Day Camp celebrates 25 years

LILBURN - The city's Girl Scout camp, a source of many memories for those who have attended, is celebrating its 25th anniversary next week.

To celebrate, camp organizers have scheduled a reunion June 8. Former camp director Deanna Simmons has mailed postcards to more than 200 former volunteers and campers inviting them to the reunion. In addition, Mayor Jack Bolton will issue a proclamation naming June 8 Lilburn Girl Scout Camp Day.

The camp begins Monday and runs through the week.

"(The camp) is certainly something that has become part of the fabric of Lilburn," City Councilwoman Diana Preston said. "It's quite a big deal."

Lilburn Day Camp, which takes place in the City Park for one week each summer, has grown from about 75 campers in 1982 to more than 300 this year.

In 1982, Catsy Clinger, who now works for the American Red Cross in Richmond, Va., opened the camp, originally named Lilburn Rainbow Day Camp. Simmons became camp director in 1987, holding that position for 15 years and guiding the camp through many years of growth.

Martha Whitman, a longtime volunteer, took over as director in 2002. The camp was attended by as many as 550 girls in the late '90s but now has shrunk to accommodate more intimate groups of campers.

Girls can attend the camp from kindergarten through seventh grade, but many end up becoming volunteers after they are too old to be campers. About 65 older girls help out at the camp, bolstering the adult staff of about 95 volunteers.

And each girl remembers something special about the camp from when they attended. Rachel Ball of Lilburn, 17, remembered the "creek walk," where campers hike through the woods by the park looking for animal prints while hollering camp songs.

"You get to get wet, and you get to put mud on your faces," she said. "When you're little you want to get dirty."

Melissa Brinker East of Newnan, 26, said having the late meteorologist Guy Sharpe broadcast the weather report from the camp in 1990 made an impression on her.

"We were so excited," she said. "We thought it was the biggest deal."

Brinker East said she still keeps in touch with some of the girls from camp. One of her friends, Carolyn Ohme, is traveling from Orlando, Fla., to come to the reunion.

Organizers emphasize the important role the camp plays in young girls' lives.

"They're developing values about very healthy activities that make them feel good and make them feel that they can do anything," Whitman said.

Simmons said girls like the chance to get outdoors and get their hands dirty.

"Kids aren't allowed in to play in the woods these days," she said. "I grew up in a creek."

In addition, camp activities have placed a larger emphasis on developing healthy self esteem, building leadership skills and connecting with nature in order to reflect the girls' changing environment.

Since 1986, the camp has had a theme every year - former ones have been patriotism, the Wild West and rainforests. Organizers brought in a helicopter and two skydivers for a flight theme in 1994.

Although the theme this year is mining for gems, campers will also be decorating their tents according to themes of years past.

Former campers can e-mail Simmons about the reunion at deasimmons@comcast.net.