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Unplug the Family and Get Outside: Research Shows the Huge Benefits of Nature, Nurturing and Free Play

Camp Fire Central Oregon SummerKids Camp Director Casey Davis

We know the scene all too well: It’s just after school, and after a frazzled day of work, multi-tasking and activity shuttling, everyone breathes a sigh of relief as the school packs get dumped at the door and the kids instinctively head to play Minecraft or watch TV. In today’s frenetic world, it’s easy for kids – and parents – to slip into inside activities…and stay there.

Visceral video games. Prolific technology. Narrow school curriculums that ditch arts and science for test scores: Just like the vanishing of the bees, fingers are pointing to these trends as the culprits of the collapse of the culture of free play, connection to nature and a rise in ADHD and other health issues in kids. Even Bend kids, growing up with unparalleled outdoor opportunities aren’t exempt from the disturbing national statistics of childhood obesity, with 21% of 9th graders overweight or at risk for obesity in Deschutes County. (Oregon Health Teen Survey (OHT), 2007 and 2008)

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, coined the concept “Nature Deficit Disorder” as a call to action to reverse the impacts today’s modern age is having on kids. Under ‘virtual house arrest’, Louv states, they need creative, outdoor play more than ever: Childhood health issues have been shown to be linked with less time outside, so it follows that many studies have shown encouraging evidence that playing outside, unstructured play and nurturing environments can impact youth significantly, including improving their resilience (McArdle, Harrison (2013) and ability to self-direct. (Barker, Semenov, et. al., (2014).

Parents need not panic! Thankfully, there are tons of local resources and simple ways to help kids reconnect with nature and lead a healthy lifestyle with a healthy dose of exploring outdoors. No need to launch a major expedition to infinity and beyond to be physically active and find nature. Thanks to our local youth programs, parks and good old Mother Nature herself, there are plenty of opportunities and activities your family can plug into to encourage a more natural, outside-driven and healthy lifestyle, right outside your door.

Easy Ways for Families to Turn Off Technology and Tune In

  1. Build a Fort…and You Can’t Do Your Homework Until You Do! Create a routine where kids have to be outside for a minimum of 20 minutes a day.
  2. Nature-spotting: Pack a picnic, pick a natural setting and hang out. Skip rocks. Go nature-spotting on bikes. Try Riverbend Park, the Deschutes Canal, Shevlin Park, Drake Park and Pilot Butte. Keep a family log of the birds, insects and animals you find.
  3. Not All Who Wander Are Lost: Naturehoods Children’s Forest has started “Naturehoods” at local parks and natural spaces that don’t require driving. (Check out Ponderosa Park’s     Kid-Created Interpretive Trail!) Start your own NatureHood project at your nearby park or abandoned lot near your house. Show kids how to safely bike or walk to them –independently!
  4. Plant a Seed. At home, all you need is a flower pot and a few seeds for homegrown horticulture and an up-close encounter with nature at work. For inspiration, check out Hollinshead Community Garden where families can adopt their own garden plot!
  5. Charades, anyone? Designate family movie night. It may be painful at first, but try to pare back screen time and carve out more connecting time by choosing one night per weekend for media.


Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Kids from Nature Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv, 2005


5 Great Reasons To Volunteer With Us

Did you know that Camp Fire relies on amazing adult and teen volunteers to make the magic of Campfire Central Oregon happen for kids each year? Volunteering is easy and fun! Here are the top 5 reasons why you should volunteer with Campfire Central Oregon.


Make New Friends

Volunteering at Campfire Central Oregon is a great way to meet others in the community and form new friendships!  Friendships made at camp are often lifelong, motivating and inspirational.

Make A Difference

Being a volunteer at Day Camp means you have the opportunity to make a difference in our campers’ lives! Imagine inspiring others and making a meaningful difference in the life of a child in our community.

Stay Active and Healthy

Campfire camps are always full of energizing and fun activities that keep our kids as well as our volunteers active. Hiking, canoeing and field games are just some of the activities that will keep you moving. Volunteering is also a great morale booster and can help keep you feeling happy and more self confident by staying active and busy.

Connect to the Outdoors

Day Camps are a great way to enjoy the beautiful parks all around Central Oregon while giving your technology a much-needed rest! Participate with campers in tons of great hands-on activities that explore the outdoors including walks, nature hikes, fire-building, outdoor cooking and safety classes.


Full-time adult volunteers get to send their kids to camp for free! Children of full-week adult volunteers will also automatically gain entrance into the camp of their choice and will be immediately taken off the waitlist!

Teen Volunteers learn critical leadership, communication and problem-solving skills while building their resumes and earning much-needed service hours!

YOU Make it Possible!

Learn more about Volunteering at Day Camp and join the fun!

Camp Counselor Emma Bell

Meet Emma Bell

Emma Bell is a remarkable young lady and camp counselor who joined Campfire Central Oregon during her high school years here in Bend Oregon. She is remarkable in that she earned her Wohelo award so quickly thru hard work and perseverance and a truly giving spirit.

“Wohelo” stands for Work, Health, and Love—values that have been central to Camp Fire since our founding in 1910. The Wohelo Award is the highest achievement for youth in Camp Fire. This prestigious award, open to teens in grades 9 through 12, offers opportunities for personal development, leadership, and advocacy on important issues.

The award is earned by completing an intensive and highly individualized project. Teens design their projects based on their interests, values, and goals. Completing the requirements to earn the Wohelo Award takes hard work, dedication, motivation, creativity, determination, and discipline. The award demonstrates perseverance, the ability to set and achieve meaningful goals, a strong work ethic, commitment to community service, and leadership.

Wohelo Award recipients tell us it is the most rewarding experience Camp Fire youth will ever have. And, it is an important addition to a job application, college application and interview, and as part of other community activities he or she is interested in.

Emma is currently a student at COCC and an active camp counselor as well as a lifeguard at one of the local pools. To know Emma is to know that she is one of those rare and beautiful beings inside and out. She gives so much to her family and the kids at Campfire Central Oregon. Emma’s leaders tell us she has an amazing sense of humor, loves working with all the kids and has a very bright future in front of her.

Would you like to find out more about earning your Wohelo Award? Send us an email at and we can will help you light your fire and ignite your spirit.


Back to School Tips


Before you know it this summer will be a distant memory and your kids will already be back to school. Will you and the family be ready? There are so many items to check off the list for everyone. We have put together these top tips to help transition you and your kids to this time of year.

Adjust to the new routine

Easing into the new school year schedule and be challenging. into the school-year schedule. Getting back into the school routine can be a challenge for everyone in the family. To make the adjustment easier, start early.

• A few weeks before school starts, move bedtime back to an earlier time.
• Put a positive spin on going back to school. Talk about the fun things your child will learn, the old friends he’ll see and the new friends he’ll make.
• If your child is anxious about starting the next grade, reassure her that other children have these feelings too.
• Establish school-day schedules for homework, TV, baths, and bedtime.
• Arrange play dates with friends from school to re-establish connections that may have been dropped for the summer, or to create new ones.

Get organized

Take advantage of the slower pace during your time away from school to set up for the busy school year ahead.

• Many schools send out school information and a packet of forms to fill out before school starts. If you can discipline yourself to fill out the paperwork several days before it’s due, you’ll avoid a last-minute panic.
• Have the necessary immunization records available for easy reference.
• Update school emergency contact and health information for the coming year.
• As you read through all the school information, mark important dates (such as back-to-school night, parent-teacher conferences, and school holidays) on the family calendar.
• Start a folder for school newsletters and other papers so that you can easily find and refer to them if necessary.
• Establish a “get ready the night before” policy. Pick clothes for the next day and pack the backpack every evening before bedtime, and you’ll save precious time in the morning.

Arrange for transportation

Everyone will feel better if transportation to and from school is addressed well before the start of the school year, particularly if your child is walking, riding their bike, or taking the bus.

Walking or biking

• Chart out a route to school or to the school bus stop.
• If your child is going to a new school, take a dry run a few days before school starts.
• Go over the rules of stranger awareness and traffic safety. Warn your child to always walk with a friend, and to avoid vacant lots and places where there are not a lot of people.
• Be sure your child has your daytime phone number (including area code) and address, as well as the number of another familiar adult.
• Scout out safe houses in the neighborhood where your child can go in case of an emergency.

Taking the bus

• Remember to get the new bus schedule!
• If your child will be taking the bus for the first time, discuss the bus route and bus safety rules with her.


• If you will be driving your child, have a backup arrangement with another parent in case you are delayed for some reason.
• Confirm carpool arrangements in advance and make sure your child knows who will be picking him up before and after school.
• Become familiar with your school’s traffic safety rules, drop-off and pick-up procedures.

Confirm after-school care arrangements

Most after-school care arrangements must be made months ahead, frequently in the winter or spring before your child starts school. As the school year approaches, however, it’s a good idea to confirm your plans.

• Make sure your child knows where he is going after school.
• Double-check on your care plans and communicate with the provider a few days before school starts.
• If your child will be home alone after school, establish safety rules for locking doors and windows, and for answering the door and the telephone. Make sure she knows to check in with you or another adult when she/he arrives at home.


Do you have any tips you would love to share? We would love to hear them!


Free Summer Meals For Kids

Here is a great resource for the children in our state in need of free meals. During the school year many kids eat free or reduced meals each day. When school ends so does this important resource. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is meant to help fill that nutritional gap.

Summer Meals is open to all kids 1-18. Adults are welcome to attend, although the meal service is just for kids. More info and an interactive map can be found here;


Don’t Forget Your….



SummerKids is off to a great start!  With so many fun games and creative activities planned, we know your kids will be having a blast right from the start.

What to Bring EVERY Day

  • Water bottle – labeled with child’s name.
  • Closed-Toed Shoes or sandals that stay on. No flip-flops.
  • Sunscreen – please apply everyday before arriving.
  • Lunch – Bring lunch OR you may participate in the Bend-La Pine free summer lunch program at Ensworth. (We were previously asking for advanced sign ups, but that is no longer necessary.)
  • Snacks – Unlike last year, we are unable to provide snacks this year. Some kids tend to get hungry easily, send as many fruits, veggies, and other health snacks. Please no processed sweets, gum, or candy. We thank you for your help on this!
  • Swimsuit and towel on WEDNESDAYWednesday is water play! Every Wednesday all summer long, we will have a Water Slide and Slip-n-Slide from 2:00-4:00pm.  A hat and swim shirt is also recommended if your child is sensitive to too much sun

Camp Fire Turns Theory Into Practice – After School Today

Click Here to download the full article from After School Today, Winter 2016


CONTRIBUTED BY CHERYL KRAVITZ, CRK Communications, Silver Spring, Maryland
“With support and guidance from the adults in their lives, youth want to focus on their own personal development. They want to be their best. Through the process of learning, practice, and reflection, they are more likely to thrive,” said Cathy Tisdale, Camp Fire President and CEO.

“At Camp Fire, we believe everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, has the ability to lead. We cannot wait until adulthood to teach the leadership skills. We need to equip youth with the tools now.”

Camp Fire National Headquarters has announced the results of a three-year concerted effort to bridge research to practice by training its youth development staff and volunteers to guide youth toward a thriving trajectory.

The Thrive Foundation for Youth invested in an initiative to explore an approach called “Step-It-Up2-Thrive.” Camp Fire embraced Thrive{ology}, as it offered a refined lens by which to view its work and established a common language to help communication and understanding amongst youth, staff and beyond.

The endeavor determined if youth thriving indicators could be positively influenced through key actions by trained, caring, perceptive adults. Camp Fire’s research shows a statistically significant positive influence, and increased development  of skills to succeed…(Click Here to download the full article)

The Top 11 Best Pictures from Grand Council Fire this year!

We had such a wonderful time at Grand Council Fire this year – thank you so much to our amazing leaders for making yet another year of Camp Fire possible here in Central Oregon. It’s your continued support and dedication that allows us to be a viable and relevant organization within our community – you rock!

We took a number of pictures throughout the day, during the BBQ and ceremony, so naturally we would love to share them with you!


Starting out, we had an awesome BBQ, complete with our expert cooks – thanks so much guys for cooking up all that food for everyone!

the cooks at GCF 2015








Then Kecia, our Executive Director, thanked the Leaders for their service, and welcomed everyone to our Grand Council Fire.

Kecia giving speech at CGF 2015








We celebrated the winners of our art competition, and said a big THANK YOU to Elsa for being our Top Candy Seller in 2015!

Jewel Club_art contest winners 2015

Elsa Bell_Top Candy Seller takes a bow 2015








Starflight Fly-Up was fun and inspiring!

Starflight Fly-Up 2015








And then Amber’s Discovery Club led us as we all sang “The Bear in Tennis Shoes” – a traditional camp favorite!

Discovery Club leads song








Elsa crossed over to Discovery – Way to go, Elsa!

Elsa does her cross over to Discovery








We felt pride during The Passing of the Torch…

Passing of the torch 2015








And when our teens did their Reach for Horizon, we couldn’t help but smile.

Amber's club prepares to reach for horizon

Reach for horizon 2015








All in all, it was an awesome Grand Council Fire.

CITs at GCF 2015








And we can’t wait for next year!

…If you took pictures, we would love to see them! Send them to