Belle Gates, a Gold Award Girl Scout and a 2018 Girl Scout Ambassador, noticed that over the years, day camps in her community had changed from week-long events to weekend outings.
Gates, who loved attending day camps as a child, saw a need for more traditional camp programming for Girl Scouts. At the same time, she also wanted the girls to realize they could be leaders and plan events for themselves and others.
“When I was younger I would lead events as a program aide,” said Gates. “That’s when I started seeing I can plan events, I can do this, I can do this myself. I wanted to bring up a new generation of girl [leaders].”
That goal would take time and money. After dreaming about starting a day camp for about five years, Gates was finally able to create and host the first Girl Scout DIY Day Camp during the summer of 2017. She paid for the camp solely from funds she earned during Girl Scout Cookie season that year.
Gates recruited Girl Scout Cadettes (girls in grades six through eight) to serve as program aides during the camp week, with adult volunteers present to fulfill safety ratios. The program aides led the younger Girl Scouts from activity to activity and taught them how to do crafts and sing Girl Scout songs. The program was so well received its first year that Gates planned to hold the camp a second year.
She would need more money, however. Aside from cookie proceeds, Gates reached out to the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians (GSCSA) and applied for the Joyce Maienschein Leadership Grant. Gates’ project was approved, and she was granted $250 to use for the camp.
The second year, she included the program aides even more in planning, making decisions, setting up and taking down the activities, and more. The girls who attended got to make windchimes, photo holders, watercolors, suncatchers, STEM experiments, and so much more!
“My favorite thing about camp this year is to watch [the program aides’] development and how much they grew this year in their roles, and how they dealt with the kids; [it] was amazing,” said Roni Gray, Girl Scout volunteer and lead adult volunteer at DIY Day Camp. “This is a good experience for all these girls.”
Each day after the day camp ended, Gates planned a time called Twilight Camp for her and the program aides to bond, talk about the day, make the crafts for themselves, and prepare for the next day.
“[Being a program aide has] driven me closer to being what I wanted to be: a leader,” said Lola, a Girl Scout program aide. “Now I’m not that girl that just follows, I’m that girl who leads.”