Girl Scouts salute La Casita’s 75th anniversary

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

On Sunday, December 4, with guitar in hand and a campfire crackling nearby, Claremont resident Beverly Speak led a group of local Girl Scouts performing a familiar song at a place generations have considered a second home.

This was no ordinary gathering for the scouts and their guests, but a celebration of the 75th year for Camp La Casita in the hills above Claremont.

As the La Casita 75th Anniversary Chorus belted out the words to “Rise Up, O Flame,” a scout leader fanned the campfire and about 75 people sat in a circle around the camp’s central gathering area, many singing along.

La Casita got its start in 1947 when Lee Pitzer donated the land and some money to build a modest structure where Claremont’s Girl Scouts could hold meetings while learning about the local flora and fauna. It has grown over the years and now includes a rope course, archery range and the campfire ring where Sunday’s celebration was held.

“Those of you who have been around awhile, been around our council, know that La Casita has been around for a while too,” said Speak, who goes by the camp name Jingle.

Longtime camp director Beverly Speak leads a chorus of Girl Scouts singing “Rise up, O Flame” during a party celebrating the 75th anniversary of La Casita Girl Scout Camp in Claremont. COURIER photo/Steven Felschundneff

The original structure was built with adobe bricks and, so the story goes, the scouts had a hand in its construction.

“It is a beautiful historic building in Claremont,” Speak said. “The story is that the adobe brick came from the hillside above us where the girls went and dug up the clay to make the bricks and helped put the place together.”

“In this season of thanks, I can’t think of a better time to celebrate this special place and honor all of you who have supported La Casita over the years with a tremendous amount of hard work to not only keep this camp open but to make it what it is today — an important and exceptional gem in our council,” said Theresa Edy Kiene, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles.

“Today we celebrate 75 years of a girl-centered, inclusive camp where Girl Scouts discover the wonders of enjoying and caring for nature, experience the thrill of adventure, and challenge themselves and one another to reach new heights,” Kiene continued. “At La Casita, Girl Scouts are known by their creative camp names, brave the ropes courses, cross arms for wide friendship circles, sing, dance, learn archery, dig into art projects, explore and laugh, become camp counselors and perhaps overcome some shyness. And that’s just scratching the surface.”

Dressed in a 100-year-old uniform, Glendale resident Christie Crahan portrayed founder Juliette Low to tell the story of how the Girl Scouts began.

Low started Girl Scouts of the USA in 1912 and put a fair amount of her own money into keeping the fledgling organization afloat. During World War I she had trouble accessing all of her money and sold a pearl necklace for $2,500 to keep Girl Scouts from going under.

Glendale resident Christine Crahan portrays founder Juliette Gordon Low, as she tells the origin story of the Girl Scouts on Sunday during a party celebrating the 75th anniversary of La Casita Girl Scout Camp in Claremont.

“One of the things I discovered on this property is there is a little flower called the pearly everlasting and I thought that is really significant,” Speak said. “We adopted the pearly everlasting as our camp special flower because Juliette Low sold her pearls to make the Girl Scouts everlasting. And so, every time we see the pearly everlasting we can think of Juliette Low and thank her for making our organization everlasting.”

At the end of her remarks Speak announced she would be stepping aside after six years as camp director, and that longtime camp employee Cheyenne Uhler would be the next director.

The event included ample congratulations and official recognition from local regional and state elected officials. And the Girl Scouts issued its own certificates of appreciation to a long list of special friends, donors, volunteers, and staff who have supported La Casita over the years.

Following refreshments, including a cake and s’mores, the closing including one last song from the chorus, “Say When.”

And so it seems “when” will be everlasting.

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