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Camp Fire alumni have fascinating stories. Register and share YOUR story today!

Volunteer National Camp Fire Historian - Phyllis Raines

Building a Career Through Camp Fire - Lydia Sandoval

Coming Into His Own - Rick Beaman

Learning to Be Successful - Sarah H. Elsea

New Alumna Stays Involved - Tasha Hughes

On Her Way - Kayla Hensley

Phyllis Raines' extensive collection of Camp Fire memorabilia offers an historical look of 100 Years of Camp Fire

Phyllis RainesHer story, written by Joy Jenkins in the July 2010 issue of TulsaPeople.com is below.

Phyllis Raines never expected to become a historian.

Then she discovered eBay.

For four decades and counting, Raines has been one of the Green Country Council of Camp Fire's most dedicated volunteers. She has served as a club leader, camp director, board member and now unofficial historian.

On the second floor of her south Tulsa home, Raines houses a treasure trove of Camp Fire memorabilia. It fills her upstairs hallway and nearly two bedrooms. Collected over the last six years, every item is meticulously cared for and displayed - various examples of the characteristic red, white and blue uniforms hang on walls; a variety of books placed in plastic covers are displayed on rotating racks; items ranging from board games to lapel pins to candy boxes lie in display cases; and dozens of badges are pinned to wall-mounted banners.

But make no mistake: This is no typical household collection. Raines has arranged the items chronologically, beginning with the earliest artifacts from the 1910s and '20s to the most recent items, dating until the late 1980s. Some items are personal, some have come from local Camp Fire supporters and others have been mailed to her from members around the world. As her collection grew, she also began visiting eBay regularly to track down some of the harder-to-find memorabilia. Raines has an album full of vintage Camp Fire catalogs to help her identify the items she needs, and she keeps a log of more than 10,000 entries on her computer tracking each item, its origin and its description.

"I hope that when I die, someone will appreciate this and continue it," she says.

Raines' collection is so impressive - and immense - that representatives from the national Camp Fire organization, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this month, visited her home and designated her the national Camp Fire historian. Also this month, the Tulsa Historical Society will display a few select items as part of a centennial exhibition starting July 23. On July 22, Camp Fire will also host an opening party and exhibition preview, the Benches and S'more Gala. Among other festivities, the celebration will feature benches painted by local artists and other outdoor art and items to be auctioned off to patrons.

Building a Career Through Camp Fire

Lydia Sandoval thenLydia Sandoval remembers how Camp Fire taught basic and true principles as well as re-enforced family values. Growing up in a Hispanic community in Long Beach, California, Lydia felt sheltered as a child. When she joined Camp Fire as a kindergartner, Lydia found what she was missing, a diverse group of friends. She loved learning about the many cultures that came together for their weekly meetings.

Lydia Sandoval now"Everyone brought their own perspective of life into the group," Lydia said. "By interacting with different people, I learned about conflict resolution and became more resilient to the challenges life presents."

Lydia encountered one such challenge during a very difficult week as a camp counselor at Camp Shawaka. While a volunteer mom attended camp with an older child, Lydia was asked to babysit a 1-year-old who was very attached to his mother. In true Camp Fire form, Lydia overcame this challenge and actually became the family babysitter, "it was rewarding to become connected with that little guy."

After spending multiple summers working at Camp Shawaka and earning her Wohelo Medallion in 1987, Lydia believes that Camp Fire gave her opportunities for learning and growth that greatly impact her career today. As Development Officer with the Packard Foundation, she develops programming for children, families and communities in her quest to help today's children reach their potential the way that Camp Fire did for her.

Coming Into His Own

Rick Beaman thenBeing a shadow never bothered Rick Beaman, who, at 3, "tagged-a-long" with his sister's Blue Bird group. In 1981, Rick officially joined Camp Fire and has remained dedicated to this organization while shaping his own future.

"It is impossible to remove Camp Fire from my entire being because it has been a part of my entire life," Rick said. Rick is enjoying his career at the Worcester Regional Research Bureau in Worcester, Massachusetts. Rick proudly proclaims, "Camp Fire gave me my dedication to social justice and the dedication to pursue excellence in everything I do."

Rick not only believes in Camp Fire, but demonstrates it by supporting the organization in many ways. Rick received his Wohelo Medallion in 1994 and served on the national board of directors and the national Youth Advisory Cabinet.

Rick Beaman now"There are so many alumni out there who owe their current success to Camp Fire programs," Rick explained. "At a time when we are rebuilding and rejuvenating this organization, we, the alumni of Camp Fire, can be the first resource to get the word out about what Camp Fire gives to young people.

"While monetary support is always important, so is getting involved by volunteering at the local and/or national level. Alumni should be able to strengthen and direct this organization into the next century."

"Camp Fire memories live with me every day—the friendships that I made and maintain to this day, all those memories...they are some of my happiest moments. The power of being around others who have the same dedication and the same beliefs is empowering, this is why I remained involved with Camp Fire."

Learning to Be Successful

Sarah Elsea thenBlue Birds. Adventure. Summer camp. Wohelo Award. These words bring forth warm memories for Camp Fire alumna, Dr. Sarah H. Elsea, who became a Blue Bird in first grade. Little did she know that she was embarking on something that would have a profound effect on her life.

"I had many experiences in Camp Fire, and I find that each of them directed me in some way toward my goals in life," Sarah said. "I was trained, given opportunities to learn, and then given the chance to use my experience. I also learned about other people when I was in Camp Fire. I learned to be tolerant and to enjoy and respect others who were different from me."

Throughout her years in Camp Fire, Sarah found that leaders play a vital role in the ongoing success of youth.

Sarah Elsea now"Many leaders were very supportive and influential throughout the years," Sarah said. "Two women in particular: Lynda and Dee. Lynda took in all of the wayward Camp Fire members—we were a mixed bag with a variety of ages and personalities, but Lynda kept us focused, allowing us to be individuals as she supported and facilitated our goals. I don't think I would have earned my Wohelo Medallion if Lynda had not supported me all the way! And, I will always remember Dee—her smile, her ability to make others happy and her wonderful nature. Dee was a heavily involved leader and remained enthusiastically supportive of Camp Fire youth."

Sarah became a leader in her own right, concluding her Camp Fire experience as a summer camp counselor and C.I.T. Director at Camp Shawnee.

"My parents used to say that I must be the oldest Camp Fire Girl in history (but I knew the history of Camp Fire, and certainly knew I wasn't)."

Currently teaching genetics and researching human genetics at Michigan State University, Sarah is confident that her experiences in Camp Fire facilitated her success in life.

"I found a lot of happiness and positive interactions in Camp Fire," she said.

New Alumna Stays Involved

Tasha Hughes thenA Wohelo recipient and former member of the National Youth Advisory Cabinet, Tasha Hughes joined Camp Fire Central Coast Council, Arroyo Grande, Calif., in 1987 as a Blue Bird and "flew up" again recently from the ranks of Camp Fire youth member to full-fledged alumna.

Tasha is especially thankful for what she learned through Camp Fire as a Horizon Club member.

"My love for Camp Fire and my interests within it began to change," Tasha said. "It went from being play time to being both challenging and fulfilling. The more hours I spent in the community and working with my council, the more I began to understand the greatest value Camp Fire taught me: To Give Service."

Serving on the national level gave Tasha further opportunities to realize the values Camp Fire instilled within her. "As my role in Camp Fire changed from the local to national level, the value of service became central to what I do and to the person I have become."

Further, Tasha appreciates the inclusiveness inherent in all Camp Fire programs and activities, encouraging all youth to be their very best.
Tasha Hughes now
"Camp Fire has the ability to nurture differences and embrace diversity while demanding nothing but the best from every individual," Tasha said. "It doesn't look to mold children into one specific character, but rather offered me, as well as many others, the tools and materials to craft each of our own molds. The mold that I have crafted for myself has been influenced largely by my desire to give service. I am proud to wear that mold and to share it with others." Now a full time college student, Tasha continues to support the organization that has helped mold her by volunteering at Camp Fire Central Coast.

On Her Way

In conversation with Kayla Hensley, the most striking impression is her energy. Kayla is not only completing her junior year of nursing school, she also tutors 16 hours a week, and regularly leads nursing study review sessions for 70 students at a time. Whew! Asked if her Camp Fire experiences had anything to do with her current abilities to lead, juggle, and remain focused, Kayla answered, "Oh Yeah! I would say that Camp Fire gave me 99 percent of my leadership abilities, my comfort with public speaking, and...everything I am today."

Reflecting back, she remembers being a shy little girl. "I wouldn't even order my own food in a restaurant." Today, that is clearly not a problem. Kayla comfortably shares, "I will always stand up for myself. I will stand up for others. In everything I do, I will try to make a difference." She continues to explain that much of her current confidence was shaped by her Camp Fire experiences.

Kayla Hensley

That shaping started in first grade. Though she remembers a number of young girls beginning Camp Fire together, five of them continued, each earning a Wohelo award. "What's most interesting," she reflects, "is that we wouldn't even be friends if it weren't for Camp Fire." As she talks about her group she reflects on their individualities. "One was an athlete, one a musician, one an artist, one an aspiring farmer, and one," Kayla chuckles, "was the ‘popular girl.'" Yet whatever they were within a school setting, in Camp Fire, the labels fell away.

"We always made time for each other," Kayla shares. "And if I wanted to get involved in a service project or something productive, my Camp Fire friends were the ones I went to first and counted on most." They still are. The girls make a point of getting together at least once a year, even within the busy lives they are each in the process of creating.

Kayla's life is much different from the one she originally planned. Her goal was to be a marine biologist until...she spent a couple summers working at a Camp Fire camp as a Counselor-in-Training. "I learned how much I enjoyed working with the kids and their families," she reflects. "I learned that what I really wanted was to change people's lives, to make a difference." Kayla realized that as a biologist the opportunities for making a difference just weren't that robust. Instead of biology, Kayla turned to nursing, specifically pediatric nursing.

"In fact," Kayla concludes, "my greatest dream would be to graduate in May and then serve as a Camp Fire camp nurse at Camp Natoma—the camp I attended as a child—that next summer. How cool would that be?" she muses.

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