Why do you love camp?

By Cathy Hirko

Brylea Starr is a 10th-grader who lives in Lycoming County, one of the 30 counties in our GSHPA footprint.

She is a Girl Scout in Troop 60041 and she loves to travel, sell Girl Scout cookies—she has a healthy competitiveness about her—and is a big fan of attending camp at Camp Small Valley in the summer.

older girl scout laughing while talking about camp.
Brylea Starr visits our GSHPA Harrisburg office to share why she loves camp.

She’s part of an elite group of GSHPA campers known as VICs: Very Involved Campers.

What’s a VIC, you ask? A VIC is a girl who participated in a GSHPA summer camp experience. You get the opportunity to earn VIC swag and provide feedback on camp themes, sign up with early registration, and get a snazzy VIC rocker for your Camp Small Valley patch.

Basically, you are kind of an insider camp expert.

Brylea and her mom visited the GSHPA Harrisburg office last year so Brylea could share her thoughts about camp and why she loves it. She had a ton of reasons, and wasn’t shy about expressing them. I loved talking to her for the recordings.

We captured this first one below. It’s short and sweet. Look for many more to come that feature Brylea.

And a big thank you to Brylea and her mom for helping us out. Your support and contribution to the Girl Scouts are the very reasons we love what we do here at GSHPA.

Experience the magic of camp

By Catherine Amoriello

Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) is gearing up for another action-packed season of summer camp adventure. With themes like Fairy Garden Discovery, She’s Crafty, Survival Games, and Vintage Girl Scout, there’s an activity for every girl of any age and interest.

The magic of camp does not manifest overnight, but is carefully crafted by the GSHPA Outdoor Program team all year long. Led by Outdoor Program Manager Sarah Baldwin, the camp staff works tirelessly to put all the pieces together to create a camp experience girls will never forget.

“The outdoor movement is all across Girl Scouts right now, [and] camp is a huge part of that,” Baldwin said. “Camp is the tradition that people hang on to. It’s what they think of when they think of going outdoors.”

This rings especially true for Baldwin, who was once herself a Girl Scout.

“I was lucky that both my troop leaders wanted to do programs outside of the meetings,” Baldwin said of her time as a scout. “I really enjoyed getting to do those camping trips and I’ve always loved the outdoors. Being able to have those experiences was amazing.”

Baldwin in her element during an outdoor escapade.

Shortly after graduating college, the Massachusetts native took her passion for the outdoors across the U.S. From a wolf conservation in Indiana to a 4-H camp in South Carolina, she has traveled the country working at a variety of outdoor education centers and camps. With the skills and experiences she has gained throughout her career, Baldwin breathes life into camp at GSHPA’s four camp properties.

“We’ve seen over and over again that a girl-only environment allows our Girl Scouts to reach higher and discover more about themselves.”

GSHPA Outdoor Program Manager Sarah Baldwin

Baldwin unites with a predominantly female camp staff, on par with GSHPA’s unique girl-only camps and events. She said being able to have a camp where girls can see adult women be successful and get to connect and learn with them is an invaluable experience for campers.

“We’ve seen over and over again that a girl-only environment allows our Girl Scouts to reach higher and discover more about themselves without that peer pressure,” Baldwin said. “They find they’re succeeding in activities they wouldn’t associate with girls as much.”

Baldwin teaches a group of girls outdoor skills during one of GSHPA’s camp programs.

Success is also found at camp by girls who may struggle with learning in a traditional classroom setting. With new themes like Mystery Investigation, where girls will travel to Harrisburg University’s new forensic science lab and solve a mock-crime scene, and Potions & Wands, where campers will learn about aquaponics and make their own “potions” at Commonwealth Charter Academy’s (CCA) AgWorks lab, girls can take an outside-the-box approach to learning something new.

“Those kids who can’t learn in a classroom environment thrive,” said Baldwin. “The person the teacher calls the ‘troubled kid’ is shining at camp. They’re learning outside with a different hands-on approach.”

Although summer camp only lasts a few weeks, the acquired skills, moments of triumph, and newfound friendships last well beyond when the last camper leaves the property for the season.

“I got a letter from a camper in 2019 that was from a Senior girl scout. Basically it was her journey of camp and how much she appreciated our camp,” Baldwin said. “Camp has always been her home away from home. I read the letter to staff every year to show the impact of camp on the girls.”

Baldwin supervises swimmers at Camp Archbald during a 2021 summer camp.

These success stories from GSHPA’s camp program are what energize staff to plan impactful adventures, give their full time and attention to campers, and brave the elements, year after year.

“We are not a five-star hotel. It’s hot. We’re in the down pouring rain half the time. And they’re handling it like pros,” Baldwin said. “Every day is exhausting, but every day is worth it.”

Camp registration opens to Very Involved Campers (VICs) this week and to the general public Feb. 1. Check out GSHPA’s four camp properties Camp Archbald, Camp Happy Valley, Camp Furnace Hills, and Camp Small Valley.

Catherine Amoriello is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator specializing in writing and editing for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at camoriello@gshpa.org.

Camp Spotlight

Here at GSHPA, we are looking forward to warmer days with friends in the great outdoors! Getting outdoors is an important part of Girl Scouting, which is why GSHPA offers a variety of camp options, including Summer Camp, troop camping, Day Camps, family camping, and campground property rentals! Some of the most amazing Girl Scout memories are made at GSHPA’s campgrounds.  

In order to prepare ourselves for another season of camping we wanted to hear from one of our very own Girl Scouts! We asked Emily, a first year Cadette from Bear Creep Troop 32109, to share about her favorite Girl Scout camping experiences.  

Read below for what Emily had to say about Girl Scout camping! 

What is a favorite Girl Scout camping memory?  

Emily: “When my friends and I went down the slip and slide, and the water slide. We also had a water fight with balloons and water guns, we even used buckets and filled them with water and ice. It was so much fun!” 

What is something that you have learned while camping with Girl Scouts? 

Emily: “I learned how to make friends. I kept in touch with my friend that I made at camp who was alone at camp and I went and introduced myself and we became friends.” 

Do you have a favorite Girl Scout camp and why?  

Emily: “I have been to Camp Archbald and Camp Small Valley. I like Camp Small Valley the best. I enjoy swimming in the pool versus swimming in a lake.” 

What is a new experience you had camping with Girl Scouts?  

Emily: “I had many new experiences at camp. I have camped during the worst of storms and although it can be scary we still had fun during the down pouring rain. I also went horseback riding and it was so fun we got to walk with them and ride them. Also just being away from home is a new experience that I have learned to adjust to, but I’m not going lie, I do get a bit homesick sometimes.” 

What is something you would tell a new Girl Scout going camping for her first time? 

Emily: “I would say just to make as many friends as you can. Making friends is making memories.” 

To find out how you can make your own memories at a GSHPA camp check out our website. Do you have GSHPA camp memories to share? Tell us about them in the comments below or contact us about being featured in a blog post!