Scouting the Future

For the past fifteen years, my three daughters and I have been active Girl Scouts. Over the years, many have questioned us about our decision to remain involved. We’ve heard every excuse to leave: Girl Scouts isn’t pro-life; Girl Scouts exploits girls through the sale of cookies; Girl Scouts only cares about making money; Girl Scouts is too time-consuming; Girl Scouts doesn’t care about the girls or the volunteers; Boy Scouts is better; and so on.

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Rebecca takes a break on the paddle board.

This past week, my three girls and I spent seven full days at the Girl Scout campground closest to our home where I am the director of a week-long summer camp, and my girls are all counselors. Rebecca ran the boating program, Katie worked with the high-ropes and zip line course, Morgan assisted with a Brownie program, and I spent the week running the camp for the twelfth year. This camp is the number one reason why we continue to be a part of Girl Scouts, and it fully exemplifies every good thing about the organization that everyone overlooks. If you find that hard to believe, I’d like to share with you some of the responses from our post-camp surveys.

My daughter loved…

“the camp fire and s’mores.  Loved learning to kayak and paddle board. I love all the new experiences she gets to have and all the new friends she meets.”

“finding her independence.”

“having independence and opportunities to do things she can’t at other camps”

“learning things she can’t learn or do anywhere else.”

“No electronics!!”

“Wonderful, caring staff.”

“that the counselors and PAs are helpful, the friendships I make there, the new skills I learn”

“Being with girls/women who are leaders”

“the flag retirement ceremony”

“I love that they get to experience new things and spend time away from electronics! They enjoy all of the girls and staff. They enjoy learning and doing new things.”

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A 10-year-old girl took this!

I could share dozens more, but you get the point. Girl Scouts, the organization, may have its problems, but from what I’ve seen over the past year or so, they truly are trying to fix the problems. It will never be perfect, but neither will I. One thing I do believe with my whole heart is that, without people like those who volunteer for our camp – not a single one of us is paid to work in the 100-degree, humid, often-stormy camp, filled with sand and dirt and bugs – the organization will never, ever be able to obtain the vision that Juliette Gordon Low had for it. Without camps such as ours that exist entirely to build up girls and create women of courage, confidence, and character, where can these future leaders go to build their self-esteem, learn new skills, enjoy the outdoors, and learn how they can make a lasting impact on their community and the world.

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Climbing to new heights

I’ve observed girls grow from silly, unfocused, little girls into responsible young woman able to lead successful programs as high school students. I’ve seen an autistic child find a real friend who didn’t care one bit that her new friend was “different.” I’ve watched my own daughters blossom into leaders, unafraid to try new things, speak out, and take charge. I’ve seen middle and high school girls who, for one week, don’t care about makeup or hairstyles or impressing boys, but care about making friends, learning to build a birdhouse (using the power tools needed to do it), identifying birds and trees and plants, mastering a kayak or paddle board, conquering their fear of heights, and helping homesick girls feel comfortable and happy.

There’s nothing like the feeling you have when you go from learning to sew your first stitch to completing a whole lap quilt in one week’s time,

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A nine-year-old made this in one week!

or when you get your first bullseye on the archery range,

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My niece with her first bullseye

or when you perform a skit for 170 people that you wrote yourselves, or when you when you reunite with your “camp best friends” after one or fifteen years.

38125773_10217343154476313_1215761222654230528_nWe strive to be honorable, to serve God by saying grace before meals, to serve our country and our community through multiple service projects throughout the week, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law. We recite the Girl Scout Promise and the Pledge of Allegiance every day. We respect our flag and, in the words of the late, great Johnny Cash, “we raise her up every morning. We take her down every night. We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right.”

I’ve heard many people, over the years, wonder what their true calling is. What is it that God wants them doing with their lives? While writing is the gift that I believe God has given me to share with the world, I strongly feel that running this camp, meeting these people, helping these girls to grow and become the women they were meant to be, is my true calling in life. And what’s more pro-life and pro-woman than that?

There may be those who have their problems with Girl Scouts, but I will continue doing my part to help the organization be something that would make Juliette Gordon Low proud of the institution she created. After all, in her own words,

“The work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.”

― Juliette Gordon Low

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

150 Reasons To Go

DSC01354I hate driving in Baltimore.  Please don’t take offense. It’s not the city itself.  It’s the multitude of one-way streets.  Even when relying on my GPS, I always seem to get twisted around no matter where I’m going.  Give me DC any day with its wagon wheel street design, every spoke emanating out from the beautiful white dome of the Capitol with states going in one direction and letters in the other.  Now that’s a city in which I can find my way around.  Even if I get lost, I know I’m never truly lost and can easily find the way out.  I have a very hard time finding one good reason to drive in Baltimore.  However, tomorrow, I will find 150 reasons.

Tomorrow I will attend the State of Maryland Camp Director’s Training.  Though I’ve been a camp director for nine years now, I have never made it downtown for the training.  This year, however, there are several crucial changes in the healthcare laws, so I must make the trek into the city to learn how to properly construct the necessary forms.  So for the benefit of the one-hundred girls and the fifty staff members that attend Summer Roundup, I will boldly take on the streets of Charm City.

If you have never attended an overnight summer camp or have never volunteered for one, you couldn’t possibly understand the lengths to which I would go for the group of people I consider my second family.  My own daughters and I have been attending Roundup for twelve years now.  My girls have all three progressed from first year campers as Brownies or Daisies to know-it-all Cadettes to Teen Camp Aides, and for the second year in a row, one Adult Staff.  I have watched them go from knowing nothing about camping or rowing or shooting an arrow to teaching younger girls how to pitch a tent, paddle a kayak, or hit a bullseye.  I have seen girls cry their eyes out for four nights straight, and then a few years later, console and tuck into bed a new camper pining for home.  I have staff members who were once Roundup campers themselves and are now attending with their own daughters.

There is something so special about an all-volunteer camp that it’s hard to put it into words. I’m sure that high-priced, fancy summer camps with fully paid staff and college kids making enough money to buy a car are a lot of fun.  But nothing can compare to the heart and soul that is put into a camp by people who are there for no other reason than they love the camp.  There is a feeling that each person, camper and adult alike, takes home from camp that never leaves them.  It is that feeling that leaves all of us counting down until the next year when we will see each other again.

I highly encourage everyone to send your child to an all-volunteer camp.  Don’t do it because they are by far the least expensive camps.  Don’t do it because it’s a way to keep the kids busy for one week of the summer or to get them out of your hair.  Don’t even do it because their friends are going to camp.  Do it because it will be a week they will never forget, a week without phones or television or video games, a week of learning about nature and survival, and a week of learning about themselves.  But before you send them, I ask you to think about this, what are you doing for that week?  It’s just one week.  You’ll survive.  You might even learn something about yourself.  So go ahead, fill out that form for your child, and while you’re at it, fill out one for yourself.  It will be an experience you will never forget and will never regret.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com