Congrats to Our New Red Shirts

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During the Spring Camping Trip, seven Camp Fire teens completed a 3 year journey to becoming a “Red Shirt” in the ACES (Advanced Camping ExpertS) program! Surrounded by family and friends, each student was recognized for their outstanding committment and accomplishment in becoming an Red Shirt Advanced Camping Expert!


The Road to Earning a Red Shirt

A teen’s progression in the ACES program is marked through different colors of ACES shirts.  The three years of training culminates in a Primitive Camp weekend and the awarding of a Red ACES shirt.  Becoming a Red Shirt ACE is one of the highest honors available to teens in the Sunshine Council.  The skills and experiences needed to reach this point will help prepare them for life and the  challenges that lie ahead. Red Shirt ACES are encouraged to  attend camp and other leadership activities in the council as a teen and later as an adult.

About the ACES Program

Developed by the Sunshine Council more than thirty years ago, the ACES program provides an opportunity for personal growth and appreciation of nature in a positive group setting. The outdoors is used as the classroom where teens learn and conquer skills in areas of leadership, decision-making, self-reliance, and teamwork.  The  ACES program takes teens through a progression of outdoor skills,  volunteer service, team challenges, and leadership training.  It takes a three year commitment  to complete the ACES program.

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Camp Fire is Dedicated to Creating Safe Spaces for All Youth

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Youth Development Expert

Nikki Roe Cropp – Program Consultant, Camp Fire National HQ

Nikki is an expert in professional development training in youth development and the nonprofit sector. One of the many professional enrichment courses she facilitates is Camp Fire’s child abuse prevention and youth protection training. In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, Nikki shares why child abuse protection training is important to her as well as a priority for Camp Fire.

As a professional development trainer for Camp Fire, this is how I begin all my child abuse prevention and youth protection trainings:

“Camp Fire is devoted to the well-being of children and youth through safe, positive programming experiences.  Safety is our number one priority. As a youth development organization, we assume an obligation of trust when we open our doors to young people. You, as an employee of Camp Fire, are an extension of that obligation. You are ethically and professionally bound to safeguard children and youth.”

It is important to make it very clear up-front that Camp Fire spaces will be safe spaces, and as Camp Fire staff, we are making a commitment not only to our youth but to their families and communities we work in.

Unfortunately, there is an ever-growing list of daunting statistics and trends surrounding child abuse:

+   1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. (1) 

+   Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under. (2)

+   3 in 10 mandated reporters failed to report (70% of cases are not being reported).

+   A 1990 study found that only 40% of maltreatment cases and 35% of the most serious cases known to professionals mandated to report were in fact reported. (3)

+   More than 3 million referrals of child maltreatment are received by state and local agencies each year. (4)

+   The incidence rate of child abuse and neglect in this country is about ten times as high as the incidence rate for all forms of cancer. (5)

+   Forty to fifty percent of child molestations are committed by juveniles.

+   Without treatment, abused children are:

  • 50 times more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs;
  • 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile; (6)
  • Six times more likely to commit suicide. (7)

These statistics reflect abuse that is all too common and unacceptable.

This is why Camp Fire emphasizes three main reasons that we cover materials on abuse in our trainings:

  1. We know that people who wish to do children harm are attracted to places that serve youth. You need to know that Camp Fire will believe and will follow through on any accusations made against staff–paid or volunteer–and other youth.
  2. To give you a better understanding of abuse, and to teach you skills to report in accordance with Camp Fire’s procedures, should you suspect or have a child disclose that they are being abused. AND,
  3. To tell you that if you came here to have an opportunity to do harm to children you have come to the wrong place. (8)

It is imperative that our staff have a thorough understanding of the signs and symptoms of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, neglect and domestic violence, in order to ensure they will be able to recognize signs of abusive situations. We cover what to say to a child or youth if/when they disclose abuse, the importance of making a report, and how to do so. We review the policies and procedures within Camp Fire that exist to minimize the potential for abuse. We practice identifying signs and symptoms through case studies, we watch scary video clips of offenders telling us how they gained access to children in order to do them harm, we role-play various scenarios to practice what we would do in likely situations, and all the while, I continuously underscore their obligation to keep youth safe.

It’s exhausting, challenging, scary, and difficult work.  And it’s my favorite training to deliver.

Why?  Because the message is so very important, so crucial to us fulfilling our promise to young people. Camp Fire programs make a measurable positive impact on the youth we serve. We do an exceptional job of lifting youth voice, helping young people gain the life skills they need to shape their lives, build a positive identity, and commit to their communities. But youth can only reap these benefits if we first do no harm.

This is why child abuse prevention and youth protection training is critical. Youth workers must first understand the realities of child abuse—the prevalence, the signs and symptoms, typical perpetrator behaviors—because they cannot intervene in a process they don’t understand.  Second, they must understand their responsibilities as mandated reporters to know how and when to intervene when abuse is suspected, witnessed, or disclosed or when suspicious behavior or policy violations occur.

In late 2018, Camp Fire began a partnership with Praesidium, an abuse-risk management firm, to strengthen our child abuse and youth protection work. Available now, all Camp Fire councils can access four of Praesidium’s online courses via our internal online learning platform, aimed at educating staff and volunteers on potential risks and reporting obligations. Praesidium also recently presented an introduction to child safety and youth protection at the Camp Fire National’s annual program workshop for program staff nationwide.


We know that training alone is not enough to create a safe environment, and that is why we will continue to partner with Praesidium over this next year to audit our current abuse prevention/youth protection policies and procedures that will result in recommended next steps—at both the national and council level.

At the end of my training, I do offer a bit of good news: abuse is preventable. The current realities of child abuse CAN change as more responsible adults learn how to recognize, report, and protect youth. Camp Fire will continue to be unwavering in our commitment to creating safe spaces for all youth from all families and all walks of life.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, an annual observance in the United States dedicated to raising awareness and preventing child abuse.  Camp Fire is committed to collaborative efforts to reduce the abuse of children and seeks way to work together to promote safety.

Five Days of Action: April 22 – 26

Join us April 22 – 26 as we participate in Five Days of Action to educate and take action against child abuse.

Camp Fire continually works to protect all youth and provide a safe and positive experience for youth and families, this month and every month of the year.


  1. ACE Study – Prevalence – Adverse Childhood Experiences Http://
  2. Snyder, H N. (2000). Sexual assault of young children as reported to law enforcement: Victim, incident, and offender characteristics. National Center for Juvenile Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.
  3. David Finkelhor, Is Child Abuse Overreported?, PUB. WELFARE, Winter 1990
  4. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. “Child Maltreatment 2012.”
  5. (Veith, 2004). David Finkelhor. “Current Information on the Scope and Nature of Child Sexual Abuse.” The Future of Children, (1994).
  6. Long – Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect, Child Welfare Information Gateway.
  7. Davidson JR et al. (June 1996). “The association of sexual assault and attempted suicide within the community”. Archives of General Psychiatry 53 (6): 550–555.
  8. (Thank you, American Camp Association, Texoma, for providing these blunt, yet extremely powerful, talking points in your Child Protection training kit).



Nature Quest 2019

Camp Fire Youth on Nature Quest 2019

June 18-21 | $225

Nature Quest is an environmental education based service-learning trip for rising 6-8 graders. Our team will travel by van to a designated area where they will camp. During the day, the team will explore the many facets of Florida wildlife and ecosystems, and learning about environmental advocacy, while giving back to the community they visit.

Whether as a great first step on the way to a more intensive CF66 trip or a fantastic opportunity to check-out the amazing things in their own backyard, Nature Quest will be an incredible experience. The trip is full of youth empowerment and leadership opportunities. Nature Quest Camp is available to youth, sixth grade and older.

Questions? Contact Nate at


Staff Profile: Lauren Rambo

Lauren Rambo – Teen Program Specialist


1. What was your favorite TV show when growing up?
– The Crocodile Hunter and basically anything else on Animal Planet.

2. Choose a movie title for the story of your life.
– Rambo: First Blood

3. What is the nerdiest thing you do in your spare time?
– Bird watching and giving random facts about nature to strangers when I hear them ask a question, usually the question is not directed at me but I answer it anyways.

4. What is your favorite cereal?
– I do not eat cereal. I am not a big breakfast person.

5. What’s the strangest talent you have?
– I have a crazy-fast reflexes, is that a talent? Like when something falls or if something is trying to bite me. I’m like a ninja. I don’t know what talents I have.

6. Do you have any strange phobias?
– Not really. I don’t like clowns but I wouldn’t call it a phobia.

7. What are three things still left on your bucket list?
– Skydiving, go to Australia, and manning (holding) a Harpy Eagle

8. If you could have any one superpower, which would you choose?
– The ability to talk with/communicate with animals.


1. How did you originally come to Camp Fire?
– I saw the job posting on Indeed when I was looking to move to Lakeland.

2. Can you explain what it is that you do at Camp Fire?
– I plan and implement the teen programing from service projects to trips. I also assist with Haunted House and STEAM. There are also many side jobs I do around the building.

3. What is something about Camp Fire that gets you excited?
– I really enjoy going out and serving alongside the teens!

4. What is one thing about Camp Fire that you would like everyone to understand/know?
– Everyone is welcome and if you do not know anyone when you step in the door, by the time you leave you will have made at least one new friend.

5. What is your spark?
– Outdoor education, especially when it comes to animals.

Volunteering Helps Kids Thrive

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Adult volunteers fuel our programs and help our young people thrive. But did you know volunteering is also a great way for young people to unlock their superpowers?

Yep, all the research says volunteering delivers big benefits to young people—and their communities! High-schoolers alone contribute more than $5 billion worth of volunteer services annually. That’s 230+ million hours of effort, energy and teen-smarts poured into neighborhoods across the country every year.


Camp Fire Sunshine Teens serving on a VYC Project earlier this Winter.

Besides just feeling good about giving back, kids who give their time and energy to help others get some substantial life perks. Studies show altruistic young people get a self-esteem boost from volunteer activities. Youth volunteers are half as likely to experiment with risky behaviors as those who don’t. Volunteering has also been tied to higher school engagement and better graduation rates.

While Camp Fire is focused on helping kids live their best lives today, it’s important to note that the gains of youth volunteering carry into adulthood. Kids who give back go further in post-secondary education and even earn more as young adults. Unsurprisingly, if you form a volunteering habit while young, you’re going to keep on volunteering as you age, too. Which is good news, because adult volunteers have lower mortality rates and are less likely to be depressed. Volunteering can even help improve brain elasticity for those at risk for Alzheimer’s!


Camp Fire Sunshine volunteers serving during the MLK Day of Service in February.

But even with all these great reasons to volunteer, only about 29 percent of teenagers do. That’s why Camp Fire is teaming up with Youth Service America (YSA) to celebrate Global Youth Service Day: April 12 through 14. YSA has incredible resources to help young people organize their own service projects, become a community organizerstart a voter registration program, and more. (A whole lot more!)



Want to get a kid in your life started volunteering? You can! Many Camp Fire councils have opportunities to help kids give back. For example, in partnership with YSA’s Youth Volunteer Engagement grants generously supported by Disney, Camp Fire is hosting a series of volunteer camp clean-up events at various camps across the country.


Project Ignition Car Wash

Join us at the Camp Fire Program Building!


During the week of March 25-29, 11 Camp Fire teens travelled to the Florida Panhandle to spend their time serving in and learning of the recovery efforts from Hurricane Michael. Here’s a quick recap of their good work:

Monday 3/25 – Camp Fire volunteered at the Tallahassee Museum. Our team helped to clear out path for canoe launch and worked to take an entire tree down. After 45 minutes, it was done. It was a huge undertaking.

Tuesday 3/26 – Camp Fire volunteered at America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend. Our students helped to sort items into the appropriate bins, sorting through 4 full pallets of products in just 2 hours.

Wednesday 3/27 – We spent the day volunteering through the First Baptist Church of Panama City. Our team volunteered at 3 different residences. The first 2 homes needed their front yards raked and leveled from the removal of trees and debris. The 3rd house required debris to be taken from the back yard to the road for FEMA to dispose of.

Thursday 3/28 – We continued our work with First Baptist Church of Panama City. We returned to the 3rd house we served on Wednesday to gather and pile debris to be brought down to the front of the road. The resident was so grateful that she brought sodas and homemade brownies as a thankyou. We celebrated by going to Pier Park for ice cream and pizza which we brought back to our campsite. We ended our evening by walking along the beach.

Friday 3/29 – We packed up our gear and headed home to Lakeland.

In Loving Memory of Holly Lane

It is with sadness and shock that we share the following news with you. On March 24th, 2019, our humble Camp Fire leader, Holly Lane, passed away. She was recently diagnosed with cancer and things progressed very quickly. She was surrounded by her loving family at the time of her passing.

At this time we ask that you keep Holly’s family in your thoughts. Details about a memorial campfire will be released soon. In lieu of flowers, Holly’s wishes were that donations be made to Camp Fire Sunshine or Good Shepherd Hospice

SHAZAM! Invites You to Celebrate AIKD!!!

Westwood LEADS Gives Back to Their Teachers/Administrators

Soap made from scratch by the students of Westwood LEADS.

Westwood LEADS is an after school leadership program at Westwood Middle School in Winter Haven. This program uses leadership skills using different progressive activities all leading up to the goal of helping young people become better leaders.

Service projects are incorporated into the LEADS program and Westwood students discussed different projects that they could do at the school. These students decided that they wanted to make their own soap and donate it to a program or organization that could use it. After using GPS (Growth Mindset, Pursuit of Strategy, Shifting Gears) to plan out the project, it was decided that they wanted to make the soap and gift it to the teachers and administrators as a “thank you”.

The teens decided how much soap base they needed, what colors they wanted to incorporate, which fragrances they wanted, and what shapes the bars of soap would take. Students then melted the soap base, added the coloring, fragrance, and then poured the mixture into molds that they had chosen. Rubbing alcohol was then sprayed on top of the molds, and they were placed on ice in a cooler for 30 minutes. Once the soap had hardened, is was removed from the molds.

Students produced enough soap for 73 staff at Westwood Middle School. Students placed the soap in bags with a note for each staff member. Those bags were then places in the staff’s mailboxes.

Well done Westwood LEADS!