the ground for Camp Golden Pond would be broken.
Huntingdon Daily News, June 29, 1984
Camp Barree was the first Girl Scout Camp that served Huntingdon and Centre area girls. It opened on July 10, 1938. The camp was on state land and as the state expanded the park system, Camp Barree was closed around 1983 when negotiations between the state and Hemlock Council broke down. The Council owned the buildings and the state owned the land. And in the end, Camp Barree was gone. No matter how hard the Girl Scouts fought, it was gone. But that only energized Hemlock Council and the former scouts who would not let camping and outdoor experiences be only a memory and removed from the area. Prominent families like Walker, Palmer, and Wald teamed with the entire community, and would not rest until the local scouts had a camp. And four years, thousands of hours of work, and a massive fundraising campaign of 2.9 million dollars later, comes the picture of a smiling girl on a bulldozer.
Camp Golden Pond was envisioned and promised to serve for girls for generations, not just one and a half (Clearfield Progress June 12, 1988). At the dedication of Lake Louise, beautiful words were spoken by Alan Walker to his mother Louise:
“It is a gift given to honor the past with something to be used in the
present and the future. We can never repay all you have done for us and the thousands of sacrifices you made for your family over the years. But this gift is a very small way of saying thanks for being one very, very special mother”
But it was not just the Walkers. The Palmers supplied Palmer Lodge and a substantial donation for the land. Phyllis Henry provided major support in the memory of her sister Solveig Horn, and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John R. Wald (Clearfield Progress June 12, 1988).
The connecting thread in all of this, from prominent families to fundraising brownies was a love of scouting. The families mentioned and thousands of supporters who are nameless gave so many hours to both Boy and Girl Scouts. They gave their love, time, money, and effort to make sure the dream of a local Girl Scout camp did not die. And at the dedication, the head of Hemlock Council said: “We’re beginning to see our dreams become a reality.” Through the efforts of council and community together, that dream was realized.
Huntingdon Daily News, July 20, 1995
I slowly moved through decades, mostly thanks to The Daily News out of Huntingdon, PA. There were Girls at a sheep dog trial (Daily News, April 25, 1994). There were girls at the hug a tree event (Daily News, July 20, 1995). The “Every Girl Matters” campaign in the late 1990’s to 2000 that raised 3 million dollars (Daily News, October 31,2000). There was the large celebration at the dedication of the Schreyer Great Hall in May of 2000. That article title now has a ring of sadness: “Golden Days Ahead At Girl Scout Camp” (Daily News, May 20, 2000). And even as late as 2011 there was the five year plan ending in 2016 that intended to use some of the money raised to add cross country skiing to Camp Golden Pond (The York Dispatch Dec 11, 2011). So much has changed in two years.
This summer the smiles might end for the girls in our area and our local residential camp. Thirty years ago Hemlock Council teamed with all those formed by the love, smiles, joy, and adventure of Camp Barree to build Camp Golden Pond for the generations to come. Little hands grown strong, little dreams grown big, and little girls grown into relentless women joined with their families and council to build a new camp when their old one was taken away from them.
But this time, there will be no new camp with the ground broken by the girls and then maintained and improved by their love and dedication marked in bronze, silver, and gold. The only hope to preserve Camp Golden Pond for the generations it promised to serve is for the families and community to come together to buy it for the girls from Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. The smiles of the past wait to see if they will fade away without a place to anchor them in memory. The smiles of the future wait to see if they will be allowed to shine in our area.
Thank you for your interest in helping Friends of Golden Pond!
Our mission is to promote leadership and youth development through safe, affordable camp experiences that will allow both youth and adults to develop confidence, courage, and an appreciation for the outdoors. We believe that Camp Golden Pond fulfills a integral part of that mission and we seek to continue its usage by area Girl Scouts. We believe that losing Camp Golden Pond as a resource will result in a significant number of our girls not being able to have the camp experience they deserve and we believe that the traditions and legacies of the property are worth saving.
It is individuals like you that will make this possible. It is time for us to stop asking “who will save our camp?” and say “I will save our camp.”
Before we can begin fund raising we need to accomplish two things:
File a 1023 or 1023EZ form with the IRS in order to request tax exempt status.
Register with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Charitable Organizations
Right now, what we need most from our Friends:
Help navigating the IRS and PA Bureau of Charitable Organizations paperwork
Members interested in establishing a Fundraising Committee (listed price of the camp is $1.7M!!!)
Additionally, if you are interested in joining our Board of Directors, we want to hear from you.
We will not succeed without you. We need our communities to share our vision and agree that our camp is worth keeping. We need you to share your camp stories. We need you to tell your friends and your neighbors why our camp is worth keeping.
President, Friends of Golden Pond
On April 6th, Megan Roberts, Melanie Robison, and Sharon Bloom signed the Articles of Incorporation for Friends of Golden Pond. We intend to file for tax-exempt status with both the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the IRS as soon as the department of state processes our incorporation papers. If you would like to help Friends of Golden Pond in its effort to save this camp, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or signup for our mailing list. After our paperwork is processed, our next step will be to begin our capital campaign.
You can learn more about our Board of Directors here.
On March 25th, Megan Roberts, Melanie Robison, Sharon Bloom, Joan Geleskie, and Patricia Ann Dunlavy met in order to form a 501c3 corporation with the purpose of acquiring Camp Golden Pond.
We aim to promote leadership and youth development through safe, affordable camp experiences that will allow both youth and adults to develop confidence, courage, and an appreciation for the outdoors.
Our board now consists of:
President Megan Roberts
Secretary Melanie Robison
Treasurer Sharon Bloom
Patricia Ann Dunlavy
Joan V Geleskie
The board will be meeting again on April 6th in order to review our articles of incorporation and bylaws before filing. If you were unable to attend the initial meeting, but are interested in joining the board, please contact us for details on the April 6th meeting. Even if you do not have the time to serve on the board, we will need a lot of help with our initial capital funds drive.
We are strong. We are courageous. We are Girl Scouts. And our hearts still ache.
I began my Girl Scout journey when my daughter entered Kindergarten. She is now a 2nd grade Brownie. I was not a Girl Scout and I did not grow up here, though many of you did. For many of you, Golden Pond is the last of Hemlock Council.
Service Unit 416 scheduled our spring camporee this year so that the 12th grade Ambassador troops won’t have to choose between prom and spring camp. Because it would be a tough choice for them and they have spent all summer planning their last camp.
The first time I went to Camp Golden Pond, one of the other mothers showed her daughter (a kindergartner) how she used to catch salamanders when she was a Girl Scout. She showed her daughter all the places she went and all the things she used to do at Camp Golden Pond when she was a girl. She took a picture of her daughter sitting on the rock. She has a picture of herself sitting on top the rock.
Many of the troops I have met have taken a troop photo either at the sign or on the rock every single year.
That first spring camp, when we went on our Daisy fairy hike, my daughter told the other girls that fairies weren’t real. Fairies did NOT live in the woods at Camp Golden Pond. She dutifully built her fairy house with the other Daisies. When we returned and found that the fairies had visited the houses, my daughter danced and exclaimed “Fairies ARE real!” She has believed in magic ever since.
This past fall, as we hiked around the lake, my daughter showed her new Brownie sisters where the fairy houses were built. My daughter told her new Daisy sisters about the fairies that live in the woods and how in the spring the new Daisies will get to go out and build houses for the fairies.
My Brownies told me how much they look forward to sleeping in Serendipity when they are old enough because they love how colorful it is. They have friends who they met that first spring as kindergarten Daisies and have seen at every camp since. My daughter’s first question when I tell her we are going to camp is if her friends will be there. They are kindred spirits who found each other building fairy houses on the other side of the mountain.
I have not yet told my daughter about Camp Golden Pond because it will break her heart and I hope that I will wake up to find that GSHPA has changed their minds.
What breaks my heart the most, however, is not a fondness for a bygone era, but rather for the opportunities that will now be lost for our girls. Camp is a magical place that teaches our girls about friendship, courage, strength, and overcoming adversity. Camp teaches us that life is cold, rainy, and full of snakes. But we don’t go home. We hike around the lake anyway. One of our sisters finds a stick and removes the snake from the cabin. We build a fire. We dance. We sing. We find the sisters we never knew we had. We catch a fish. And then hold it in our hands. And then hand it to our mother.
In 2017, Service Units 416 and 422 collaborated to host 3 camporees for 440 girls and adults. Our 2017 spring camporee had 159 girls and adults. Our summer camporee had 89 girls and adults. Fall camp had 192 participants. We actually have to tell troops “No, you can’t come. Camp is full.” For fall camp, we had the older girls sleeping in “Tent City”. When we say “register early”, we mean it.
For spring 2017, 50 of our participants were day only Daisies and parents. For summer, 22 of our participants were day only Daisies and parents. For fall, we opened day only participation up to scouts of all levels, and 64 of our participants came just for the day. Many of the day-only scouts were Brownie and Junior troops who had never been to camp. They are now looking forward to the next camp. Feedback from fall camp was overwhelming positive about the day-only option as it gave girls the opportunity to go to camp without the risk and commitment of an overnight.
A girl from western PA came to our fall camp.
In October, we sent Cadettes out to Golden Pond to do a Breathe Journey Weekend. We had 30 girls and adults.
We have scheduled a winter camp for Daisies and Brownies and we honestly expect that camp to fill. The Junior troops have asked if they can also have a winter camp. Our girls want to camp. They want someone to take them. Our parents want them to go.
Our troop leaders want to go, but they do not want to go alone.
Many of our troops (particularly those with younger girls) do not have the resources to camp on their own. They do not have the money to rent a lodge. They don’t have the skills and confidence. They don’t have the numbers. A troop with 10 girls needs every single girl to commit to the camping trip. By partnering with other troops, they reduce the risk of having to the scrap the entire trip because one family either can’t or doesn’t want to go. They reduce the risk of not having enough adults to supervise the girls. They get to partner with someone who has been to camp before and at least knows where it is. They have someone to show them the path around the lake so they don’t lead their girls off into the woods. The girl whose first camping trip is a complete disaster may never go back to camp.
Additionally, our girls benefit from meeting girls from other troops. They benefit from seeing the older girls whom they can admire. They benefit from seeing the younger girls who they can mentor. They benefit from meeting their camp sisters who can teach them about other pieces of their world. Our leaders benefit from meeting the other leaders. When we can come together, we learn from each other. Each of us has something to teach and each of us has something to learn.
And so we ask… can they? Can our girls go to camp?
Come fall 2018, can we take 192 girls and adults out to camp again? Perhaps… there are other camps. Camp Small Valley is in Halifax, PA. It is almost a 2 hour drive. Can we do a “Daisy Day” at camp two hours away? Can we offer a day only camp experience to Brownies and Juniors 2 hours away? Will our troop leaders take a troop of kindergartners they just met to camp two hours away? Will their parents send them?
Perhaps we can find a non-GSHPA operated camp closer than Small Valley. Can we find a camp where we can have 192 girls and adults? Maybe we will be camping in tents next fall. Do our girls own tents?
Today, I do not know the answers to those questions. I do, however, know that we are courageous and strong. I know that we will take our girls to camp. I know that we will build more fairy houses and we will find more sisters. I know that we can be angry and sad and we can create a new path forward, building new traditions.
It is my hope that Friends of Camp Golden Pond will be successful and that come fall we will be taking more pictures on the rock and finding more salamanders. If you have memories you would like to share with us about Camp Golden Pond, please share them with us.
A Daisy/Brownie Leader from GSHPA Service Unit 416