Results tagged “Camp Sunshine” from GSSA Leader Blog: The Virtual Volunteer

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This past week I experienced the power of the Girl Scout program.   I had the privilege of working with the Camp Sunshine staff and watching the girls of Camp Sunshine learn, grow, and prosper because of their efforts. 

Laurie Weil and Kathy Sawyer founded Camp Sunshine more than 25 years ago in Montgomery.   Its mission is to provide an OPPORTUNITY for girls to experience the power of a wonderful summer camp.   These girls have the same dreams, hopes, and desires that all girls possess.   But many don't have the opportunity to visit the Alabama Shakespeare Festival or the Montgomery Museum of Art.   They certainly don't spend their summer time shooting off bottle rockets or learning to play tennis.   What fun they had trying new things!  They even learned about bullying through modern interpretive dance.

Girls from Camp Sunshine spend the night at Kamp Kiwanis each year.   Some have never been to the woods; others have never been swimming in a lake.   They ride the zip lines, spend the night in a tent, and ride on the pontoon boat.   This part of their experience really moves them from their comfort zone.   Many of these girls, sadly, live in areas where playing outdoors are dangerous.   So the opportunity to experience the woods and all the outdoors has to offer is a wonderful gift for summer.

Camp Sunshine has provided these opportunities, and more, for thousands of girls in the Montgomery area for over 25 years.   It continues to be a resource for the girls of the Montgomery community.   More importantly, the volunteers who generously give of their time have given girls the courage, confidence, and character to make their world a better place.

Thanks to Laurie Weil and Kathy Sawyer for their unflagging generosity for so long; they have changed the world.

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My mantra for this week is "hold fast to your dreams!"  This is the week we have three summer camps started across the council.   I'm excited, as this is always my favorite time of year.   We have Camp Sunshine, a long-running camp for girls in public housing communities in Montgomery, which has been run and funded by an extraordinary pair of friends, Laurie Weil and Kathy Sawyer, for the past 25 years.  

These two perfectly illustrate the power of Girl Scouts. Kathy Sawyer and Laurie Weil both grew up in Montgomery in the 1960s, during a time of civil unrest and racial turmoil.   It is unlikely they knew each other when they were children, one growing up on one side of town, the other on the other side of town.   Those were the days of segregation, when blacks sat in the back of the bus and white girls didn't have many black girls who were their friends.

Both went on to become accomplished women, one a veterinarian and the other a public servant working with the mentally ill.   Their backgrounds could not have been more different, but the values of their parents were the same.   You treated everyone with respect and dignity.    You become a responsible contributing citizen of your community and you give back what you can to the community.   Their parents shared those values and inculcated them into their daughters.

Kathy Sawyer and Laurie Weil became friends while participating in Leadership Montgomery, a program to break down racial barriers and stereotypes.   It provides a safe place for people to talk about their community's shared issues.   Not only did these accomplished women become friends, they decided to change their community.   Together they founded Camp Sunshine, a program for girls in Montgomery's public housing communities.

This camp attracts volunteers of all ages from the Montgomery area and beyond to spend a week with the girls of Camp Sunshine.   Girls from the public housing communities in Montgomery covet a place in the camp, which is a safe place for girls to learn about character, how to be courageous, and be confident.   It is a safe place where no one yells at them. Everything at the camp is about support and becoming the girl you can be.

For the past 25 years, Kathy Sawyer and Laurie Weil have shared their gifts with the girls of Montgomery.   They have improved the lives of thousands of girls and volunteers.   Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama is delighted to announce the naming of the pavilion at Kamp Kiwanis, a place where girls go to talk, understand one another, and make friends, after Kathy Sawyer and Laurie Weil.   The Sawyer-Weil pavilion will be a reminder to those who go on from now that a strong bond and friendship these women share.   This will serve as a safe place for girls to "hold on to their dreams and make them become a reality."   Thank you to Kathy Sawyer and Laurie Weil for your gift to the girls of the Montgomery community.

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This past week I had a chance to watch girls at camp. That is the best part of my job, watching girls move out of their comfort zone and grow. It is always amazing to see the really young ones, who are a tad unsure, see their older counterparts step up and try things. The next thing you know, they are in the tent, putting their things away. Spiders don't bother them. Wading into the lake, where they can't see their feet, isn't terrifying, even if they can't swim. A canoe, which on first entry feels very tippy, becomes a way to get around, get exercise and watch fish. Isn't being outdoors simply amazing, so much more challenging and interesting than playing their video games or watching television.

I was especially interested in how the girls would handle the zip lines. This is the first year; it involves lots of equipment and frankly, some courage. You get into the harness, it is tightened up, and then there's the helmet, not a fashion statement of any type. You wait for your turn, which seems to take a long time. Once up on the platform you decide when to go. We had one girl stand there for at least 7 minutes, summoning the courage to step off and take the plunge. Off she went, shrieking and screaming all the way down the cable, laughing all the way. What a sense of accomplishment to face your fears and win.

If you want to enjoy the zip lines too, you can click here, or go to Montgomery Advertiser, under Media click on Video and watch Camp Sunshine Girls Ride Zip Lines.

liz_brent.jpgYesterday, I had the privilege of listening to Jeno James, previously with the Miami Dolphins; speak to a group of Girl Scouts who live in public housing communities in Montgomery.  His message was clear and poignant; never listen to the voices that say you can't do something.  


From age 4, Jeno was determined to become an NFL football player. He was told he wasn't from the right place and was repeatedly told that he would never make it.  But, Jeno told the girls, he didn't listen to those voices. He listened to the ones of encouragement, who shaped his confidence in his own gifts and talents.   Not only did Jeno James have a successful career at Auburn University, but he was an offensive tackle in the NFL for 9 years, playing for the Carolina Panthers (in the Super Bowl, no less) and the Miami Dolphins.   Jeno's message to the girls is that you are more than enough - to be what you want to be, accomplish the goals you set out for yourself, and follow your dreams. Something we all should remember.

For 20 years, Camp Sunshine has created a fun-filled environment for girls from Montgomery Public Housing Communities (ages 6 to 12) to attend a weeklong camp, sponsored by Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama.

 

Camp Sunshine, founded 20 years ago by Laurie Weil, who now co-directs the camp with Kathy Sawyer, is specifically designed for at-risk girls who have limited summertime recreational activities.  The camp provides girls with fun, exciting field trips; programs that nurture self-confidence, emphasize the importance of success in school, teach self-reliance, build teamwork skills, and help girls to be their very best.

 

In addition to enjoying being outside and seeing new sights, the campers participate in activities that reinforce the Girl Scout Law and Promise. 

 

Camp Sunshine is staffed by volunteers, some of whom take a week's vacation from work to volunteer.  Many of the campers find the experience so rewarding, they return to Camp Sunshine as Junior Aides.

  

There's also great photos on the Montgomery Advertiser's website, as well as video.

 

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