Jun 2, 2016

Lessons Learned as Young Women Camp Director (BOOT Camp Theme)

When I was called as Ward Camp Director, I felt like I had just won the lottery of callings.  If there were a callings “dream sheet”, camp director would be number one on my list. Even after I discovered the sheer amount of work, time, effort, and dedication it required.  I love camping, I love the young women, and I could even pull out my old military uniforms and sport them again!  There were times when certain things got tough—like the heat on the hikes, climbing the ‘not-so-easy’ side of the rock wall (or belaying a couple tons of girls if your were a leader), or hauling a picnic table at least a solid mile to and from the campsite—but we all just “kept on trotting”.  And we found these tough moments to be among some of our favorite camp experiences. 

Our Girls' Camp T-shirts
The themes for Girls Camp in 2014 when I was in Clovis were Build Our Own Testimony, or BOOT camp, and “we can do hard things.” These themes were completely accurate representations of the experiences that were shared by all who attended.  For many of us, the “hard things” we faced started before we even left the town.  The adversary seemed to be working extra hard on each one of us, throwing many testing trials and temptations toward us at the absolute worst times.  The reason for these tribulations became apparent throughout the camp as we each found our testimonies strengthened by experiences unique to our needs.  Some felt this growth right away, while others looked inside themselves on the last night to find a stronger spirit than before.  But all of us walked away with added confirmation of the truth of this gospel, the Church, the love of our Savior, and the importance of this sisterhood.

As we prepared for camp and as we spent time together in the gorgeous Sacramento Mountains, doing hard things, my love for each of these girls blossomed.  These girls give me faith in the future, for their strong spirits, testimonies, and inner light are the hope their generation will need to succeed and prepare for the coming of our Savior.  These girls are different.  It shows in their countenance, it shows in their attitudes, it shows in their eyes and in their smiles.  They have an eagerness to serve others, to bear one another's burdens, to stay true to their covenants, to do all the hard things the Lord requires of them because they know what is truly important.  I am so blessed to have been given the opportunity to be their camp director and to serve these incredible ladies in this manner.

In my two years serving as Ward Camp Director, I learned many lessons. I've already written a few blogs on the camp I was just speaking of, BOOT camp: 

A few people have asked that I share further information into my task lists and other things I used for planning camp, so this blog will be focused on the things I didn't cover in the previous six posts. And please, if you have any further questions, post them in the comments and I will get back to you.

 Ward Camp Director Planning Outline

**Make sure as you plan that you remember the purpose of girls camp is to help strengthen the girls' testimonies of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Camp is for the girls, and the spirit will guide and direct you as to how to help them have a memorable spiritual experience**

1. Meet with Stake camp directors to ascertain dates, location, and theme. Make a list of stake-assigned tasks for prioritization.

2. Prioritize stake-assigned tasks and come up with dates to have each task completed (if a due date is not given).

3. Begin advertising! Make announcements during meetings, make posters, get creative! You want to try and get the young women, and even the leaders, excited for camp. I would come to young women activities in my old air force battle dress and sing my camp announcement in jodie (marching cadence) form while marching around the girls. They loved it! Go with your theme, dress up, do a skit, whatever you like to do. Or, just simply announce camp and pass out flyers. The earlier you start advertising for camp, the better. This even gives the girls time to invite friends and relatives.

4. Make a ward task list. Are you going to do secret sisters (if the stake isn't heading this program)? Do you want to make ward camp shirts? Do you want to decorate the ward site (if you're having one)? Or do you want to decorate the leader site? Costumes? Skit props? Treats for the girls? Theme-related items? Will you be planning devotionals? Are you doing a fundraiser? Etc. This item varies based on how your stake is running girls camp, or if you will be holding a ward camp. Make sure you delegate tasks to anyone who is willing to help! The girls, especially your YCL's are a great resource, and this gives them leadership opportunities. Please refer to my blog on lessons learned as young women's president for a great checklist to give the girls when they are planning activities or given a task.

If you have a rock wall, be sure to get belay certified!
5. Just about every ward does a fundraiser. This item is important to start planning and completing early. Talk with the girls and figure out what they (and the leaders) want to do for a fundraiser. Pick a day and time, and get everything approved through the bishop. Advertise as early as possible, and make sure the girls are involved in all aspects of making the fundraiser happen.

6. Train the girls on outdoor safety. This will happen again at camp, but before they go they should know how to protect themselves against insects like chiggers and ticks, how to protect the camp from animals like bears, how to properly store food at camp, the importance of staying hydrated, the buddy system and why that is important, and also sun and heat safety. This is also a great time to make sure you are up to speed on the safety concerns for camp.

7. Third and fourth level girls will be participating in hikes. You may want to consider having practice hikes to get the girls trained and ready for camp. This helps them build confidence for the big hikes, and even break in hiking shoes. You can hold these as a young woman activity, or have them optional on a weekend. Be sure to get parental permission.

8. Gather info! Who is going to camp, what level will they be, t-shirt size, and their permission slips.

9. Will your ward be making meals at camp? If so, plan out the meals. Let the girls help with this, and make sure you will have all the items you need for this.

10. Hold a bag drag. A day or two before you leave for camp, have the girls meet either at the church or at a leader's home with all their camp gear. Have them unload everything and check the packing lists to ensure each girl has everything she needs. Then, pack everything back up and keep the gear stored together for when you leave for camp. Acquire any missing items, and be sure to carry extra essential items (sunscreen, bugspray, sanitary supplies, extra secret sister gifts, etc).

One of the girls' favorite camp treats were the dog tags they received as they "in processed" into camp. I found this great website where I ordered custom dog tags for each girl with pink-camo rubber protectors, Tag-Z. The site is well-priced, and I was able to order two dog tags per girl.  The first one had their name (first and last), their rank (or camp level), our ward's camp name, our ward's actual name, and our stake. The second dog tag said: Girls Camp 2014, our location, B.O.O.T. Camp, and then Build Our Own Testimonies.

Our camp dog tags from Tag-Z

Camp Organizational Structure (in military terms)
  • Colonels = stake camp directors
  • Majors = level leaders
  • Captains = ward camp directors
  • Lieutenants = assistant camp directors
  • Sergeants = YCLs
  • Corporals = 4th years
  • Specialists = 3rd years
  • Private first class = 2nd years
  • Privates = 1st years

Military phrasing used for the schedule:
  • Self Aid Buddy Care (SABC) = first aid
  • After Action Reports (AAR) = journalling time
  • Barracks: tents
  • Roll Call = Announcements
  • Chow = meal time
  • Reville ceremony/Retreat ceremony = flag ceremonies
  • Rest and Relaxation (R&R) = free time
  • Training Rotation = certifications
  • Leadership Reaction Courses = team building activities
  • KP duty = chores
  • FOD (foreign object debris) walk = clean up
  • In-processing = arrival, registration, assignments
  • In-brief = welcome to camp!
  • USO = skits and morale fun
  • TAPS/Lights Out = bed time
  • Chaplain Briefing = devotional
  • Out-processing = departing
  • MRE (meals ready to eat) = sack lunches
  • PT (physical training) = fitness event
  • Ruck march = hike
  • O-course = obstacle course

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