Girl Scouts revel in camp La Casita
At 9 a.m., with the sun already blazing overhead, the campers at La Casita Girl Scouts camp file up the steep hill overlooking the campground and circle around the flagpole for the pledge of allegiance and camp cheer.
Afterward, they break off into small groups, some going to archery, some to the newly-installed ropes course and others to various other games and activities.
The storied La Casita campground, tucked into the dusty hills north of Claremont near the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, will be open for two one-week sessions this summer, from June 19 to June 23 and from June 26 to June 30.
Each session will have 70 campers between five- and 12-years-old, supervised by a team of eighth, ninth and 10th grade program assistants, other adult volunteers and a representative from the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles (GSGLA).
This is the second year of camp programs since La Casita reopened last summer. The site had not been used for several years, and the Girl Scouts were considering selling it, but a group of local volunteers worked to save and reopen the camp.
“When we heard [about the possible sale], we thought, ‘Why aren’t we using it?’” La Casita volunteer Catherine Caporale said. “It was in such good shape, so it didn’t take much to reopen it.”
The camp only ran for one week last summer, but demand was high enough to open the camp for a second week this summer, with a waitlist of applicants who could not attend.
“It says a lot about the need in the area,” Ms. Caporal said.
With La Casita’s reopening has come some new features and activities for the camp. In 2016, a local group of Eagle Scouts built an archery range, with training and live range areas. For the 2017 year, La Casita installed a ropes course.
The ropes course was made possible by a $3,000 donation from Claremont Rotary; a $700 donation from the Kiwanis Club; a $3,000 by Paula Pitzer and various donations from other citizens, according to Ms. Caporale. Ms. Pitzer also matched donations of up to $1000 by private donors.
Despite these generous donations, GSGLA still needs approximately $4,000 to cover the remaining costs of the $18,000 ropes course, which has been a real hit with campers.
“It was a little scary but not much. I had fun,” camper Genevieve Reyes said. Genevieve was one of the first campers to tackle the tightrope.
To operate the course, GSGLA partnered with Pomona College’s Outdoor Education Center (OEC). The OEC helped GSGLA with the design and operates it with its own staff. In exchange, the OEC can use it for its own programs and to organize use by outside groups.
In addition to archery and the ropes course, La Casita has activities in art, teamwork and leadership, as well as camping-related activities like knot-tying and orienteering.
“They’re practicing and learning the core values of scouting and dabbling. in many ways, in some of the nature and outdoors elements. And we tie in art in as many ways as we can,” La Casita Director Deanne Moore said.
La Casita’s volunteers are all strongly committed to the program and the Girl Scouts in general.
“I have been a girl scout for almost 60 years,” volunteer Beverly Speak said. “It gave me the skills and tools to be who I am, and I want to pass that on. It’s a way of life, not an activity, it’s a way of being.”
La Casita and the Girl Scouts in general provide girls with new skills and a connection to the environment, according to several volunteers.
“It’s really important. They’re learning new things, making connections and learning new abilities,” volunteer Julia Hobson said. “Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?”
Some of the PAs were inspired to volunteer by their experiences at the camp last year.
“I love helping out the kids,” PA Olivia Stradley said. “I went to the camp last year. I looked up to the PAs and I wanted to become one.”
The PAs and volunteers’ hard work pays off, since the campers greatly enjoy La Casita.
“I’m here because I like to climb and play in the wild and play with my friends,” camper Savannah Speak said.
Donors interested in helping GSGLA pay the remaining costs for the ropes course can visit girlscoutsla.thankyou4 caring.org/la-casita. People or groups interested in using the ropes course can contact the Pomona OEC at firstname.lastname@example.org or (909) 607-2531.