Girl Scouts recognized 50 years of dedicated service by Loie Bonser at a special ceremony held on June 15 at their day camp located in the Sly Park Recreation Area.
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Bonser, 87, who is also known by her camp name of “Flash,” was honored for her leadership in establishing the day camp and for running it for 28 years.
A member of Girl Scouts for 64 years, Bonser went to work for the organization after college, then left to raise her family while continuing to work for them as a volunteer leader.
Bonser said the camp came about as a result of her serving on a committee that was looking for a site to hold camp. She said they wanted a site that offered the girls a true outdoor experience. “Up here we could take advantage of canoeing, swimming and water safety opportunities,” she said.
“Flash” is Bonser’s camp name. She acquired the name because every night she made it a habit to walk through the camp with a flashlight making sure all the girls were in bed.
Two years ago, EID needed the site for other uses and moved the Girl Scouts to their current site, which is also used by the Boy Scouts for camping. Friday’s ceremony was to mark the moving of the old sign and its rededication at the site of the new “Flash Mountain.”
On average, 115 girls attend the week-long camp, which is held in June. According to Anne Barlett, who is the current Camp Director, some years they have more than one session depending upon the availability of volunteers. Girls 6 to 18 years old attend although occasionally they have a few college students.
Everyone at camp has a camp name. Bonser is “Flash.” The archery instructor, who is also an artist, is called “Rainbow.” Others have names like “Huckleberry,” “Bear,” or “Pringle.”
With a Girl Scout Centennial theme of “Live, Laugh, Love,” the day camp schedule is jammed full of different activities each day. Girls start at 8:30 in the morning with the raising of the flag and end at 3:45 p.m.. In between there are arts and crafts, archery, educational programs, swimming, building campfires, cooking lunch, canoeing, dramatics, singing and hiking.
Olivia Opsahl, 10, said archery was her favorite activity along with learning “how to make cool crafts. I’ve seen birds, butterflies, caterpillars and a fox with a dead squirrel in its mouth. I’m also learning how to canoe. My friend almost swamped it a couple of times,” she said with a grin.
Another “swamper” was Ella Eggerton. She said it’s the fourth year she’s been to day camp. “Swamping the canoe is my favorite activity this year,” she said. “We did it intentionally because it’s fun and you learn how to tip it upright again.”
The older girls are afforded more privileges such as overnight stays and being allowed to paddle a canoe out to the small island in the lake for lunch.
The camp is totally volunteer run which is the main reason why they only have one session during the summer. The girls are well supervised with a minimum of two adults per unit with 14 to 16 girls in each unit.
“Most years we just barely have enough volunteers,” said Barlett. “We have to turn away 40 to 80 kids every year because we don’t have enough volunteers. But anybody can volunteer, including dads.”
Program Aide Theresa Zachry volunteered because “Mom told me about it and it sounded like fun. I like being able to do all the crafts and have special privileges such as being able to do extra stuff, get sodas and candy, and not have to do the dishes,” she said.
Keeping a close watch on all these activities was Bonser. Even at 87 and walking with a cane, she comes to the day camp every year.
At lunchtime, she and Barlett travelled down to the lake in a small off-road utility vehicle to watch as the girls sang songs and happily paddled their canoes.
Getting out of the vehicle, she walked down along the shoreline to watch the activity.
Watching her, Barlett marvelled. “She a real inspiration to the girls and to me,” she said. “She is Girl Scouts.”
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.