Hey there, Girl Scouts! My name is Kate Goosey and I am the GSSEF Outdoor Program and Training Manager as of last year. My camp name is Squirrely. I was given this name as a tagalong with my sister’s troop because of my limited attention span and unlimited energy as a pre-Girl Scout. As you may have guessed, my experience with Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida goes back even further and I would love to share it with you!
I started my outdoor adventures as a Daisy summer camper at age 5. I remember being both excited and terrified to go camping for a week at Camp Welaka. I was pretty outdoorsy as a kid and often played in the woods of my neighborhood with friends, most of whom were also in my Girl Scout troop, but those were the woods within running distance to my house. Camp was so far away! I arrived and cried as soon as my parents left, but luckily my counselors were able to distract me with activities and caring reassurance. The week progressed with a few breakdowns here and there when I was tired or overwhelmed. Then the last day came, and again I was bawling, but this time it was because I wasn’t ready to go home. I had made friends, gone on adventures, conquered my fears, and taken pictures of every trail, tree, and rock. It happened; I was hooked on resident camp!
I continued to attend resident camp every summer through school. I even remember the one year my parents missed the registration deadline for Camp Welaka and I went to a camp in Orlando instead; it was a different experience as the camp was nothing like my second home at Welaka. When I was 13, I was lucky enough to be asked to volunteer as Junior Staff for resident camp. I worked my way from Junior Staff to Counselor in Training to Unit Assistant and up to Unit Leader as the years passed. The inevitable happened and I went off to college at Florida International University in Miami. I continued to work summer camp for two years and then life got busy as I took a hiatus working in childcare.
Flash forward to 2016, a Camp Welaka Staff Reunion was announced! So eager to return to camp with old friends, I signed up right away. After that weekend, the restoration crew was born and the first project was to restore the Catwalk at Welaka! This was the beginning of my return to Girl Scouts and my second home. I started volunteering with the restoration efforts, then I joined the volunteer team for a program called Nu2u, which was perfect to reignite my love for camping. The program provides the opportunity to explore all the basics of camp, from campfire singalongs to canoeing to flag ceremonies. Then, like fate often does, the Outdoor Program and Training Manager position opened up with GSSEF.
The day I got the call saying I got the job; my heart was flying. As a teenage Junior Staff, I had a plan to take over camp with my camp buddy, Boomer, who is my best friend and camp buddy to this day, by working for GSSEF. It’s not quite a takeover, but I am so happy to be able to share camp and all its lessons with our girls. One of my first goals I set for myself was to bring back resident camp to Camp Welaka and here we are preparing for Drifting Back to Welaka Resident Camp 2020! Even better, I am going to be the Director this summer at Welaka, so I can ensure the experience is the best for our girls, even the 5 year old Daisies like me when I first went to camp.
Although resident camp can seem like a huge step, it is one that has so many benefits. Our girls learn responsibility, confidence, strength and resilience. They learn camping and outdoor skills while they spend time in the outdoors with our greatest teacher, nature. And the friendships! I keep in touch with more people I met at summer camp than the ones I went to school with from kindergarten through senior year. My summers at camp shaped me into the woman I am today in so many ways and I can’t wait to give that same experience to girls this July at resident camp.
If you would like to help send girls to camp this summer whose families can’t afford it due to an unexpected cutback or total loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can give today through our new campaign, Give Camp, Give Fun! Let’s get girls back to the fun this summer after missing out on time with friends and having adventures! For more information, please visit our website.