Girl Scouts Return to Camp La Casita
by Andrew Alonzo | firstname.lastname@example.org
For one special week, 80 Girl Scouts from around the greater Los Angeles area returned to Camp La Casita, in a natural Claremont setting at the base of the Wilderness Park, and were able to experience summer camp again for the first time since 2019.
Girl Scout Camp La Casita Director Beverly Speak, who has been a lifelong Girl Scout for over 60 years, explained that with the help of volunteers, she has hosted the camp since 2016. However, in 2020, COVID-19 forced her summer camp plans to be put on hold until this year.
“We waited all spring to see what was going to happen and then they pulled the plug and canceled it,” she said. “When it became possible for us to do it this year…I sent out sort of a feeler [email] to those [former volunteers] and said it looks like we’re going to get a week [at La Casita]. And within 20 minutes I had all the Scout leaders back.”
On Tuesday, she showed the COURIER around the campgrounds and what the scouts were up to that afternoon. In typical Girl Scout fashion, all of the activities that took place revolved around nature, survival skills and (most importantly) fun.
“We’re very traditional here. The world has kind of changed a lot since we were kids. When the world moves on, we lose things. And one of the things we lose is the traditions, we lose the songs, we lose campcraft skills. Kids aren’t taught how to build a fire or use a jackknife,” Ms. Speak said.
Mostly unmasked, campers rotated around the grounds to participate in activities such as archery on the range; arts and crafts activities underneath their group’s designated trees or bushes; and traditional campfire songs lessons. Inside the hut at the peak of camp where they sang, campers and volunteers put on their masks. Earlier in the day before the first group came in, Ms. Speak said that the volunteer staff wrangled a rattlesnake that was underneath a garbage can near their picnic area and immobilized it in a trash can so it couldn’t harm anyone. This allowed the group to see a rattlesnake and participate in an impromptu session about snake safety.
Ms. Speak explained the presence of a firetruck in the middle of the campgrounds—in addition to camping skills, they also emphasize future and career planning with the girls. The local firemen from Claremont Station 62 came out to give the scouts lessons and encouragement to become firefighters and emergency medical technicians. With the COURIER also there, this reporter explained to a group of five-year-olds about what a journalist does. But before the firemen left, not only did the truck’s siren go off numerous times as scouts filtered in and out of it, the girls also made sure to give the firefighters a box of Girl Scout cookies for the road.
When the Sugarbush group of Girl Scouts campers were asked if they were having fun at Camp La Casita, only one five-year-old said she wished she was home because of the heat. The rest said they were having a blast.
At about a quarter to three, the campers gathered around Ms. Speak to cool off with a bit of water play—Ms. Speak sprayed the campers with a hose as she taught them a new marching song called the Snail Song. After being drenched, the scouts and volunteers wrapped up the afternoon’s session by taking down the American flag. With the camp split up in two sessions, the morning group hoisted the flag every day while the afternoon group retired it before going home. After the flag was stored away, Ms. Speak played her guitar and everyone joined in singing the Camp La Casita theme before sharing something about their day.
Although the camp has typically brought in about 100-130 Girl Scouts in previous years, Ms. Speak said that due to the pandemic, the camp welcomed only 80 Girl Scouts this time around. However, Ms. Speak expressed her gratitude for even having this camp at all after having to scrap last year’s plans.
“There’s not enough opportunities for kids, particularly kids from the city, to interact with the land. [Overall] It grows their self-esteem and it allows them to progress as leaders in a world that needs leadership,” she said.
Though the camp was only brought back for this week, Ms. Speak plans on hosting it again next year and hopefully for a longer period. For more information on Camp La Casita, visit their webpage at www.girlscoutsla.org/en/camp/properties/outdoor-program-centers/la-casita.html.