As a Volunteer Development Manager at GSNorCal, I oftentimes get invited to local service unit events. Service Unit 643 in North East San Jose was celebrating their 10th Year Camporee, and they invited me to witness the magic of Camporee. I was excited to witness this beloved Girl Scout tradition—I’d heard many other volunteers speak fondly of their many Camporee memories. When I arrived at Skylark Ranch, one of GSNorCal’s three main summer camp properties, I immediately felt the connections of our busy modern world (cell phones, cars, electronics, bustling crowd, etc.) fall away, and I was left with the sheer beauty of the tall majestic trees, the fresh air, and rays of sunlight filtering through the foliage. I started walking down a path to find nearly 100 girls sitting around in a semi-circle as they listened to the service unit’s Leader Support Manager tell them about all the exciting activities of the day.
The girls were bursting with energy as they ran (in an orderly fashion) toward their first activity challenge, dividing up by t-shirt and lanyard colors at different stations managed by adult volunteers in matching colors. Despite the excitement, this was clearly a highly-organized event. So what exactly goes into organizing a Camporee, and how had this service unit managed to have 10 successful ones in a row? But first, what is a Camporee?
What is a Camporee?
Camporee is a service unit-wide camping event where all the troops in the service unit camp and spend time together over a weekend, giving girls an opportunity to meet their local peers. A Camporee can have a theme, and this year, Service Unit 643’s theme for Camporee was Candy Land. Having a theme can help with planning the activities (for SU643, the activity stations were based on the Candy Land board game), and help girls get excited about attending Camporee. Brainstorming a Camporee theme can be a fun and engaging experience for girls of all ages. After all, these girls will eventually be planning and organizing future Camporees for all to enjoy, so it’s great to give them some experience early on. Now you might be thinking: Does a Camporee have to have a theme? And the answer is no—in fact, many service units plan and organize their Camporees without a theme. It’s entirely up to your service unit team, and what your girls and leaders want this year!
Tips from the Camporee Experts
Even for a GSNorCal staff member, planning a service unit-wide camping event sounded intense, so I went straight to the subject matter experts, Cindy Panelli (Leader Support Manager) and Lisa Avila (Program Support Manager). Cindy’s first piece of advice to service units planning their first Camporee was “Start small.” Keeping the event smaller makes it feel more manageable. She recalls that their first Camporee was attended by 4 to 5 troops, and it just kept growing from there.
Keep it Girl-Led
According to Lisa, a Camporee event can be as elaborate or simple as you want it, but the most important element is that a Camporee should be girl-led. This helps pass the Camporee tradition along from girl to girl, and keeps the event focused on the girls and their goals from start to finish. Cindy was proud to report that the Daisy Girl Scouts from their first Camporee were leading the way with the planning and organizing of this year’s Camporee!
Choose Your Focus
The next piece of advice from Cindy was to decide on whether your Camporee will be skill-based or focused on fun activities. Her advice for service units with little to no experience in planning and organizing a Camporee was to do fun activities because the planning required to teach skills and do badge work can be a lot for first-time volunteers. However, if you are interested in doing a skill-based Camporee, reach out to your volunteers—you may be surprised at how much their expertise can help!
Create a Camporee Committee
Whether you are planning a skill-based Camporee or fun activities Camporee, reaching out to volunteers and having them join the Camporee Committee will make planning a whole lot easier. Although Cindy and Lisa were able to successfully plan and organize a Camporee on their own in the early years, having a committee (this year’s was made up of 10 volunteers) really helped in splitting up the duties.
Set your dates and start promoting the event early. Lisa shared that, for their Spring Camporee that took place in April, they started planning in October. They had a meeting a month through February, and then met more frequently leading up to the date. In addition, Lisa stressed the importance of marketing the event and using available resources to make signing-up for Camporee a breeze. They used Rallyhood, Facebook, leader meetings, and service unit events to promote the Camporee, and this year, they used Cheddar Up to help with Camporee registration.
Cindy and Lisa advised that you relax and roll with it! So many unexpected things can happen while planning, so it’s best to stay upbeat and flexible. One year, it rained the entire weekend, and everything they planned for had to be modified. The girls still had a good time, and the adverse conditions really showed their commitment to making Camporee a fun learning experience despite what the weather threw at them. It turned out to be a great growth opportunity for the girls.
Channel Your Passion
When asked how they managed to make it a success, Cindy and Lisa both happily stated, “Camporee is what we do!” Both agreed that Camporee is something they love to do with the girls and look forward to every year. As affectionately expressed by Izabel, an Ambassador Girl Scout, “They have this love for Camporee and the tradition—[in] everything that they do, they have love for every single one of us, and it is that love that really contributes to how Camporee goes.”
When I asked Haley, Junior Girl Scout what she would like to say to the older girls and adult volunteers, with a big smile on her face she cheerfully said “Thank you for having Camporee!” This being my first Camporee, I can honestly say that it was magical.
If your service unit would like to plan and organize a Camporee, council and the service units have many resources that can help you plan a successful Camporee!
What to do next:
- Have you hosted a Camporee? Share your tips in the comments section!
- Whether you’re a Leader Support Manager, Event Manager, or Program Support Manager for your service unit, we have online trainings to best support your next service unit event.
- As the Camporee experts said, keep your event girl-led! Check out Karen’s blog post, How to Empower Girls to Plan and Lead Events to do just that.
- Looking for a related read? Check out Marin County’s Richardson Bay Girl Scouts website on How to Run a Camporee Event.
Asako Pettinger—Asako is a Volunteer Development Manager for Santa Clara County, South and East where she works with volunteers in bringing the Girl Scout experience to the girls in their community. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking and spending time with her family.