This summer, about two dozen Newberry-area Girl Scouts had an opportunity to tent camp overnight — something at least half of the group had never done before.
In addition, the Tahquamenon Area Girl Scouts Summer Fun Days Camp gave the 23 Scouts ages 6-13 a chance to participate in activities ranging from shooting arrows to finding their way with a compass.
“As a Girl Scout troop leader, DNR employee and avid outdoor enthusiast, I wanted to give our area Girl Scouts a camping experience,” said Crystal Schroeder, who works as a secretary for the DNR Finance and Operations Division at the Newberry Customer Service Center. “We did have day camps in the past, many, many years ago. I’m not sure if an overnight Girl Scout camp has ever been done in our area.”
Girls attending the two-day weekend outing were from Newberry, Engadine and Curtis.
“There are other organized camp outings available for our area Girl Scouts; however, a limited number of girls from our area attend due to the cost and locations — some are five hours away,” Schroeder said. “So I volunteered to organize a camp outing for our area girls, which was free to registered Tahquamenon Area Girl Scouts.”
Schroeder said she became a Girl Scout troop leader to “get girls more involved in our community, to give them outdoor recreational opportunities and to be a role model for girls in our area.”
The Scouts camped at a campground just outside Newberry, close to the homes of many of the young girls’ moms and dads.
Schroeder, who lives in Newberry, taught the girls orienteering, and Girl Scout leader Amber Rochefort of Curtis was the archery instructor.
“I really liked camp, everyone got along and it was good that no one was left out,” said Rayne Palmer, 10, a Junior Girl Scout from Newberry. “My favorite part was where we got to learn about compasses, art and archery.”
The Scouts went on a nature hike, made solar ovens to cook their own lunch and snacks, made their own ice cream and crafts and enjoyed s’mores and songs around the campfire.
Kristie Sitar, a DNR wildlife biologist at Newberry and a former Girl Scout leader, did a presentation for the Scouts on furs and animal tracks.
Sitar said she really enjoys working with kids.
“Teaching them about wildlife and outdoor skills such as animal identification and tracking skills is a blast,” Sitar said. “They are so enthusiastic and the information is teachable to all ages.”
Sitar said the experience may inspire Scouts to attempt other outdoor activities.
“Once they see something interesting they are more apt to take a 4-H class that is offered in the same area, and it is a nice way to give girls confidence in their skills outdoors,” Sitar said.
Chip Flory, who works for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division field office in Newberry, loaned his tent to the Scouts and helped them put up their tents.
In addition to Schroeder and Rochefort, Girl Scout troop leaders Kristi Palmer, Carla Heffercamp and Lisa Lewicki, all of Newberry, volunteered at the camp.
“It’s great to see all our area girls working together, beyond just troops. Girl Scouts is more than just a gathering of girls; it’s a way for girls to work together as a team, increase leadership skills and gain friendships with girls of different ages,” Palmer said. “Camp allows us to come together and embrace our individualism while gaining a better understanding of being a team.”
Schroeder said the event was a huge success.
Before the Scouts went home, they were asked to rate their camping experience.
The girls voted archery as their favorite activity and said they wanted to do it again, while everyone disliked camping for only one night — they all wanted to stay longer.
“I loved camping with my friends,” said Kaelin Rochefort, 8, a Brownie Girl Scout from Curtis.
After the success of this summer’s event, the Tahquamenon Area Girl Scouts camp outing is expected to become an annual event.