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Girl Scouts fight to save area camps

More than 100 Girl Scouts gathered in Bettendorf Tuesday for the chance to speak out against the sale of four area camps. The Quad City town hall was the last of six meetings held throughout the region, meant to allow members the opportunity to voice their concerns to the Council.

In February, a Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois council recommended the sale of four camp properties that it said no longer meet the organization’s needs.

Tuesday evening, Girl Scouts came from far and wide to join in the discussion.

“I flew in today from Colorado. I just felt I needed to show some support for the effort to try and save the camps,” said Pat Hammond.

It was also concerns that brought the former camper, counselor and director of Camp Conestoga nearly 1,000 miles back to the Quad Cities.

“I’m concerned about what’s going to happen to the over 10,000 girls who use those camp properties every year,” said Hammond.

It’s why a grassroots effort has sprung up, complete with YouTube songs, Facebook pages, a website and petitions. The women call the movement “SOS Camps,” or “Save Our Scout Camps.”

“I want it for my daughter, and for her to have the same opportunity though her high school years as I did. If it wasn’t for camping, I wouldn’t have stayed in Girl Scouts,” explained former camper Jane I. Duax.

The women also worry that selling the camps would be a move away from the Girl Scouts’ foundation of outdoor skills for girls. It’s a foundation that — for them — has made all the difference.

“As hokey as that might sound, it truly was a defining, changing moment in my life — changed who I was, fundamentally changed who I was,” said Sherry O’Keefe.

Council leaders said the recommendation to sell comes after five years of research. Declining attendance has resulted in shrinking income, which can no longer keep up with operating costs. The final decision will come on March 28th when the Board of Directors will vote on whether or not to sell the camps.