#KidDay: An invitation to connection

Every third Thursday in March, Camp Fire celebrates Absolutely Incredible Kid Day®, a holiday dedicated to encouraging the amazing young people in our lives. Since we founded it in 1997*, millions of people have marked #KidDay with messages to their favorite younger folks, telling them why they matter.  

It’s our annual invitation to intentional connection. So we’ve been thinking about how we can align our #KidDay efforts with what children and teens need from us now. Our National Youth Advisory Cabinet has been sharing what kinds of messages mean the most to them.   

We were also inspired by Stephanie Malia Krauss’s recent presentation at our National Leadership Conference. Her book Whole Child, Whole Life had so much applicable connection wisdom, we wanted to ask how to apply it to #KidDay encouragement this year.  

Stephanie’s own growing-up challenges made her curious about what it takes for kids to thrive. It’s a question she has explored throughout her professional life as an educator, coach, social worker, consultant, and author.  

“I dropped out of school soon after the eighth grade, but ended up in college at 16,” Stephanie said. “And I would wonder what I had that made me ready because I didn’t have an excellent childhood, excellent standardized test scores, or any of the typical success measures.”  

Stephanie Malia Krauss, Whole Child, Whole Life

What she did have was what researcher Jonathan Zaff called “a web of support,” including a middle school counselor who continued supporting her after she dropped out and consistent, practical care from coaches, friends’ parents, and bosses. Stephanie’s work now bridges that kind of frontline, community-led support with addressing the systemic barriers that keep kids from the futures they want. And connection is at the heart of it all.  

“What we know from the research is that being known and understood is one of the most tender and transformative experiences we can have,” said Stephanie. “And that magic connection of relationship ends up helping both the kid and the grown-up at the same time.” 

Here are five opportunities for deeper connection Stephanie suggested for #KidDay:  

1. Be curious about the differences in your growing-up experiences 

“The lived experience of today’s kids is significantly different from our own,” Stephanie said. “We know from the science that we’re wired and rewired based on our environments and experiences.” 

To create richer connections with young people, adults can check ourselves for assumptions we might be making and get curious about kids’ realities.  

Stephanie shared that her sons (ages 13 and almost 11) have been able to experience a “range of wonders,” including travel, an “eclectic” family, and chances to explore their passions, including athletics, art, and Lego. They also endured a pandemic, complex health issues and witnessed their godbrother survive and recover from a brutal school shooting. Their worries aren’t the same ones Stephanie had as a child.  

by climbing a tree

“It’s important for us to honor and recognize the reality of what kids have lived through and the strength and struggle that brings,” said Stephanie. “There’s something deeply profound in honoring their emerging, evolving stories.” 

Try it: This #KidDay, ask a young person what they love the most about being young right now. Then ask them what worries them.  

2. Listen first 

“Conversations about kids need to start with kids,” said Stephanie, whose most recent book opens with a preface written by her son.  

Stephanie described a recent listening and learning session she facilitated for a high school in Hawaii. Caregivers, teachers, coaches and counselors were invited to sit on the periphery of the circle while students were in the middle with Stephanie, sharing their thoughts on mental health, relationships and their hopes for the future. 

“The job of the grown-ups was to listen,” said Stephanie. “Those kinds of practices with groups and individuals can be really powerful, so long as trust is present and safety is held at the center.”   

two kids at afterschool program smiling at the camera together

Whether you’re holding a formal or informal listening session of your own, centering the voices of young people is a powerful statement of support. You can encourage them without saying a single word. 

Try it: Leading up to #KidDay, ask a young person how they want to be encouraged. Then follow their direction!  

3. Go beyond transactional to transformational 

Stephanie outlined five pieces to getting to know a whole child. The first three are the baseline need-to-knows for adults who are working with or caring for a young person:  

  • Demographics and determinants: What risks and opportunities do young people experience based on what they look like and where they live? 
  • Age and stage: What does the child need developmentally right now? 
  • Brain and body: How does the child’s health affect their life? 

“I could know all that information, but still not create the conditions where a child feels cared for,” said Stephanie.  

She described the first three categories as transactional — things an adult needs to know to do the basics of their youth-related job, whether that’s teaching, providing services, mentoring or caregiving. But the last two categories are the ones that can transform information into true relationship:  

  • People and places: Who are the people in the child’s life? Where do they spend time together? What is the child-like with those people and in those places? 
  • Strengths and struggles: What makes the child come alive and what shuts them down?  
the girls at camp holding and petting a cat

“If we can earnestly and honestly pursue those pieces, that’s when connection comes,” said Stephanie.  

Try it: Ask a young person where their favorite place is or who their favorite people are. Can you help arrange a #KidDay gathering or outing to celebrate those people or places? 

4. Recognize you’re part of a relationship web 

Stephanie is a fan of psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, who helped develop the Head Start program. She paraphrased one of his main tenets: Every kid needs one adult who thinks they are the greatest of all time. But they also need a whole network of people who are showing up and offering everyday support.  

You don’t need to be every kid’s Biggest Fan, but you can be a consistent source of positivity for a wide range of young people in your life. There will always be kids you don’t gel with. Stephanie said that’s ok: You can treat all kids with care and help connect them to adults they may relate to better. 

“We don’t have to be all things to all kids, all the time,” said Stephanie. “But we can strive to create the conditions that are optimal for whatever relationship needs to emerge.”  

group of girls smiling and laughing together in front of the camera

Try it: Do you know a young person who needs a mentor…who isn’t you? Use #KidDay as an excuse to make an introduction!  

5. Value the mundane moments 

Stephanie reminds adults that they often don’t know the impact they are having. For Whole Child, Whole Life, she interviewed David Shapiro, former CEO of MENTOR, about what he learned during his time there.  

“One of the things he said was never underestimate the power of a mundane moment,” remembered Stephanie. “What might be boring for you, may not be for the kid in your care. And that’s not for you to decide.” 

Stephanie encourages adults and kids to find ways to just be humans together, whenever you can. 

Boy holding ice cream and smiling big, holding up a peace sign with their hand

“The quality of connection is far more important than the quantity of time,” Stephanie said. “Our life is a string of moments and experiences. Do not undervalue the power of those moments, even if they’re periodic.” 

Try it: The next time you’re doing chores, driving between activities, or having another mundane moment with a kid in your life, let them know you like doing the everyday stuff with them and why.  

LEARN MORE about how you can participate in #KidDay2024! 

*#KidDay coincides with Camp Fire’s birthday – this year we turn 114 years old! 

Protect Trans* Kids: Remembering Nex Benedict

We are grieving with our community, and across the U.S., the tragic death and loss of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student who was assaulted and beaten by fellow students at Owasso High School after weeks of bullying; Nex died the next day on February 8th. This should never have happened. 

In this post, Illuminative well-captured the devastating stats about the lack of safety and high suicide rates that impact our 2SLGBTQ+ young people, just like Nex (learn more here at the Trevor Project). Camp Fire has long supported and affirmed all 2SLGBTQ+ young people and works to create spaces where all young people feel safe and can thrive. In fact, we just published a new study about “the impact of both physical spaces and psychological conditions that allow youth “to just be,” with an emphasis on identity and gender-affirming practices for transgender and non-binary young people,” because we KNOW how much it matters for all adults and organizations to CREATE these spaces. They don’t just happen.

Nex Benedict

We must come together and support one another – especially our 2SLGBTQ+ youth. Our young people should never live in fear. They need us.

Members of Camp Fire Green Country plan to be at Nex’s vigil Sunday evening ❤️

Please be aware of and share these important lifesaving resources:

  • Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860 (Staffed by transgender folks, for transgender folks; toll-free)
  • The Trevor Project Hotline: 866-488-7386 (Available 24/7; with counselors trained in supporting LGBTQ youth)
  • Rainbow Youth Project: 988 or call (317) 643-4888 (Crisis line)
  • Native Crisis Text line: Text NATIVE to 741741 (Available 24/7; text support provided by crisis counselors)

Follow on IG:

a wish for Igbtqia+ youth
may you grow old surrounded
by family of your choosing. may you live to experience true love, true heartbreak and all the beautiful feelings in-between. may you laugh until tears of joy gently sting your warm cheeks. may you dance, long and often.
You are not alone.
You are valid.
Your life matters.
Nex Benedict should still be alive.

Heartbreak and Horror: Resources to Talk to Kids About Gun Violence and When the News is Scary

Written by: Erin K Risner, Parent, Kansas City Resident and Sr. Director of Marketing & Communications

I’m not only a Kansas City area resident and a youth development professional, but I’m also a mom of two who watched online as the horror of yesterday’s shooting unfolded in my own community. Nine children were treated for gunshot wounds.

I will be honest and say I didn’t sleep and I can’t seem to get rid of this sick feeling in my stomach. I also had to talk to my third grader about it before school this morning. What a nightmare.

But I know I’m not alone; not only am I one of millions who are also devastated and struggling today, but as I sit at my computer, fellow parents and residents across the city who were there in person yesterday are grappling–especially those directly impacted.

I don’t have to tell you how devastating gun violence is on our communities and the effects it has on young people. We pulled up this post we published in May 2022 expressing our grief after the shooting in Uvalde, TX, which was one of 644 mass shootings that year. Then, 2023 had 656 mass shootings. In the first two months of 2024, there have been 49 mass shootings. The gun violence at the Kansas City parade started between individuals but ended in mass casualties. When will it stop?

We are all connected. Our care and response matters. At Camp Fire, “We are responsive” is one of our eight core values and something we take seriously, especially when it comes to looking out for the health, safety, and well-being of young people–our number one priority. Youth can’t learn, grow, and thrive if they don’t feel safe.  

It is important that in moments like this, we take time to sit with our emotions, care for each other, and let the shock and grief transform into action. When we allow ourselves space to feel all our emotions, our minds can begin to clear and we can move forward with clear, effective action while avoiding causing more harm.

I hope you have taken the time to check in with yourself, your families, friends, and your coworkers. We need each other.

Find some resources below for you and the young people in your life as you process and cope with the tragedies in our communities, across our country, and beyond borders. 

How to talk to your kids when the news is scary:

Image of the resource

How to talk about gun violence:

Image of the Resource

Here are some other good pieces of advice I came across today:

Places to take action:

From the Children's Place: Our community witnessed an unthinkable even today. As we're attempting to understand this senseless act, these are things we must or for our children.
From the Children's Place: Turn off the TV: Children do not need to be exposed to the details.
From the Children's Place: Move and action are the most healing act. Take a walk together, have a dance party, plat catch with a ball. This will help both you and your child release the tension.
From the Children's Place: Answer the questions they ask, but don't over-explain. Do take the opportunity to correct inaccuracies. It's okay to say "I don't know."
From the Children's Place: Listen more than you talk. Give your child the opportunity to share what they're thinking and how they are feeling.
From the Children's Place: Acknowledge their feelings and assure them that they are now safe and that you will work to protect them.

From Allies to Accomplices: Get uncomfortable! 

What does the word accomplice mean to you? Someone aiding and abetting questionable activity? A dangerous co-conspirator? An accessory to a crime? 

Today, we’re exploring a different definition of accomplice. As we strive to become a more equitable organization, we’ve noticed movement leaders use the word in an intriguing way. So we sat down with Dr. Kira Hudson Banks and Eric Ratinoff of The Mouse & The Elephant to learn more. Kira and Eric help organizations like ours develop inclusive workplaces and are well-versed in how authentic change happens. Let’s get into it! 

What is an accomplice? 

An accomplice is someone who holds power in an oppressive system and actively uses it to help others and change the system

“An accomplice is willing to be involved, not just sit on the sidelines and observe,” explained Kira. “An accomplice takes action. An accomplice unapologetically names how systems of oppression are operating, how they might be benefitting from those systems of oppression, and then actively works to disrupt and dismantle them.” 

What is an accomplice?

As people in oppressed groups began to feel the word ally was too basic and linked to performative actions without true impact, accomplice became a compelling and illustrative alternative. Kira said that some people have said the word makes them nervous: It sounds too naughty, too dangerous. 

“I encourage them to think about how dangerous it is to live in systems of oppression,” said Kira.

“The idea of moving from ally to accomplice is to push people to actually be in the fight.” 

Joining the fight

Being “in the fight” looks different for every accomplice and every situation. It could be a public act of power-shifting support, like how James Tyson stood between police and the protestor Bree Newsome as she scaled a flag pole at the South Carolina state capitol to remove the Confederate flag in 2015. 

“Bettina Love talks about this example in one of her books,” said Kira. “That man understood the assignment. He understood that his systemic value as a white man would literally change the dynamic in a collaborative, accomplice sort of way.” 

Joining the fight

But being an accomplice can also take more everyday forms of action.

“A classic example is you’re in a meeting when someone with less power or with a marginalized identity speaks up, but their idea isn’t given attention or the appropriate response,” Eric said. “An ally might go up to that person after the meeting and say, ‘I heard you and feel like you had something important to say. I’m sorry we didn’t listen to you.’ At least that’s recognizing the power disparity. But an accomplice stops the meeting to say, ‘This person is saying something really important, and I think we all need to take a second and listen.’” 

The common accomplice denominator is discomfort. It’s not comfortable to challenge the status quo! Being an accomplice usually means feeling discomfort — and making others in power feel uncomfortable, too — in order to push for systems change. Accomplices remember that people being oppressed are already uncomfortable, at the very least. In many cases, their lives are at stake.  

“Accomplices put themselves into the fray to not let that person be uncomfortable alone,” said Eric. 

Accomplices for youth

As adults, in most systems, we hold more power than children and teens do. We can use that power for good, to both be accomplices for young people and help them learn to cultivate an equity mindset (see Kira’s video on raising “equity nerds”) and be accomplices for others. Here are a few ways to join the fight for and with kids and teens: 

Accomplices for youth

Name systemic oppression

“As we enter a heightened political campaign season, we have to increase our tolerance for having difficult dialogues about naming what is, seeing the broader context and allowing space for nuance,” said Kira. Don’t be afraid to dive way past sound bytes, headlines and memes to help youth understand how systemic oppression works, especially during heated political contests. 

Celebrate differences in identity 

Kira emphasized that now is not the time to shy away from talking about identities. Instead, highlight how valuing each other’s differences can create strong, dynamic relationships. 

She explained: “If I say, ‘I see you in your identity, I value you, and I’m looking for ways to help you get what you need.’ And you are hearing my experience as a Black woman and asking what I need — that’s how we do community.” 

“We need to be able to talk to young people about what they are hearing,” agreed Eric, “so that they understand that in many cases people are using identity for political purposes — that they are trying to create an us versus them. But there are also adults who are working to create communities where all young people can be cared for and included.” 

Have action-oriented conversations

“Adults can pose questions to help empower young people to be accomplices when they see something happening,” said Eric. When you and/or the children and teens you know witness someone using their power to harm others, we can call it out as wrong and ask: 

  • What is happening?
  • Who is being hurt?
  • Did we do or say anything? 
  • If not, why? 
  • What can we do next time? 

“Those kinds of questions can help young people understand what it sounds, feels and looks like to be an accomplice,” said Eric. 

Be willing to be uncomfortable

This means not only being willing to take action that might make you or others uncomfortable but staying open when the young people in your life seem to be pushing too hard or too fast for systemic change. 

“We have to remember that most change isn’t comfortable,” said Kira, citing how many leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela, were criticized for being too radical. “As young people are playing with how they want to engage in movement building or change, we need to catch ourselves and not squash their exploration simply because we’re uncomfortable.” 

Camp Fire’s latest Increasing Accessibility and Inclusivity report showcases examples of pressing through discomfort to create more equitable experiences for young people. Affiliates across the country listened to young people’s calls for change and took action, even when it meant doing things differently; investing extra time, energy and money; and risking upsetting people in positions of power who might not agree with the changes. That’s exactly what it takes to move toward being an accomplice!

Pace yourself 

We’re not only in the middle of a contentious political season, but in a decades-long era of change. Choose your battles, practice daily self-care and settle in. Being an accomplice is a marathon that never ends, not a sprint to a clear finish line. 

“This doesn’t stop when the election is over,” said Kira. “Having conversations with young people about shared humanity is key to supporting them not just in this season, but in this society.”  

Read more about becoming an accomplice: 

5 things to keep in mind when talking to young people about the Holocaust: International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2024 

Story is the most basic way we humans make sense of the world around us. It is how we preserve our memories, create our own identities, and imagine our futures. The retelling of our shared narratives and histories is how we create cultures, families, and communities. Telling the story of our history is how we learn from where we came, so we know where we are going. Especially the hard histories that make us want to look away.  

One quick scroll through your TikTok for you page, or a quick Google search for the day’s news will tell you that we have forgotten our histories, and we are reliving the lessons our ancestors before us have already learned. Even though there is more content being created and shared than ever before, our shared narratives are being lost in translation. How do we learn from those who came before us if we do not know how to share our histories? 

For Camp Fire, connection is at the root of our mission. Humans are designed for connection. It is how we make sense of the world. How we grieve. How we heal. How we create. How we grow. How we find comfort. Connection is how we survive. And it is our most powerful tool for healing and creating change. Sharing our stories, and understanding our shared history is one of the most powerful ways we connect. Across generations. Across cultures. Across differences.  

January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.   

The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27th–the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau–as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges every member state to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). 

The Holocaust is one of those shared memories that we so easily lose touch with when we don’t continue telling the story. The last Nazi concentration camps were liberated in 1945, almost 80 years ago. Yet antisemitic incidents have been on the rise since 2016, with a 400% increase since the October 7th attack. 

We must not forget the awful path that hatred takes us down.  

“And I got to thinking about the moral meaning of memory, per se. And what it means to forget, what it means to fail to preserve the connection with the dead whose lives [we] want or need to honor with our own.”

June Jordan 

That is why we must remember and tell our stories. We must have honest, real conversations with young people about the horrors of genocide, and also share the heroes that fought against fear through connection and bravery. Stories like that of Marianne Winter, a 16-year-old Jewish girl whose family needed to flee Nazi-annexed Austria, and her American Camp Fire Girl pen pal Jane Bomberger, whose family signed an affidavit of support that enabled Marianne’s family to escape to the United States. 
Quick note: first, prepare yourself around this topic. Before approaching such a vast and difficult subject with a young person, try to educate yourself on the subject as well as you can so you are ready with answers and insights. There are some great websites out there that can help you do this, such as the Holocaust Educational Trust at www.het.org.uk or the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance at www.holocaustremembrance.com. It is also worth mentioning that you should prepare yourself emotionally. When looking into the events of the Holocaust, there are so many facts that are upsetting beyond our imagining, and it will help you to be ready for the young person’s emotional response if you have ensured that you are as emotionally prepared as possible yourself. 
So let’s talk. Here are five things to keep in mind today when talking to young people about the Holocaust: 

  1. Start slowly. In the beginning, keep it brief. If you go slowly and listen, young people will let you know how much information they want. Gradually introduce the topic using age-appropriate language and scenarios. Young children won’t understand geopolitics or statistics. Instead, start with concepts that relate to their everyday lives like bullying. It might be hard for a young person today to feel that events from eighty years ago have any relevance for them. Equally, the horrors are so great that it could be hard for them to grasp the facts in a real way. By talking about the effects of peer pressure or discussing their understanding of bullying and why people might be drawn to certain types of negative behavior, you can help make the issues relevant and relatable for them, and this can be a good way to gently open the wider subjects of the Holocaust. 
  2. Learn together. If the young person you are talking to has done their own research or has their own stories, be open to listening to them. To learn together, go to the library and look up books on the topic. Read stories about the Holocaust, both fiction and non-fiction, that are age appropriate. Here is a list of books from the Jewish Book Council for middle schoolers about the Holocaust. Visit a memorial museum or watch an age-appropriate documentary. 
  3. Be honest. Affirm the hard reality in an age-appropriate way. You don’t need to tell young people more than they need to know but don’t sugarcoat the truth, either. Young people are sensitive to evasion and will be reassured by straightforward honesty. It helps them feel more secure in a dangerous world if they feel they can trust you to tell them the truth.  
  4. Encourage engagement. Seek out organizations that focus on sharing survivor’s stories with the next generation and host events at your local schools and community centers. Another great way to educate young people is to bring them to a museum or exhibit focused on the Holocaust. 
  5. Expect to have more than a single conversation. As a young person grows, revisit the topic, adding age-appropriate details that are relevant to their lives at that time. Discussions will become easier the more practice you have. 

What has your experience been in remembering? 

Learn more about this day:  



Talking to young people about hard things:

A lot is happening in the world right now. And young people have a lot to feel and say about it all.

We have gathered resources for you to help start the conversation at home, in your classroom, and in your programs. To create space to connect. You don’t have to know the perfect thing to say, but our kids need us to reach out to them. They are processing so much violence, misinformation, and hatred online. They need safe spaces to ask questions, to feel their emotions and to know they are not alone.


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/going-beyond-intelligence/201811/how-should-you-talk-your-child-about-the-holocaust  
  2. https://www.scld.org/how-to-talk-with-children-about-the-holocaust-expert-tips-suggested-books/ 
  3. https://www.parents.com/kids/education/how-to-teach-your-children-about-the-holocaust/ 
  1. https://www.booktrust.org.uk/news-and-features/features/2021/january/five-tips-for-talking-to-young-people-about-the-holocaust/  

Camp Fire & AT&T Are a Part of the White House’s Improving Student Achievement Agenda in 2024

Sections from the original statement published on January 17th, 2024 on whitehouse.gov below.

The Biden-Harris Administration is announcing today its Improving Student Achievement Agenda for 2024, which is focused on proven strategies that will accelerate academic performance for every child in school. There is nothing more important to our future than ensuring children are equipped to compete in the 21st century. That’s why the Administration is laying out an agenda for academic achievement for every school in the country, using all of its tools—including accountability, reporting, grants, and technical assistance—to intensify its drive for adoption of three evidence-based strategies that improve student learning: (1) increasing student attendance; (2) providing high-dosage tutoring; and (3) increasing summer learning and extended or afterschool learning time.

Image of the statement on an iphone

Today, several philanthropic and national organizations are announcing commitments to support academic achievement. The Administration will continue to work with these kinds of organizations to further build on these commitments. Read about the commitments from the organizations below here: (see Camp Fire under AT&T!)

  • Afterschool Alliance
  • Attendance Works
  • AT&T
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  • Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
  • National PTA  
  • National Summer Learning Association
  • Overdeck Family Foundation
  • Parent Teacher Home Visits
  • Wallace Foundation
  • YMCA
  • Zearn

Read more about our partnership with AT&T here.

New, First-of-its-Kind Study: Creating Gender-Affirming Spaces at Summer Camp

Authored by Hannah Howard (she/her), Camp Fire National Evaluation Manager, and author of “Space for Identity Exploration: Through the Lens of Gender”

Our values are our North Star. They guide our strategic vision and our day-to-day work. We’ve been a values-led organization since 1910, and it’s what has allowed us to survive for 114 years and it’s what will help us continue to meet the current moment.

On our journey to inclusion, which includes a commitment to expanding spaces for young people to “simply be”, we sought to understand how the intentionality in which we create programs impacted participants. We asked the question,  

“What impact (if any) do gender-inclusive and gender-affirming measures have on young people, their caregivers, and their camp experience?” 

This question led to a year-long study at two of our camps, which engaged transgender and non-binary youth and their caregivers following their summer camp experience.  The result is this report, a product of the vulnerability and honesty the participants were willing to share with us. We are honored to share with you and the world today: the first-of-its-kind report around the impact of both physical spaces and psychological conditions that allow youth “to just be,” with an emphasis on identity and gender-affirming practices for transgender and non-binary young people.

Pages from the re[ort

We believe all young people deserve to belong and access opportunities to thrive, so we intentionally craft our Camp Fire programs and spaces in ways that make this possible. Inclusion, belonging, and thriving don’t just happen by accident – it takes a lot of thoughtfulness, attention, and work.

The Othering and Belonging Institute website says, “The concept of belonging describes more than a feeling of inclusion or welcome. Its full power is as a strategic framework for addressing ongoing structural and systemic othering, made visible, for example, in the wide disparities in outcomes found across a variety of sectors and identity groups.”

Camp Fire isn’t just implementing gender-affirming practices, we’re expanding opportunities for young people to exist in their fullness through any means necessary – looking at and updating our policies, practices, language, operations, and structures.

We believe this report is just the tip of the iceberg. Our goal and hope is to scale the research in the years to come and continue to learn and grow, while always centering youth voice. So Camp Fire can continue to best serve our incredible transgender and non-binary youth. 

Download the full report below.

Download the full report below.

Space for Identity Exploration: Through the Lens of Gender © 2024 by Camp Fire, is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International 

Six New Members Join Camp Fire’s National Board of Trustees to Kick Off 2024

KANSAS CITY, MO (Jan. 9, 2024)National inclusive youth development organization Camp Fire is proud to announce that it has added six new members to its National Board of Trustees from across the US: Christopher S. Moore, Terri Ferinde, Matthew Egan, Quincy Henry, Ann Sheets, and Jason Peterson.

“We are extremely excited about this dynamic group of individuals that span the worlds of youth development, HR, entrepreneurship, communications and marketing, and executive leadership, ” said Greg Zweber, Camp Fire National Headquarters CEO. “Coming through the impacts of COVID-19 and with recent investments from #startsmall, 3M, and AT&T, Camp Fire is at a pivotal time in its growth and development. Ann, Jason, Quincy, Matthew, Terri, and Christopher’s timing couldn’t be better: they will bring much-needed expertise and experience to the national board, which help us build on our momentum and prepare for future success.”

Meet this impressive group of leaders:

Christopher S. Moore is the Chief Executive Officer of FIRST, a global robotics community that prepares young people for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Chris has been a leading voice, advocate, and positive youth development champion for more than 15 years. Before his role at FIRST, Chris served as CEO of Positive Coaching Alliance, a youth sports training and content development organization, and the CEO of United States Youth Soccer Association, the largest youth sports organization in the country.

Christopher S. Moore

At both organizations, Chris led efforts to train millions of youth and amateur coaches and increase youth participation in recreational and competitive soccer programs worldwide, while transforming the lives of millions of youth, high school, and collegiate athletes. Before those roles, he was President and CEO of GENYOUTH.

Chris holds a B.A. in International Relations from Lake Forest College in Illinois and earned his MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is originally from Chicago but currently resides in the suburbs of Dallas, TX, with his wife of 23 years. They have two sons, one of whom is a second-year college student at the University of Texas in Austin, and the other is a high school senior.

Terri Ferinde

Terri Ferinde is a partner of Collaborative Communications where she supports organizations and ecosystems that ensure youth learn and thrive. Known for her work in afterschool systems building, she manages the 50 State Afterschool Network funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Terri was named one of the 25 most influential people in the afterschool sector by the National AfterSchool Association in 2014 and continues to connect people and organizations devoted to afterschool and summer learning.

At Collaborative, Terri leads teams that develop innovative solutions with extraordinary results and lasting impact, offering deep expertise in education, out-of-school time learning, and youth development with exceptional skills in media and engagement, organizational learning, events, and digital solutions. 

Terri is a Doctorate of Education candidate at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College focused on organizational leadership and learning. She holds a master’s degree from George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree from American University. She grew up in the shadow of Pikes Peak and now strives to be outdoors exploring mountains and lakes with her dogs whenever possible.

Matthew Egan is the Managing Director of Strategy, at global brand consultancy Siegel+Gale. In his work, he partners closely with clients across a range of industries to help them define, design, and deploy world-class brand experiences. Matt received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University. Father to Lila (age 18), Matt is a recent empty nester and lives in Chappaqua, New York.

Matthew Egan

Quincy Henry

Quincy Henry is the Co-Owner and CEO of Campfire Coffee in Tacoma, WA, an outdoor and coffee brand. He and his wife Whitni launched Campfire Coffee in March 2020. Before starting Campfire Coffee, he was once upon a time a Grammy-nominated musician and in his free time, executed marketing campaigns for everyone from Microsoft to REI and nonprofits around the Seattle area. His curiosity led him to a PhD in industrial and organizational psychology but everything led him back to the thing that he and Whitni enjoyed most: being in the outdoors with family and friends. They can often be found getting outside with their three kids who also love to camp, kayak, and hike.

Ann Sheets spent 43 years with Camp Fire First Texas, as camp director and Sr. Vice-President for Finance and Administration, then retiring after serving as President and CEO in 2020. She served as co-chair of Camp Fire’s Charter Task Force and currently serves as a member of the National Finance Committee. Her experience also includes numerous volunteer positions with the American Camp Association (ACA), including serving as national president and national treasurer. She is the author of The Business of Camp, ACA’s Guide to Staffing and ACA’s Guide to Financial Management and edited the 9th edition of Basic Camp Management.

Ann Sheets

Ann is a graduate of East Texas State University and George Williams College (GWC), now a part of Aurora University, where she is a member of the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee. She was recognized as a GWC Distinguished Alumna, was named the Non-profit CFO of the Year by the Fort Worth Business Press, and was honored with ACA’s Distinguished Service Award. She currently works with BT Consulting and is a member of the Fort Worth Rotary Club and an instructor in the TCU Silver Frogs program. She has two adult children and one grandson.

Jason Peterson

Jason Peterson leads a global team of 10 Talent Acquisition consultants and Talent Brand specialists for Entrust, a global leader in cybersecurity. In his role, he is responsible for team and individual development, organization onboarding of new hires, talent and workforce planning strategies, and perpetuating DEI efforts.

Jason lives outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota with his three children and wife of 26 years. He is passionate about youth development and has volunteered as a coach or player development leader for more than 10 years through local youth sports programs.

Welcome Matthew, Chris, Quincy, Ann, Terri, and Jason! We are excited to have your unique insights and leadership to guide Camp Fire in 2024 and beyond.



Growing up is hard. That’s why Camp Fire connects young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves. Founded in 1910, Camp Fire was the first nonsectarian, multiracial organization for girls but today is an inclusive national youth development nonprofit that serves all young people. By creating safe spaces where young people can have fun and be themselves, its 46 affiliates in 24 states provide affirming, year-round, youth-driven experiences—school day programs, afterschool programs, leadership programs, and camps and outdoor education—that enable youth to develop essential skills that have long-term benefits and make a positive social impact on the world. 

For more information please contact:

Erin K Risner, Director of Marketing & Communications, Camp Fire National Headquarters, 913.289.4773, erin.risner@campfire.org

Reconnection over Resolution

This January, we’re trying something new: We’re focusing on reconnection instead of resolutions. Our December National Leadership Conference theme was Camp Fire (re)Connects.  

Camp Fire’s mission is to connect young people to the outdoors, to others and to themselves. It takes regular recommitment to stay the connection course. NLC gave us an inspiration re-up right when we needed it, and we wanted to share a few of the stories that are recentering us in 2024.  

Connecting to the outdoors 

Our friends at Camp Fire Minnesota won this year’s NLC Connection to the Outdoors award for going above and beyond to open the outdoors to all kids. (See the other honorees here!) We’re in awe of the width, breadth and welcoming spirit of their outdoor programming. Particularly inspiring: 84 percent of their participants share that “because of Camp Fire, they want to take care of nature and planet Earth.”  

PreK-12 environmental education, after school explorations, summer camps, school break day camps in all seasons, Northwoods adventure trips, a nature immersion preschool, free online outdoor learning resources — they literally do not stop. Proof? In the winter, these folks cut cold plunge holes in Lake Minnewashta for their winter Sauna Camp! (Open to the public. Sign us up!)  

Laptop with the "free online outdoor learning resources" from Camp Fire Minnesota

We want to emulate Camp Fire Minnesota’s year-round outdoor enthusiasm and inclusive mindset. It might be tough for the hibernators among us, but we know the benefits of getting outdoors are too powerful to let a little weather get in the way. So we’re committing to more winter outdoor time! 

Reconnection challenge: How many times per week can you get outside this winter? Set the bar low: Just walking around the block counts as outdoor time! Bundle up, invite the young people in your life, and go!    

Connecting to others 

At NLC, we also got an update on a new partnership with Playworks called Tag Team. Designed to support kids during the school day, Camp Fire Heartland and Camp Fire Alaska have been piloting the program of evidenced-based recess strategies to rave reviews. The goal? Play.  

Why? “Kids who play are resilient, empathetic, and active,” says Playworks. We believe it! Tag Team uses the Playworks playbook (ha!) to foster fun (and, oh, right, teach valuable SEL skills). Research says high-quality recesses boost students’ executive functioning, emotional self-control, resilience and positive classroom behavior. Educators report that Playworks help students learn cooperation, demonstrate empathy and connect to their peers.   

Which makes us ask: If recess can connect kids at school, can it connect…us…anywhere? Playworks has an extensive, searchable free game library online. What would happen if we instituted grown-up recess? We’re game to find out! (See what we did there?)  

Reconnection challenge: Do you set aside playtime with your friends, family, and/or co-workers? How can you bring more play — and connection — into your life? 

Connecting to ourselves 

NLCers got to hear from John Hamilton, Alliance for Camp Health’s Chief Strategy and Engagement Officer, on the organization’s mental, emotional and social health framework. The aim of mesh(+) is to “integrate the mind, nature, and spirituality with individual character development and communal engagement.” We dig it. 

ACH has a variety of mesh(+) resources available, including training for community builders, learning modules for out-of-school time program developers, pocket guides for camp staff and counselors, and more.  

Image of the free Mesh+ resource guide

Bonus: Some mesh(+) fundamentals got us thinking about how we can reconnect to ourselves, too. In ACH’s (free) mesh resource guide, they cover how to help campers meet their basic needs. Food, water, sunscreen and bugspray? Nope. These are the true essentials:  

  • Power: learning skills, knowing your impact, giving and receiving specific praise, recognizing effort, trying stuff, contributing answers 
  • Freedom: Having choice, space, flexibility and options 
  • Love and Belonging: Listening and being listened to, validating emotions, offering and receiving care, seeing and being seen, interacting calmly and with kindness 
  • Fun: Variety, games, storytelling, creativity, exploration, music, celebration 

We’re not only doing a gut check on whether Camp Fire is offering power, freedom, love/belonging and fun to young people but questioning…are we offering them to ourselves?  

Reconnection challenge: Are you low on power, freedom, love/belonging or fun in your life? What changes can you make to give yourself more of these basic needs?  

What are you reconnecting with in 2024? Connect with a Camp Fire affiliate near you

Alumni Story: A soldier in Vietnam and a girl wrote letters. Decades later, they finally met.

Camp Fire was on the front page of the Washington Post – and it was for a really cool reason!

“Col. Ned Edward Felder was serving in Vietnam when he was surprised by a care package from a stranger. It wasn’t the contents that touched him; it was the idea that someone had taken the trouble to send it. Alone in the midst of a war thousands of miles from his own home and family, the kindness felt enormous.

Kristina Olson, a shy 12-year-old girl who had knocked on neighbors’ doors in Michigan to ask for donations to send to soldiers as part of a Camp Fire group, was just as surprised, and delighted, when she saw that a stranger had taken the time to write a thank-you note for the gift.

So, she wrote back.

And thus, in 1967, began an unlikely friendship, an exchange of letters that spanned years, continents, and deep cultural divides.”

Read the full article at WashintonPost.com