Thursday, December 18, 2014

Olympian vision for Girl Scout camp


Girl Scouts Bailey Thompson, left, and Kinsey Center face off in a game of sword tag on Monday, the first day of the annual Davis Girl Scout Day Camp in Slide Hill Park. The camp's theme is based on the popular Percy Jackson books — a series by author Rick Riordan full of Greek gods and monsters.Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

From page A1 | July 09, 2014 |

Behind every Davis teen doing something exceptional invariably stands an adult or two who help make exceptional possible.

Sometimes it’s a parent or a teacher, and sometimes it’s someone like longtime Girl Scout leader Brenda Cameron.

Cameron has served as director of the popular Davis Girl Scout Day Camp since 2008, and before that as an adult volunteer and registrar.

The weeklong camp takes place every summer at the Girl Scout Cabin in Slide Hill Park, drawing as many as 100 Girl Scouts between the ages of 6 and 12 from the greater Sacramento area for a week of fun activities, including a traditional Thursday night camp-out in the park.

The camps — which have taken place for decades — are organized around a new theme each year, with previous camps having focused on everything from sports to science and one year, Harry Potter.

As director, Cameron not only oversees the campers and activities, she also supervises as many as three dozen program aides — young teens who help run the activities.

For the past few years, Jasmine Casillas and Amelia Otto Cutting have served as two of those program aides, giving Cameron a chance to get to know them and what they are capable of.

So when Casillas and Otto Cutting approached Cameron during last year’s camp with an idea for a theme for the 2014 activities, she listened.

The two wanted to organize the camp around the Percy Jackson books — a series by author Rick Riordan full of Greek gods and monsters.

“We both like Percy Jackson and Greek mythology,” Otto Cutting explained this week, “and thought it would be really fun.”

Cameron’s response: Bring me ideas for activities.

There would have to be enough for a full week of camp and appropriate and entertaining for girls entering second through sixth grades.

“That night we came up with 16 activities,” Casillas said.

She even drew up sketches for the camp T-shirt.

They returned to Cameron the next day with their ideas, Otto Cutting said, and Cameron was satisfied.

But before she could put the organizing and planning for the 2014 Davis day camp in the hands of two then-15-year-olds, she had to get the OK from the area Girl Scout Council, Otto Cutting said, because regulations required that program directors be adults.

Following Cameron’s appeal, the council agreed to let the girls serve as program directors, with the proviso that Cameron would oversee their efforts.

Next up: Casillas and Otto Cutting needed to attend a day of program director training — a training full of adults.

“We were the two awkward teenagers in the room,” laughed Otto Cutting.

Then came a year of planning for Camp Olympus, mixed in, of course, with everything else the life of a Davis teenager includes: martial arts, robotics and track and field for Da Vinci High student Otto Cutting and cross country, piano and Advanced Treble Choir for Davis High student Casillas.

The scheduling was the toughest part, Cameron said, as finding time to meet with the girls when she wasn’t working and they weren’t in school or at their various after-school activities proved challenging.

In the beginning, they met monthly, Casillas said, then weekly, and in the past few weeks, nearly daily.

“We’re still working on it,” Casillas said with a laugh on Monday, just hours before camp was to start.

Along the way they came up with many ideas for activities and had to ditch a few as well, simply because they weren’t feasible.

But they were excited about the final plans. Activities this week were to include everything from a quest — a big part of the Percy Jackson books — to a chariot race.

As a student at Pioneer Elementary School, Otto Cutting made a chariot in sixth grade for the school’s Roman festival and knew she could still get her hands on it. The girls found another family hanging on to a chariot and, just like that, two chariots were had for racing.

Other planned activities included capture the flag, making clay beads, an Olympic Games obstacle course and, of course, a quest.

“I’m really excited for the quest,” Otto Cutting said.

Campers will be divided into teams of three and given cards with clues that will lead to more cards with clues with the goal of eventually finding Aphrodite’s golden flower.

Thursday night will be the camp’s traditional camp-out and sleepover, complete with stargazing through telescopes, a dance party and, of course, s’mores.

Cameron said her role all along has been to serve as an adviser to the girls, walking them through the development and implementation of their plan and serving as a sort of liaison with the council.

“I had faith in them and it’s been great,” she said Monday.

For their part, Casillas and Otto Cutting were practically giddy about seeing all of their efforts come to fruition as camp was about to get underway on Monday.

“It was a lot of work, but not overwhelming,” Casillas said, “because it was spread out through the year.”

“It’s been a great experience,” added Otto Cutting.

And now some 70 campers are enjoying the fruits of their labors, immersed for the week in the world of Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy



Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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