HOLYOKE – Since kindergarten, Lael Dratfield, now 15, looks forward to rekindling friendships at summer camp, hosted by the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts.
“I love everything about Camp Bonnie Brae,” said Dratfield during a recent interview with Reminder Publications at Girl Scout headquarters at 301 Kelly Way. She is a member of Troop 11151 in South Hadley.
Nestled in the Berkshire mountains, Camp Bonnie Brae in East Otis allows girls to experience the natural beauty of New England with its canoes, rowboats, and paddleboats for use on Big Pond. The camp also features an archery range, fitness trail, sports field and challenge course.
“My favorite sport at camp is water skiing on the lake,” said Dratfield, adding that a special backpacking trip to the Adirondacks was “one of the best experiences” she has had.
“Summiting the mountain was amazing,” she added.
Dratfield’s mom, Liz, a Girl Scout troop leader for 11 years, noted the importance of empowering girls and how her own Girl Scout experiences when she was growing up helped shape her career and life choices.
“I also encourage women to consider being a troop leader,” she said.
Dana Carnegie, communications manager with Girl Scouts, noted that girls do not have to belong to a troop to participate in summer camp.
“Summer camp provides a timeless experience where girls can grow and learn together,” said Carnegie.
Jess Reed of Southampton, 22, who will be starting her sixth year as a camp counselor at Camp Lewis Perkins in South Hadley, echoed the sentiments of Dratfield. Known affectionately by the girls at camp as “Squirt,” Reed also enjoyed attending Girl Scout summer camps during her youth.
“I loved getting to know girls outside of my school,” said Reed, adding “it was a new world to explore.”
With Reed’s past experience in Girl Scouts, her counselor role offers invaluable insight on what makes girls tick in today’s world.
“We want the girls to be empowered,” said Reed, who spends her days as a Title 1 paraprofessional at the Granger School in Agawam teaching reading and math.
Reed added she “loves” to see girls return to camp each year to see how they have matured.
In addition to traditional camp activities including arts and crafts, swimming, cooking on an open fire and hiking, counselors engage the girls to determine where their interests lie.
“We keep our groups small which allows counselors to get to know each girl and provide individual attention,” said Reed.
Reed noted one of the most rewarding aspects of her seasonal job is to see how excited the girls are when they return each summer.
“Some girls can be a bit anxious and a little nervous at first and some are ready to hit the ground running,” said Reed.
Both Reed and Carnegie stressed the joy that can be discovered when you “unplug” from everyday life and just play in an all-girl environment.
“The girls are surprised at what they can accomplish,” said Reed, noting challenges range from science projects to building a fort in the woods. “It’s wonderful to see the confidence grow in the girls,” she added.
For a complete list of summer camp activities and more information, visit www.gscwm.org/SummerCamp.shtml or call 800-462-9100. A blog highlighting last year’s activities at Camp Lewis Perkins can be found at www.camplewisperkins.org.
Financial assistance is available based on need and availability of funds, according to Carnegie. For more details, direct inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buses are available in several towns for campers at Camp Lewis Perkins and two counselors are always on the bus. The cost for busing to camp is $30 per week.
Carnegie also added that summer camp counselors, lifeguards, an assistant camp director, and other roles are available at both camps. For more information, apply at www.gscwm.org/CampEmployment.shtml.
Open houses are planned for camp tours, rain or shine, at Camp Lewis Perkins, Camp Perkins Road, South Hadley, May 3, 12 to 2 p.m., and July 2, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., and at Camp Bonnie Brae, 951 Algerie Road, Otis, on June 7 from 12 to 2 p.m., and on July 2 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. No registration is necessary.
As Dratfield gears up for another summer of reuniting with friends and counselors, she encourages girls across the region to consider a Girl Scout adventure.
“Summer camp is like a lifelong sisterhood,” said Dratfield, adding, “you will create friendships that will last a lifetime.”