From lonely kid to lifelong friends: One Camp Fire alum/historian’s story

Lorrie Scott

As her home camp Camp Sealth celebrates its 100th year, alumnus Lorrie Scott is looking back over her own six decades of dedication to Camp Fire. Lorrie has filled practically every role available to Camp Fire devotees: childhood member, adult leader, council board member, volunteer, staff member, conference instructor, and more. And she’s carved out a special niche as the volunteer coordinator of Camp Fire Central Puget Sound’s museum archives.

In the 1970s, some of the council’s older volunteers had started to organize, code and classify the council’s many boxes of photographs and historical materials. One volunteer invited Lorrie to see their progress. “I went in there, and I was hooked!” Lorrie says. “I was 35, so they used me to lift all the heavy boxes. I wanted to see everything, touch everything!” She joined their efforts and never looked back.

Now, Lorrie heads a committee of about a dozen other local Camp Fire history buffs. Right now, they don’t have a permanent home for exhibits, but they can bring mobile displays to events and different council locations. The historical archives live at Camp Sealth. Three years ago, they received a grant that helped them buy archival storage boxes to better preserve items like ceremonial gowns. Lorrie’s team is now cataloguing, digitizing and attempting to identify thousands of photographs.

Want to help Camp Fire Central Puget Sound put names to faces in their museum archive materials? Contact Lorrie:

Lorrie knows that every photograph holds stories of how Camp Fire has changed the lives of its members. Her own Camp Fire tale? It’s all about belonging. 

Lorrie’s early school days were lonely. She missed part of her kindergarten year due to severe illness. For first grade, her overcrowded district bussed her to another school, where she didn’t know anyone. Late in the school year, a Camp Fire leader came to the class to hand out brochures. 

“There was a picture of a lonely, sad little girl,” remembers Lorrie. “I thought, that’s me!” The brochure also showed a group of happy girls in Camp Fire uniforms. Lorrie wanted that kind of friendship.

She took the brochure home, her mother filled it out, and, just like that, Lorrie found her place.

The next year was filled with Camp Fire activities: group meetings, tea parties, quilt-making sessions, crafting cradles for Christmas gifts. 

“I still have that brochure,” says Lorrie.

By third grade, Lorrie’s mother had become her Camp Fire group’s leader, and Lorrie continued to expand her Camp Fire involvement. By high school, she was in one of Seattle-King County’s many Horizons Clubs, with thousands of members in clubs spread out over multiple districts. One year, the high school officers chose Vietnam as the focus for their service work. They found out about a Seattle native, Dr. Patricia Smith, who needed bandages for the hospital she started in the Kontum region of Vietnam. 

“We went and got sheets, everywhere we could find sheets, took the seams out, cut them in 2 or 3-inch wide strips, rolled them into bandages really tightly, and fit them into coffee cans,” Lorrie remembers. “And we sent thousands of these to Vietnam. [Dr. Smith] needed them, and she kept asking for more.”    

Lorrie says this project made her more aware of the war she saw playing out on the nightly news. Camp Fire service projects kick-started her lifelong commitment to helping others. “If there is a volunteer need, I do it,” says Lorrie, who has given her time to the Goodwill Games, Bikes 4 Humanity and as a docent for a local lighthouse. 

Lorrie receiving her WoHeLo

Another way Camp Fire altered the trajectory of her life was the nudge it gave her to continue her education. Lorrie was determined to become a camp counselor after high school. At that time, there was a requirement that counselors had to have a year of college under their belts. But college wasn’t an expectation in her family. Neither of her parents and none of her relatives had gone to college, and many hadn’t finished high school, either.

“I was not going to miss being a camp counselor!” says Lorrie. “I knew I was going to college from the time I was in sixth grade.”

So Lorrie majored in recreation and spent her summers working at Camp Fire camps in Washington and Ohio, where she had visited during a camp exchange program in high school. In her adult life, Camp Fire continued to claim a large part of her time and heart. She’s done everything from running day camps to teaching self-reliance classes. She took on leadership roles and pitched in where necessary. She’s been in both paid and volunteer positions. “At that point, I didn’t really care, as long as I was involved!” Lorrie says. “Whatever came up, I’d give it a try.”

Now she hopes to pass on Camp Fire values to her grandchildren, two of whom are in the group Lorrie leads now. Lorrie knows the experiences they have now will have a big impact on their futures. After all, the friends she made in Camp Fire group are still her friends today; they stay in touch on Facebook and with regular meet-ups. 

“Even though group programs were our strength and backbone, those of us who stayed really, really close met at camp,” Lorrie says. “We still get together three or four times a year, sing our songs around the campfire and remember those we’ve lost.

I just think: Wow. I’m part of this group of people who have lasted together over 50 years!” 

Growth Mindset: Your Key to Thriving

Teens embody a growth mindset on the high ropes course at Camp Fire Columbia’s Camp Namanu, outside of Portland, Oregon, in August 2017

Do you believe people can change? Do you think we can grow? Do you consider things like intelligence, talents and skills prizes of a random genetic lottery or qualities anybody can develop with time and tenacity?

Camp Fire is built around the belief that we can boost our smarts, develop new skills (or lose them if we don’t practice) and learn new ways to, well, learn.

In the Camp Fire world, mistakes aren’t failures; they are an important part of how we grow.

This approach to life and learning is called a growth mindset, and it permeates Camp Fire’s culture.

In the words of Stanford’s Dr. Carol Dweck, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

Love of learning? Check. Resilience? Yep. We’re all about that. Once kids and teens have found their sparks, a growth mindset arms them with the curiosity and grit to develop them.

How do you know if you have a growth mindset? As yourself a few simple questions (or take Dr. Dweck’s in-depth quiz, if you have more time).

If you nodded yup to 2 and 4, you’re working that growth mindset like a boss. If you answered yeah, probably to 1 and 3, you are likely operating out of a fixed mindset.

  1. When you describe your own skills and talents, do you generally say they are things you were born with…
  2. …or things you worked hard to develop?
  3. When you run into a challenge, do you often blame the problem on a personal lack (“I’m just not creative”)…
  4. …or get curious about what you could change to find a solution?

A fixed mindset is the opposite of a growth mindset. It assumes intelligence and talents are innate: you either have them or you don’t. If we don’t question that mindset, we’re left feeling anxious that we don’t have what it takes to overcome obstacles…and can’t do anything to change those deficiencies.

Fortunately, neuroscience shows us that our brains are malleable. Our brains grow when we use them—just like our muscles. We can teach ourselves to adopt a growth mindset, just like any other skill. We can change! That’s good news because having a growth mindset is scientifically linked to all kinds of great stuff, including higher parental school involvement, the ability to weather traumatic events, and lower rates of childhood depression and anxiety.

We’re going to spend September exploring growth mindsets here on the blog and across our social media accounts. Follow along and join in the #growthmindset conversation!

The Power of Naming the Spark

“I see a spark as something that inspires you to grow, and something that inspires you to help other people around you grow.”

These are wise words from Spencer, a Camp Fire counselor. We love this story: Spencer saw a spark in his camper Trey. Naming it changed Trey and their whole cabin community.

Some other things we can learn from Spencer and Trey’s story:

  • Sparks can be social and emotional skills like Trey’s: making other people feel like they belong.
  • Sparks are for using and encouraging now. Sure, Trey is thinking about how he’s going to use his spark in a future career, but his present life is bigger, fuller and happier because he’s using it today.
  • Naming someone’s spark is powerful stuff. Trey says a key moment in his life was when Spencer both called out his spark and suggested an immediate way to develop it.

Still not convinced? See what science has to say. Here is a cool infographic with 16 benefits of Sparks!

This is what Camp Fire is all about. If your spark is similar to Trey’s—if you love to include and inspire others—we want to meet you! Volunteer at a Camp Fire near you. And if you know a kid who is still looking for their passion, sign them up to find their spark at a local Camp Fire.