By Marsha Kitter, Lifetime Member, Alumnae, Juliette Low Planned Giving Society member
In 1969 when I was 15 years old, I had my choice of going to Europe or going to Girl Scout camp. I choose Girl Scout camp. Camp was the most fantastic experience I had ever had. We slept on army cots in round-up tents with dirt floors. My favorite parts were making new friends and singing songs at meals and around campfires. Many of the camp counselors played guitars as we sang. After two sessions of camp, I knew two things – I wanted to learn to play the guitar and I wanted to work at Girl Scout camp the next summer.
Buying the guitar and teaching myself to play was easy! By the time I went to the camp reunion that December, I was able to join in with the other guitar players as we sang our favorite camp songs.
Working at Girl Scout camp proved harder. Where I lived in New Jersey, you had to be 17 to work at camp.
I shared my disappointment with my high school French teacher. She promptly replied that her sister directed a Girl Scout Camp in New York and she was looking for camp staff. A few weeks later, I wore my Senior Girl Scout uniform to an interview at Girl Scouts of Greater New York. I got the job! I was going to work at Camp Andree Clark in Briarcliff Manor New York as a “Pack Out Clerk”.
The 1970s were thriving years for Girl Scouting’s membership. There were over 300 campers and staff and the dining hall was not large enough to accommodate all the people so two units had to cook out breakfast, lunch and dinner one day a week. As the Pack Out Clerk, it was my job to fill all cookout requests. I also assisted with dining room setup and cleanup. I loved it.
The following summer I returned to Camp Andree Clark as a unit assistant, working full time in a Brownie unit. I spent a total of seven summers working at camp from high school through graduate school. After finishing graduate school, I thought finding a full time job meant my camp counselor days were over …
Flash forward 38 years, and I’m back at Girl Scout camp!
Last week, I spent a week at Girl Scouts – NC Coastal Pines’ Camp Graham assisting with the Babysitting/First Aid, CPR and AED leadership unit. If it indicated how excited I was, I took a week of vacation from my full time job to do this!
I used the same camp name “Critter” from my summer camp days. I lived and slept in the unit with 29 girls in the Babysitting & First Aid/CPR group and 3 girls in the Lifeguarding Group. There were 3 other camp staff in my tent. During the first night’s “Meet the Counselor’s” event, I taught my all-time favorite camp song, “The Cat Came Back”. It was an instant hit and was sung at least two times a day for the rest of the week.
So in case you are wondering if going back to camp was all I expected, it was even more. As far as the campers were concerned, I was a counselor just like everyone else. At the closing ceremony in front of the parents, I was presented with a homemade plaque signed by all the camp staff and the girls in my unit that said “Critter, the cat who came Back.”
I can’t wait to volunteer again next year!