My Experience at Skills and Chills: The Girl Scout Difference

[This is a guest post written by council staff member Chelsea Cummins]

Even though I’ve worked at Girl Scouts of Western New York for nearly a year, Skills and Chills was the first opportunity I’ve had to attend a true Girl Scouting event. Co-workers told me how much fun I would have, but honestly I wasn’t really prepared for how right they’d be in the end.

For those who aren’t aware, Skills and Chills is an annual event held at Camp Seven Hills. While it is a GSWNY program, it’s completely run by volunteers. It’s the third of our Outdoor Progression series, following Tents Up for Daisies and Brownies and Ready Set Camp for Juniors and Cadettes. The first two focus on the skills you need to compete in Skills and Chills.

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A glimpse of the teams after breakfast

When I arrived Saturday morning, I was immediately blown away. There were more than 200 people buzzing with excitement in the dining hall. Girls were dressed in costumes ranging from custom labels on a shirt to a full-on lumberjack outfit complete with a drawn on beard. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face.

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A team called the “Lucky Lemurs” passing the time together

The atmosphere didn’t change despite the long day spent outside. It was hard not to feel good around a group of people who were just so enthusiastic about what they were doing. And I’m not just talking about the girls competing.

I’ve seen a lot of volunteers who just show up and do what they need to do at an event. They’re more preoccupied with when it ends than really focusing on the kids in attendance. I didn’t come in expecting this level of apathy, but I assumed it would be a similar feeling of I can’t wait until this ends.

To all our Girl Scout volunteers, I’m so sorry I underestimated you.

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This volunteer drew faces for all the log sawing competitors, going as in-depth as they requested

What I found from the adults in attendance was something truly special. They were just all, without exception, so encouraging. The ones dressed up were just as into it as the members of their team.

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The two on the left dressed as Cruella de Vil and her henchman are leaders

The ones judging the events never looked exasperated for frustrated, even if a team was taking a long time to complete their task. They patiently watched and offered words of support. When acceptable, they gave little pieces of advice to help the girls without compromising the competition. It was clear they were having just as much fun.

I spent time listening to volunteers in certain areas and it was hard to leave. They guided the girls through and cared about their learning. Skills and Chills is a competition, but it’s clear it’s still a learning experience. It doesn’t matter if a girl has practiced for an event or this is her first day, the volunteers remained happy to guide however possible.

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This volunteer guided all the girls through the different knot knowledge they should have and spent the time after going over what they weren’t sure of and showing proper techniques

Because my experience as a Girl Scout lasted less than one year, I thought about interactions I’d had in similar situations as a child. It’s not like every volunteer I’d encountered was negative, but none stuck with me quite like the helpers at Skills and Chills.

 

As the day continued, I didn’t hear the girls becoming frustrated with each other. They didn’t get mad at teammates when something didn’t go as well as  they’d hoped. The spirit of competition was prominent, but it never affected how they interacted with each other. No one was cutthroat or tried to puff themselves up. It was simply a group of girls doing their best, trying to win, but most importantly having a blast.

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Girl Scout team members helping each other out

I believe in the Girl Scout Difference, but I haven’t always. I tried Girl Scouts when I was young but moved on quickly. Like too many people, I assumed they were all about crafts and cookies. Even when I was first hired, I told people I was conflicted about working here because I didn’t really believe in the organization.

It’s laughable how far I’ve come in a year. Actually, it only took about a day to realize Girl Scouts was so much more than I imagined.

Now I’m so into Girl Scouts I’ve signed up my niece and convinced my sister to become a co-leader. I’ve seen firsthand the impact of Girl Scouts and I want them both to experience the difference. I want my sister to help lead girls and watch her daughter grow. I want my niece to develop friendships in a space without competition and pressure. I want her to see that no matter what the world tells her, she’s capable of greatness in any area she wants.

I’ve believed in the Girl Scout Difference for awhile, but if I had any doubts, Skills and Chills erased them all. Never in my life have I experienced something like it, where the girls felt safe to succeed and fail and the volunteers cared about encouraging and making every girl feel important.

People are busy and there are other activities, but I know Girl Scouts is the best option for your girl. She gets to do a bit of everything and set herself up for a lifetime of leadership and success. Nothing is more important, because here’s the thing: we know success looks different for everyone. We don’t want to force your girl to do something she doesn’t want to or feels like she has to. We care that she finds her thing and never looks back.

That’s what motivates me every day at my job. That’s the Girl Scout Difference.

2019 Camp Theme Contest

Calling all Girl Scouts in Western New York: We need your help! We’ve already started planning for another exciting camp season, but we’re missing something important – your suggestions! We want to know what YOU think this year’s camp theme should be!

We know you love getting outdoors as much as we do so we want to hear your thoughts!

Last year, our theme was Camp Like a G.I.R.L. and that great idea came from a Girl Scout in our council. We know there’s more brilliance out there and we want to make your great idea shine!

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You can submit one to three ideas for the 2019 Summer Camp Theme Contest for your chance to win a 2019 Camp Hoodie. You’ll even get your photo taken as the mastermind behind this year’s theme. In order to be considered, you have to get your suggestion in by October 10 at noon.

Creativity is calling…how will you answer?

(see what we did there – it’s like our Camp is Calling theme from a few years ago)

Submit your ideas now!

Girl Scouts Go Outside: The Girl Scout Difference

Girl Scouts don’t go outside. That’s the major difference between Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, right? Boys go camping while girls sell cookies.

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For all the seasoned Girl Scouts out there, you know how ridiculous that is. First of all, we don’t just sell cookies. Cookie season is about more than everyone getting their fill of their favorite cookies. It’s the largest girl-run business IN THE WORLD. Through it, the girls learn goal-setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.

Second of all, Girl Scouts go outside. A lot.

The Girl Scout Leadership Experience has four pillars: STEM, life skills, entrepreneurship, and outdoors. Going outdoors is so important to us that it forms one quarter of our foundation. At Girl Scouts of Western New York, we make sure there’s plenty of outdoor programming for our girls.

Summer Camp

We have three different sites where girls can attend programming over the summer, not including our volunteer run Camp Windy Meadows in Niagara County. Whether girls decide to go to resident camp at Camp Seven Hills or Camp Timbercrest or day camp at Camp Piperwood, we have options throughout the council to make sure all our girls can go to camp.

Troop Camping

Whether you choose S.P.P Camping or Core Camping, we have options for our troops. We even offer troop camping training so our co-leaders are ready to take their girls out!

Outdoor Progression Series

Through our Outdoor Progression Series, Girl Scouts can start at the Daisy level and move through a three-level system to become master campers. Each level is designed to teach new outdoor skills until the girls compete in Skills and Chills at the Ambassador level!

Trailblazer Program Series

Similar to our Outdoor Progression Series, this takes girls from Daisies through Brownies and teaches them the skills they need for safe hiking and backpacking. Volunteers are invited too!

Camp Adventure Club

If a Girl Scout wants even more outdoor experiences, she can join Camp Adventure Club for more opportunities like practicing the seven skills of Leave No Trace, learning more outdoor skills, and forming lifelong friendships.

Ropes Challenge Course

Starting at Challenge 1, all levels are welcome to participate. At Challenge 2, it begins with second year Brownies and beyond. From Challenge 3-5, it’s only Juniors through Ambassadors.

These are just the group and series activities. All year long our council is active in a number of other programs, like Me and My Favorite Gal Overnight, Archery Clinic, Earthworks Intro to Winter Wilderness Survival, and more! Check out our 2018-19 Program Guide to learn more about how Girl Scouts get outside!

Summer Camp Recap 2018

Getting outdoors is one of our platforms at Girl Scouts, so naturally we’re always excited when camp season rolls around. This year did not leave us disappointed. We saw so many girls attend all three of our camps – Piperwood, Timbercrest, and Seven Hills – and provided them with fun and educational sessions.

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While we don’t have the space to share all of our amazing stories from our five sessions, we wanted to provide some of the highlights for you. For a more in depth look at our resident camps, check out the Camp Timbercrest blog and Camp Seven Hills blog.

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Camp Piperwood

Session 1, The Great Outdoors: July 2-6

See Photos from Session 1

Session 2, Healthy is the Name and Staying Fit is the Game: July 9-13

See Photos from Session 2

Session 3, Art in the Outdoors and Rising Star: July 16-20

Session 4, Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance and Rising Star: July 23-27

Session 5, Science Wonders and Dog Days of Summer: July 30-August 3

Session 6, Citizen Scientist to the Rescue and a Little Bit of Both: August 6-10

See Photos from Session 6

[Please note: There are less photos from Piperwood than the other camps because at our resident camps, it’s camp staff who take the pictures and upload the blogs. Our Camp Piperwood photos come from Council staff]

Camp Seven Hills

Session 1: July 8-13

Pony Pals; Silly Scientists; Be Happy, Relax, and Namaste; Camp Adventure Girl; Climbing Masters; Long Rein, Free Walk; A Little at a Time Mini Session; G.I.R.L. Tough; Riders Up; Seven Hills Amazing Race; Escape Artists

Photos from Session 1

Session 2: July 15-20

Zoologist; A Horse of Course; Camp Like a G.I.R.L.; Climbing Masters Two; GIRLbots; Secret Agent Girl; Sneak-a-Peak Mini Session; A Little at a Time Mini Session; Crazy for Horses; Scuba Diving Explorers; The Lazy Days of Summer

Photos from Session 2

Session 3: July 22-27

It’s My Second Time; Silly Scientists; A Horse of Course; Be Happy, Relax, and Namaste; Camp Like a G.I.R.L.; Climbing Masters Two; Crazy for Horses; Night Owls; Scuba Diving Explorers; The Lazy Days of Summer

Photos from Session 3

Session 4: July 29-August 4

It’s My First Time Mini Session; Zoologist; Climbing Masters; GIRLbots; Long Rein, Free Walk; Seven Hills Sisterhood; Seven Hills Top Chef; Night Owls; On Belay; Riders Up

Photos from Session 4

Session 5: August 5-10

It’s My First Time Mini Session; Pony Pals; Camp Adventure Girl; Climbing Masters; Long Rein, Free Walk; Secret Agent Girl; Seven Hills Sisterhood; Anastasia in NYC; G.I.R.L. Tough; On Belay; Riders Up

Photos from Session 5

Camp Timbercrest

Session 1: July 8-13

Dumbledore’s Army; I’m a Go-Getter; Ready to Ride; The Great Cupcake Challenge; Quest Seekers

Photos from Session 1

Session 2: July 15-20

Daisies & Brownies Can Camp Like a G.I.R.L.; My Favorite Pony; I’m a Go-Getter; Pastry Chefs; Ready to Ride; Boots and Spurs; Timbercrest at Night; Quest Seekers

Photos from Session 2

Session 3: July 22-27

Dumbledore’s Army; I’m a Go-Getter; Ready to Ride; Survivor Camp Style; Quest Seekers

Photos from Session 3

Session 4: July 29-August 3

Daisies & Brownies Can Camp Like a G.I.R.L.; My Favorite Pony; Be Brave and Bold; I’m a Go-Getter; Ready to Ride; The Great Cupcake Challenge; Quest Seekers

Photos from Session 4

Session 5: August 5-10

Pastry Chefs; Ready to Ride; Find the Artist in You; Just My Backpack, My Pony, and Me; Quest Seekers

Photos from Session 5

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My First Visit to Camp Timbercrest

Hello everyone! My name is Chelsea Cummins and I’m a digital marketing specialist for Girl Scouts of Western New York. Today I’m writing to tell you all about my first time at Camp Timbercrest!

That’s me on the left! With me is Susan, my tour guide and fellow marketing team member

As you most likely know, Girl Scouts are crazy about camp. It’s been a part of the organization’s programming since the beginning and remains one of our core pillars. Every summer, our council runs programs at three camps – Camp Piperwood (day camp), Camp Seven Hills (resident camp), and Camp Timbercrest (resident camp). We have a fourth camp that is completely run by volunteers called Camp Windy Meadows!

Prior to camp season, I spent some time at Seven Hills for meetings and celebrations and even worked on a few service projects there. It was incredible to not only get to see our camp, but be a part of its improvement.

This summer, I knew I wanted to see more of our grounds and made plans to tour Timbercrest during one of their sessions. Let me tell you – if I wasn’t a believer in camp, I am now!

The first view I had was the lake – it’s enormous! It stretches through different parts of the property and is simply stunning. Then, we walked to the horses and I even got to pet a few of them. They were so sweet it took me a minute to pull myself away. Later, when I actually got to see girls riding them, I was so envious! But also happy for their opportunity. Not only do our girls ride, they learn how to properly take care of the horses.

As we walked to a new part of the lake, I got to see girls boating in canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards! It took everything in me to not climb aboard. Unfortunately due to recent rains they couldn’t get into the water, but the giant inflatable toys inside looked like a blast.

I talked to girls as they tie-dyed t-shirts and while they ate lunch (it was Taco Tuesday!). I learned all about why they love camp, from swimming to the horses! One common answer touched my heart – making new friends.

The foundation of Girl Scouts is community in safe and girl-led environments. You could tell how relaxed the girls felt and free to be themselves. Our counselors, most who were Girl Scouts and campers, continue to come back because to them, camp is family.

I was sad when I had to leave this amazing place, but I was comforted knowing all the girls who will develop these relationships and find a safe space in Girl Scouts and at Girl Scout camp.

Check out our Instagram page for some highlights from my visit to Camp Timbercrest!