GCNWI Shifts the Narrative on Outdoor Experiences for Families of Color

Girl Scouts of USA recently released a funding opportunity for up to six councils to each receive a $10,000 grant to support multicultural family camp events. Research showed that less than 10% of people engaging in outdoor experiences at recreational parks and camps included people of color. These events aimed to increase racial, ethnic, and social-economic diversity among our resident and day camps. 

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana invited specific girls to participate in the grant-funded program as part of an effort to include girls who would not typically engage with summer camp programs. A part of this program included early registration for summer camp programs in order to ensure these girls, who we do not typically see at camp programs, had access to attend during the summer camp season this year. The goal was to transition 30 girls to day camp and 10 girls to resident camp by start of camp season. This work is part of GSGCNWI’s continued work to improve inclusion and access across our council offerings.

Read along to see how it all came together and how Girl Scouts GCNWI was able to transition 38 campers for day and resident camp, 12 of whom were first time campers.

To ensure the campaign’s success, the council aligned itself with partners who could assist with promoting its mission. Members of the GCNWI Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA) committee met with Earl Hunter Jr., Founder and President of Black Folks Camp Too, an organization dedicated to outdoor lifestyle education and works to remove the fears and inhibition’s affiliated with the camp lifestyle. Black Folks Camp Too presented at a GCNWI staff meeting and provided insight to help the council recognize the generational and historical ties the idea of outdoor experiences may have on these communities. The council wanted to provide a platform for those trailblazers willing to flex their resiliency, break free from molds, and create some of the best memories of their lives! 

Girl Scouts sought out to help shatter myths, break stereotypes, even make some introductions regarding outdoor experiences and the involvement of Black and Brown communities. From that stemmed the “Life Outdoors is LIT” event series, designed to create a safe space for families of color to grow more comfortable with outdoor exploration and expose our members to a lifestyle that may differ from their everyday experiences.

Girl Scouts we’re invited to participate in a series of exclusive, complimentary experiences where they could engage in fun outdoor activities, make new friends and earn badges. Each progressive activity led up to a culminating, overnight-optional event at Camp Butternut Springs.

Check out the highlights from each event below!

Virtual Family Camp In

The first event in the Life Outdoors is Lit event included a virtual family camp-in. What better way to get introduced to the great outdoors than to create your own camping grounds right in the comfort of your own home? Families learned how to set up a campsite in a room in their home, how to prepare for a winter hike, and participated in badge activities and a cool science experiment by making fizzy lemonade!

Girl Scout Bonfire

Next, it was time to get outdoors! Families braved the cold at Big Marsh Park and got ready for the next phase in their outdoor exploration. GCNWI camp staff walked families through how to build a fire, how to create a camp setup with tents, and bonded together while making s’mores over the fire.

Overnight at Camp Butternut Springs

Families were encouraged to take all of the knowledge they had gained so far and put it to the test at the Life Outdoors is Lit culminating event at Camp Butternut Springs in Indiana. Families had a chance to enjoy such activities as as archery, boating, letterboxing and geocaching, fun tie-dye crafts, and even got a chance to have a cookout, make a meal over the campfire, sing songs, and of course, make s’mores!

“Thank you for the fantastic program you provided the Girl Scouts and families at the ‘Life Outdoors is LIT’ finale event this weekend! The tireless dedication of your staff surely comes from a place of love & community, and did not go unnoticed,” exclaimed one Girl Scout Mom in attendance.

“My girl loved every minute of being at camp. I cannot wait until the next event!” exclaimed another.

Check out more pictures from Camp Butternut Springs below!

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