Camp Fire was founded in 1910 by Luther Gulick, M.D., and his wife, Charlotte Gulick, as the first nonsectarian, interracial national organization for girls in the United States. Shortly after the national agency was formed, Edith Kempthorne started Alaska’s first Camp Fire club in Juneau in 1913 as part of a national movement to extend the Camp Fire model through the “Guardians of the Fire” program. Camp Fire was one of the first youth organizations in Alaska.
In 1959, the first official Camp Fire council began operating as The Chugach Council of Anchorage, serving 350 girls through Camp Fire clubs. Camp Fire started Camp Yalani at King’s Lake Camp in Wasilla in 1960 and offered two one-week sessions each summer for girls.
The Alaska Council Takes Shape
Joan Hurst, the Alaska Council’s first executive director, arrived in 1962. Camp Si-La-Meo, Camp Fire’s day camp program, was the first formal program launched in 1963. (Learn more about Joan Hurst here)
In 1964, following the earthquake, Camp Fire Alaska Council received national support from Camp Fire’s friendship fund. The local volunteers gathered supplies and went to villages that had been impacted by the quake. This was the beginning of the Council’s Rural Alaska Program. The rural program was later expanded to address the issue of high drowning rates in Alaska’s villages by offering water safety and swimming lessons to children. The program promotes healthy life skills and choices such as boating safety instruction, arts and crafts, cooperative games, hikes, camp-outs, teen activities, service projects and community events.
Camp Fire and the Alaska Council Grow
Camp Fire realized there were many benefits to making the organization even more inclusive, and so the organization became officially coeducational in 1975 and was renamed Camp Fire Boys and Girls. As Alaska entered the 1970s and ’80s, and more parents began working full-time outside the home, the problem of unsupervised children in our communities became a critical issue.
Hurst and others had a critical role in making the case for quality child care to the Alaska State legislature, and created the Child Care Assistance Program to assist working families with child care expenses. School Age Child Care became a major program, and today the Council operates 28 municipally licensed before and after school programs in Anchorage and Eagle River.
The Community Centers Program was started in 1978 by a team of Social Work students in the Fairview and Mountain View neighborhoods in Anchorage. The purpose of the program was to provide safe and nurturing after-school alternatives to youth in economically challenged neighborhoods at no cost to families.
Camp K’s Rich History
In 1966 Camp Kushtaka was officially born from the many volunteer hours spent securing land permits, constructing buildings and clearing land. In 2002, Camp Fire Alaska began a process of redeveloping Camp K on Kenai Lake (as it is now called), raising $3.25 million to cover the cost of building new infrastructure. Camp K now has new cabins with running water and flush toilets, a new dining hall/kitchen and a large activity field. A new health center and shower house became operational in 2013.