There’s perhaps nothing more inspiring than seeing kids experience sheer joy, and that’s exactly what played out at Absolutely Incredible Kid® Day (AIK Day) on March 20, when a record number of youth—including those from two Camp Fire Afterschool programs—joined us to partake in the national holiday and celebrate Camp Fire’s birthday!

In addition to the nearly 84 youth from throughout Central Oregon, two of Camp Fire Central Oregon’s afterschool programs joined in the wildly big fun: an action-packed afternoon of free ice skating at The Pavilion, STEM and STEAM activities, crafts, a photo booth, and, of course, Camp Fire birthday cake and treats!

This year marked Camp Fire's 27th annual celebration of AIK Day, a national holiday whereby adults are encouraged to write a letter to or share words of encouragement with the special kids and teens in their lives. In addition, many Camp Fire affiliates throughout the United States found ways to celebrate youth through their own, signature traditions—for Camp Fire Central Oregon, that was ice-skating and other creative fun!

According to Nadia Kelem, aka “Poppy” and Camp Fire Central Oregon’s community engagement coordinator, kids took to the ice on what happened to be an exceptionally warm March afternoon. Dozens of kids skated loads of laps in the open-air rink or took breaks, joining other kids who engaged in the other activities offered. The Camp Fire staff were on deck to support the kids. They skated about, handed out handwritten notes of encouragement to afterschool program kids, held hands on the ice, and assisted in the flower-making crafts, photo-taking and STEM fun while encouraging the youth to simply be their incredible selves.

“Aside from ice skating, the STEM booth was by far the busiest activity,” Nadia said. “This was our first year setting this up, and kids got to self-lead their own STEM activities, including robotics cubes, geology explorations, and a STE(A)M project of drawing themselves as a LEGO® person. They were inspired by having the freedom to create and explore STEM on their own terms, and it was so great to see how they jumped in and got engaged around this opportunity.”

Nadia and the rest of the Camp Fire staff and volunteers felt so energized upon hearing the kids’ feedback from the event. The overall theme? It was awesome!

“One youth said to us, ‘I wish every day was Camp Fire’s birthday!’” Nadia recalled. “A parent made the point to say, “I love that Camp Fire gives kids the opportunity to do this.”

Camp Fire Central Oregon would like to thank those who helped make the day possible. In addition to our volunteers and The Pavilion/Bend Parks & Recreation, Vamanos Outside and COG Wild provided vans for youth transportation, and Safeway contributed toward the cake, treats and decorations. Various local media also helped share the news about this wonderful celebration. And Bend City Council made a proclamation stating March 21, the official national AIK Day holiday, Absolutely Incredible Kid® Day in Bend!

“The community’s support around this event was nothing short of spectacular,” Kelem said. “We hope to grow this event every year, and it keeps getting a bit bigger and always better. It’s truly a feel-good occasion that plays a valuable role in our important mission tied to helping kids thrive.”