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Girl Scouts’ summer camp tradition going virtual

By Jessica Garcia jgarcia@nevadaappeal.com

Local Girl Scout Emilee Elzy, 11, discovered a zeal for archery and was given a bow this past Christmas. Since then, she’s been eager to keep trying her hand at it whenever she gets the chance, and being part of the Girl Scouts of the Sierra Nevada helps her along with that, she says.

“I like it a lot because I learn new skills with the Girl Scouts and new skills with people,” she said Wednesday. “I can learn money management and things like that that can help me in life.”

Emilee has just finished at Seeliger Elementary School and will enter Eagle Valley Middle School in the fall with some members from Troop 35 of the GSSN. Like the majority of her peers from the Carson City School District, GSSN members also shifted these past several months to new ways of meeting and learning once the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the public and everyone’s way of life.

It’s also meant providing alternative methods for the usual summertime gatherings the troops are accustomed to while school’s out. This year, GSSN is hosting Camp Wasiu II’s Virtual Camp-In Camp Out from July 12 to 16, a week of digital recreation for the girls by meeting online to engage in science, technology, engineering, art and math activities. Registration begins Thursday, and the GSSN will invite girls from Northern Nevada and Northeastern California to participate.

GSSN expects to see about 300 girls enrolled in this year’s virtual camp, according to communications manager Jessie Schirrick said, a decent turnout for a digital connection. In-person camps typically produce 600 participants.

“It’ll be a great opportunity for the girls who haven’t been to summer camp or who might be nervous or girls who are in outlying areas … or rural areas,” Schirrick said. “It’s a chance for them to get their feet wet or to get comfortable. Next summer, when we’re open for in-person camp again, they’ll know what to expect.”

Camp director Kelly Carman will lead the Scouts and girls in campfires and songs, encouraging them to make crafts using objects around the house, Schirrick said.

“We’re trying to incorporate as much of the traditional aspects of Camp Wasiu as we can,” she said. “They just really fall in love with the camp directors and have special bonds with them and they agree to come back to do meet-up sessions.”

Marty Elzy, Emilee’s mother and a volunteer for her daughter’s troop, said she and her sister-in-law decided to get involved and have been enjoying their time together.

“Our troop focuses on philanthropy,” Marty said. “We give back to other organizations. That’s the heart of the troop … each troop has its own niche.”

While many often automatically tie Girl Scouts to cookies and arts and crafts, Marty said, the girls often try more robust or creative endeavors, skills and engage in weekend outdoor activities. However, due to COVID-19 this year, things seemed a little bleak and travel was down in the past few months, Marty said.

“One of the things I enjoyed is I know it’s not just open to our local girls but to any girl from any troop, but not any girl has the ability to travel,” Marty said. “This (the virtual camp) gives them the ability to interact from anywhere.”

She described previous events where troop members were able to connect with others from Florida and Hawaii.

“It unifies them and brings other Girl Scouts together,” Marty said.

Emilee said it was somewhat of an adjustment at first back in March transitioning to distance learning through Seeliger for school. Using the online Zoom platform for meetings, she described teachers becoming less accessible and certain work packets were delivered out of order.

“We wouldn’t be able to ask our teacher about worksheets and get an immediate answer,” she said.

Now, however, she’s become more acclimated to using Zoom, and that level of comfort helps her with her social life in the Girl Scouts.

“It’s still in between liking it and not liking it because I really like having those experiences with our Girl Scout meetings,” Emilee said. “I missing having the troop meetings where we all get to see each other and we would play games.”

But it’s not all digital, she said. She’s participated in several drive-by birthday parties where she saw a few friends in person. Marty said being in phase two is helping to ease restrictions and social activities for kids.

“It makes a big difference to have those in-person interactions,” Marty said. “I created a Zoom interaction specifically for the troop for the girls to sit and chat. It’s still not the same as being in person. I think they’re starting to realize the value of interaction.”

Registration for the Virtual Camp-In Camp Out is due by Thursday and the cost is $25. Schirrick said a decision on which platform to use for the virtual camp still hasn’t been made but will be announced prior to the camp in July. Girls from kindergarten through the 12th grade are invited to participate in Northern Nevada and Northeastern California and are not required to be registered Girl Scouts. Participants will need a personal computer or tablet.

For more information, call 775-322-0642 or visit http://www.gssn.org.