History

Camp Fire was founded in 1910 by Luther Gulick, M.D., and his wife, Charlotte Gulick, as the first non-sectarian organization for girls in the United States.

    • 1910 First meetings of Camp Fire Girls are held in Vermont. Dr. Gulick chooses the name “Camp Fire” because campfires were the origin of the first communities and domestic life. Once people learned to make and control fire, they could develop and nurture a sense of community.
    • 1912 Camp Fire Girls of America is incorporated in Washington, D.C., as a national agency.
    • 1913 The “Blue Bird” program is officially introduced for younger girls and offers exploration of ideas and creative play built around family and community life. In 1989 the “Blue Bird” level will become the “Starflight” level and begins serving both boys and girls.
    • 1918 The first local Camp Fire council is formed in Kansas City, Mo. Beginning in 1977, Kansas City will be the national headquarters for Camp Fire.
    • 1954 The national headquarters adopts a statement calling for greater inclusiveness of all groups within all segments of the membership. Today, Camp Fire prides itself in the level of diversity of its members and its programs.
    • 1960 Camp Fire celebrates its 50th anniversary with the “She Cares . . . Do You?” program. During the project, Camp Fire plants more than 2 million trees, builds 13,000 bird houses and completes several other conservation-oriented tasks. In honor of the anniversary, a commemorative stamp is issued and a major conservation effort is launched.
    • 1962 A new program level, “Junior Hi,” in which 12- and 13-year-old girls explore new interests as a group and as individuals, is created. The program name will later change to “Discovery” with the inclusion of boys.
      The Wohelo Medallion becomes Camp Fire’s highest achievement and honor. The Medallion is named for Camp Fire’s watchword, “Wohelo,” which stands for “work,” “health” and “love.” Recipients typically spend two years completing projects that foster leadership, teaching, service and advocacy. In 1996, the Wohelo Medallion is renamed the Wohelo Award. Each year, approximately 100 Camp Fire youth throughout the nation receive the prestigious Wohelo Award.
    • 1964-67 Through the Metropolitan Critical Areas (MCA) Project, Camp Fire launches a national effort to reach low-income, predominantly urban girls. The purpose of the MCA project is to meet the special needs and promote the healthy social development of these youth and to locate, train and retain neighborhood volunteers.
    • 1975 Camp Fire expands its horizons and encourages boys to participate in all Camp Fire activities. Today, 46 percent of the youth served by Camp Fire USA are boys.
    • 1983 The introduction of the new, coed “Adventure” program for third- through fifth-graders completes the task of program revisions focusing on the inclusion of boys. In this club level, children experience activities focused on the outdoors, creativity, family and community.
    • 1988 Camp Fire introduces “Teens in Action” as a one time social issue campaign to energize the older youth program. Today, Teens in Action, Camp Fire USA’s service-learning program for teens, serves over 60,000 teens.
    • 1992 The DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund awards Camp Fire a $2.5 million grant. This enables Camp Fire to establish the Champions For Children program, which strengthens the capacity of councils through professional development opportunities for staff.
    • 1995 Camp Fire celebrates its 85th anniversary. Building on the tradition of the campfire symbol, the 85th birthday theme is “A Tradition of Lighting the Way.”
    • 1996 The DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund awards Camp Fire a $1 million grant that helps bring youth development programs to thousands of young people who live in low-income communities. Through the Extending Our Reach initiative, councils are trained and receive technical support for initiating partnerships within these communities.
    • 1997 Camp Fire and the nation celebrate the first-ever Absolutely Incredible Kid Day® — a call to action for all adults to communicate through letters their love and commitment to children on the third Thursday of each March.
    • 1998 The Best Buy Children’s Foundation awards Camp Fire a generous grant to fund teen initiatives. With Best Buy’s continued support, teens across America have been empowered to create and advocate for change in their own communities by participating in national youth forums, web-based town hall meetings and the national teen website.
    • 1999 At the national convention in Seattle, the new mission of Camp Fire is announced, “Camp Fire builds caring, confident youth and future leaders.” This mission is leading the organization in the new century.  Learn and Serve America and the Corporation for National Service award Camp Fire a grant to expand its Teens in Action program to reach over 105,000 teens by 2003. To date, 38 Camp Fire councils have received over $300,000 through this grant.
    • 2000 Camp Fire celebrates its 90th anniversary as one of America’s leading youth development agencies and conducts a nationwide search to find the oldest living Camp Fire member. Camp Fire introduces the “Community Family Club” small-group model, designed to provide parents and other caring community adults the opportunity to interact positively with children and teens.
    • 2001 With over 600 million people being reached by the special event since its inception, Camp Fire honors the fifth annual Absolutely Incredible Kid Day® with professional football superstar Jerry Rice serving as the event’s national spokesperson. Camp Fire launches a new brand and introduces a national theme line, “Today’s kids. Tomorrow’s leaders.” This theme line helps succinctly define Camp Fire for America’s families. At the national convention in Fort Worth, Camp Fire debuts newly revised curricula for small-group programs serving grades K-5. The 52-week deep curricula are designed to build social skills and academic competencies.
    • 2002 Camp Fire conducts a system-wide launch of the Community Family Club (CFC) program, complete with the new Community Family Club Operations Manual offering steps to launching CFC, supporting materials and six meeting plans.
    • 2003 To further its commitment to inclusiveness, Camp Fire begins translating its new curricula for small-group programs into Spanish. The Spanish-language, 52-week deep curricula for grades K-5 are designed to build social skills and academic competencies within Spanish-speaking communities. Camp Fire partners with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to recognize outstanding Community Family Club programs that strengthen families, helping build better futures for disadvantaged children and families in the United States. The Families Count: Family Strengthening Awards are designed to advance the principles of strengthening families and improve the lives of families while supporting Camp Fire’s mission and commitment to offer quality coeducational programs for the entire family in settings that address community needs. At the national convention in Chicago, Camp Fire begins introducing revised small-group middle school curricula and debuts the first national curriculum for Teens in Action. The Discovery curricula, for grades 6-8, emphasize youth participation in decision-making and leadership, encouraging youth to lead program activities; the Teens in Action curriculum, for grades 9-12, helps teens design and complete service projects and hone leadership skills.
    • 2004 The Wohelo Award is expanded to Teens in Action members, allowing all high-school aged Camp Fire members to work toward Camp Fire’s highest achievement and honor. Camp Fire’s Online Store opens for business, allowing members and the public to purchase Camp Fire merchandise while supporting youth. A portion of proceeds from the Online Store help councils deliver programs to youth in the communities they serve. This online venture also allows the nationwide, year-round sale of Camp Fire candy.
    • 2005 Camp Fire celebrates its 95th anniversary and begins planning its centennial anniversary celebration in 2010. To excite and educate children before they enter kindergarten, Camp Fire introduces the “Little Stars” small-group program. Designed for ages three to five, Little Stars helps build confidence in children as they form lasting relationships, gain a sense of belonging and develop a feeling of emotional commitment by adults.
    • 2010 Camp Fire celebrates 100 years! Through-out the year, councils across the country celebrate. Birthday events are held on March 17, 2010 – the official founder’s day. The Centennial celebration culminates on July 31st when thousands of people across the nation celebrate with a moving ceremonial service and simultaneous lighting of a campfire at precisely 7:30 local time.