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Day camp fosters creativity

"Every summer since 1970 the forest at Lloyd Gardner's West Hill estate has echoed with sounds of children at play. This year is no exception.Gardner says he plays host to Campfire Boys and Girls to offer the youth organization a stable home for its day camp. His five daughters and wife were also Campfire girls.This summer, about 300 children from pre-school to seventh grade will participate in the day camp. Each day is packed with crafts, sport activities and lessons in citizenship, like how to show respect for the U.S. flag. Each camp session lasts one week. Children and parents can choose to enroll in more than one summer session.Campfire site director Joyce Riebe says the day camp provides opportunities for friendship and self-esteem for children. There's no such thing as failure here, Riebe said. They learn so many things and can gain confidence.Of course, day campers often think more about what's for lunch and the fire they get to build to cook it.I like going for walks and having a fire, said 6-year-old Lauren Stephanie as she finished a bite of her hot dog and gave the thumbs-up sign. I like camp because it's fun. Volunteer Louie Scott says she came back to Campfire as a counselor because she participated in the program as a child. Now, her three children are part of the organization.I love the woods, Scott said. And the kids have fun. That's a good feeling and they make me come back.Counselors like Scott help children stay on task during activities like archery and screenprinting. They also serve as safety monitors and guides for the children during nature hikes in the woods.The counselors usually are assisted by junior counselors who are eighth-graders.Campfire's day camp runs Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. At the beginning of the day, children sign up for activities that interest them. Boys and girls are separated by gender into groups of eight to 10. Groups are assigned one adult counselor and one or two junior counselors, depending on volunteer numbers.We don't have a problem in that department, Riebe said, referring to other Campfire chapters that have minor volunteer shortages. We have a lot of junior counselors that want to be a part of this, so there wasn't a problem there.Parent John McIntyre of Federal Way sent his three children to the day camp this summer and also chose to lend a hand to the organization.McIntyre's 8-, 10- and 12-year-olds have attended Campfire day camp for three years.I think it's really important that young, developing children get in contact with this kind of environment, McIntyre said. They can use their intuitive spirit to discover things. They'll be our inventors tomorrow."

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