Nestled in the remote outskirts of Bend, Oregon, Tumalo State Park sits on just over 330 acres of High Desert wilderness. It is a local hot spot for camping, hiking, and summer barbecues. It is also the location of Camp Fire Central Oregon’s Tumalo Day Camp, a week-long experience that serves to connect young people to nature, themselves, and new friends in an outdoor learning environment. “It’s just the best thing about summer,” explains Cece Valceschini, Camp Fire Central Oregon’s Program Director, “and it’s literally right here in our own backyard. Kids don’t have to travel very far to get a really meaningful outdoor experience.” In fact, hundreds of young people from across Central Oregon flock to Tumalo Day Camp each year, many of them with parents in tow. “What some people don’t realize is that when you volunteer as a Camp Counselor, your kids can attend camp for free.” Cece enthusiastically points out; “That’s a huge deal to a lot of families who normally couldn’t afford something like this. It evens out the field and makes camp about the kids, not about the money.” Of course, Camp Fire strives to offer financial assistance to as many families as possible each year. Last year, thanks to a generous donation from the Clabough Foundation, $10,000 worth of financial aid was awarded to families so their children could attend Tumalo Day Camp.
Once at camp, the fun truly begins. “Our Counselors In Training really run the show,” Cece admits:
“When camp actually starts, the adults take a back seat. It’s great! We let the kids guide themselves through a lot of their own activities. We make sure they’re safe, and offer guidance when needed, but really, we try to let them learn things on their own, and do a lot of the activities together, without too much adult intervention. Kids just learn better by doing, and it’s so fun to let them try new things. Of course, we do have adults teaching each group certain things. For example, I’ll teach compass and survival skills.” –Cece Valceschini
Each group at camp has a Counselor In Training (CIT). These are middle-school and high-school students who have gone through multiple training courses, and even camped out overnight to learn all the things that they will be expected to teach the younger kids in their groups. The CIT’s act as mentors. It seems to be a winning formula, and has been a tradition at Tumalo Day Camp for many years.
A CIT leading her group in a performance skit at Tumalo Day Camp.
CIT’s seem to work their way up the ranks year after year. Amber Goemaat, now a student at the University of Oregon, was once a camper, then went on to become a Counselor In Training. She dedicated her summers to Camp Fire and eventually became the CIT Director the year before heading off to college. It was a great thing to put on her application. Amber attributes many of her leadership experiences at Camp Fire with helping her to secure a full ride scholarship to the U of O.
“That’s just the culture of Camp Fire,” says Cece. “It’s more like a community, and kids feel like they belong. The experiences that they have stay with them for a long time. I’ve seen so many kids completely break out of their shells, so many of them come to us just painfully shy, but after a while they really surprise me.” Sometimes this transformation takes a little time. “When I first met Camille years ago, she was so, so shy. She could hardly talk! But after a while, she really opened up. She started becoming more confident, and just last year she was in a leadership role helping us to run the SummerKids program.”
It’s easy to see why Camp Fire has played an active role in the Central Oregon community for over 100 years now.
Get in on the summer fun and CLICK HERE to sign up for Tumalo Day Camp now!
Also, check out SummerKids HERE – It’s better than childcare; it’s a place to grow all summer long.
Cece seen here in a costume during a Pirate themed day at Tumalo Day Camp – even the adults get in on the fun!