Camp Fire Alaska
Camp Fire was founded in 1910 by Luther Gulick, M.D. and 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.
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.
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.
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.
Rural Alaska Program
Camp Fire’s Rural Alaska Program started more than 50 years ago as a response to Alaska’s massive 1964 earthquake that devastated the town of Seward in Southcentral Alaska. With the support of the national Camp Fire Friendship Fund, volunteers and supplies were sent to Seward to deliver youth programming so parents could devote their full energy to cleanup and reconstruction.
Following this initial outreach, the program expanded in the years following to address the high rate of drowning in Alaska communities by offering swimming lessons and teaching cold water safety.
Today, the Rural Alaska Program has grown to include more than 30 communities and nearly 2,000 participants as we work to promote healthy life skills, creative arts, outdoor recreation, teen activities, service projects and community events, in addition to our core programs that teach swimming and water safety.
Rural Alaska Program staff come from all over Alaska, across the United States and the world—adding a valuable cultural exchange experience as they work to make a difference in Alaska’s rural communities and return home with stories that last a lifetime