Camp Fire Usa
Camp Fire USA is a national youth organization that offers leisure-time education and recreation programs to all girls and boys from preschool through twelfth grade. The aim of the organization is to assist girls and boys in preparing for adult life through gradually more complex experiences.
Camp Fire USA's programs are designed to be youth-centered and fun but with serious learning goals, such as fostering tolerance, building friendships and relationships with adults, developing a sense of family and community, and providing service to others in need. Unlike many youth organizations, Camp Fire programs do not segregate boys and girls. All clubs and activities are coeducational. The four program levels of Camp Fire USA are: Starflight for boys and girls from kindergarten through second grade, Adventure for children in third through fifth grades, Discovery for children in sixth through eighth grades, and Horizon for boys and girls in ninth through twelfth grades. Each year some 200 Camp Fire members are named Wohelos, the organization's highest honor.
Most Camp Fire clubs include eight to twenty members who meet at least once a week after school, in the evenings, or on weekends. Each club is lead by one or more adult volunteers. At meetings members may play games, sing and dance, learn crafts, and explore nature. Camp Fire clubs also visit interesting and educational places and take camping trips. Older members engage in community-service activities, such as visiting homes for senior citizens, serving food at a homeless shelter, or tutoring younger children.
Camp Fire USA sponsors special self-reliance and community-service classes. These include I'm Safe and Sure, to teach children in kindergarten and first grade about home safety and family responsibility; Count on Me Kids, to teach children in kindergarten through second grade about alcohol and drug prevention; I Can Do It! to teach second and third graders about safety and nutrition; I'm Peer-Proof, to teach fourth through sixth graders how to build friendships and resist negative peer pressure; I'm Taking Care, to teach fifth and sixth graders how to care for younger children; and A Gift of Giving, to teach kindergarten through sixth-grade children to identify community needs and get involved in worthwhile community-service projects.
Camp Fire clubs are actively involved in teen leadership development. Every two years Camp Fire USA organizes a Youth Leadership Forum, during which hundreds of Horizon members gather to discuss issues of importance to society. In 2001 the forum addressed violence and how to combat it. Camp Fire teenagers also spend time exploring career possibilities.
Camp Fire programs are carried out by 120 Camp Fire USA councils serving over 650,000 boys and girls annually in forty states and the District of Columbia. Each council oversees the work of numerous local clubs. Camp Fire USA has a national executive director and policymaking body called the National Council. Representatives from the regional councils serve on the National Council.
Camp Fire USA accepts members without regard to race, gender, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation. Most boys and girls who participate in Camp Fire programs are between the ages of five and eighteen. They are guided by adult volunteers and are sponsored by individuals and by civic, religious, fraternal, educational, and other organizations. Financial support is derived from membership in the United Way, private and corporate donations, the sale of official merchandise, program fees, and membership dues. The organization also raises funds though its annual fundraiser, the Camp Fire candy sale.
Camp Fire Girls was founded in 1910 by Luther Gulick, a medical doctor, and his wife, Charlotte. It was the first nonsectarian organization for girls in the United States. The organization began including boys in 1975 and changed its name to Camp Fire Boys and Girls to emphasize the coeducational nature of the programs. The organization changed its name to Camp Fire, Inc., in 1984. By 2001 boys accounted for 46 percent of Camp Fire membership.
In 1999 the organization adopted a new mission statement: "Camp Fire builds caring, confidant youth, and future leaders." In 2001 the organization changed its name to Camp Fire USA and launched a major image-awareness campaign, which included television, radio, and magazine spots designed to educate the public about the value and mission of Camp Fire programs.
ALLEN, MARTHA; BUCKLER, HELEN; FIEDLER, MARY; and SCHAUMBURG, RON, eds. 1980. Wo-He-Lo: The Camp Fire History. Kansas City, MO: Camp Fire, Inc.
CAMP FIRE USA. 2002. <www.campfireusa.org>.
JUDITH J. CULLIGAN
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