This is the time of year when many of us reflect on all that we’re thankful for. In keeping with that, I’m devoting my December blog to what we’re thankful for at Camp Fire. As Camp Fire professionals, parents, alums, youth participants, and supporters of all kinds, we see the impact on young people every day. And that is reason enough to give thanks.
At Camp Fire, we’re thankful that:

  • Luther and Charlotte Gulick established the first nonsectarian organization for girls (now males and females) in 1910 to help young people learn how to lead full and meaningful lives – with no societal barriers or limitations.
  • All who came before us in this movement held fast to those principles and built upon them, based on the times in which they lived.
  • After nearly 10 years of research, the concept that all kids can thrive is no longer just an assumption or a hope – it is a research- and evidence-based framework for how the adults in a young person’s life need to engage with them over time.
  • Camp Fire is the first among youth development organizations to take the Thrive theory of change to practice across our council network and make it real. It is the 21st century framework that holds true to our firmly planted, 105-year-old roots.
  • Dedicated staff and volunteers work daily with young people and their families – bringing their sparks, their dreams, and their goals to life.
  • There are so many who have supported Camp Fire over time and continue to do so. Their belief in what we do and, more important, how we do it enables us to carry our founding legacy forward for today’s kids and their families.

Camp Fire’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is not a new phenomenon – it goes back to our roots and is as fundamental as our belief in the value and potential of every young person. And it is that final point that gives me hope for the future. Stick with me on this. Daily, we are reminded of the state of our declining relationships – be they interpersonal in our own lives or broadcast on the news. It’s not for me or for Camp Fire to take a position on the specifics of any media headline. But at the heart of our programming are the proven concepts that, first, every kid needs three champions to thrive: family, school, and community. And second, the kids who thrive are those who have hope for their present and future. They’re the ones who have come to know who they are and their unique value in the world; and they have learned how to set and achieve their goals. When any part of that breaks down, regardless of the reason, we know that young person will struggle more to succeed.

Sadly, that system is too often caught in a perpetual loop. Adults are a cyclical product of the presence or absence of these three champions and have either thrived over time or gotten “stuck,” for whatever reason. In particular, when an abiding respect for diversity and inclusion are not infused from an early age, each of us and our communities struggle more in our attempts to thrive.

Now back to the hope I have for the future – because that’s where Camp Fire breaks the cycle. It’s also an opportunity to be grateful for the life-altering progress we’re creating across the country. Of course, change takes time. But over time, with each of us working together, the legacy of Camp Fire’s proven methods for youth and family engagement can and will change the face of our relationships with one another.

Joel Martin, PhD, someone whom I admire deeply, once said that “diversity is difference and inclusion is how the differences between people are embraced.” I know we’re all thankful that every day, thousands of young people across this country are embraced through their Camp Fire experiences for their differences as much as for their similarities. We can’t solve the biggest issues facing our society, but we do have a role as one of the leading community champions every young person – and their family – needs in order to thrive.

Edward Everrett Hale said it best: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

Happy Holidays One and All. I am personally thankful for each of you.

Cathy Tisdale
President & CEO
Camp Fire