Twelve-year-old Garth Leochner thinks the goal-setting he's learning in Camp Fire will allow him to be a better athlete.
Shelly Shores, 10, likes learning about bald eagles.
And Mandy Roscovious, 11, enjoys visiting patients in hospitals and nursing homes.
``We do activities that make you think about stuff because it helps me to learn and do things in school,'' Garth said with a smile as he talked about Camp Fire.
These three Lecompton youths were excited when they told their visitor about the benefits they receive from the many opportunities for informal learning and community service offered by Camp Fire Inc.
``I wouldn't feel too happy if they said I couldn't come anymore,'' Mandy said. And with the $2,426 that Camp Fire receives from the Douglas County United Way, neither she nor the other 70 youths involved in Camp Fire in Douglas County will have to worry.
``WE ARE trying to help the kids grow up to be the best that they can be,'' said Heidi Cook, one of the Lecompton Camp Fire leaders.
Camp Fire Inc. is a co-educational youth group in Lecompton that serves individual levels from kindergarten through high school and is dedicated to the idea of helping the youth of the area develop personal life skills, social responsibility, health and leadership.
Founded in 1910 by Dr. Luther Halsey-Gulick, Camp Fire was the first ever non-sectarian organization for girls. The Shawnee Council of Camp Fire Inc. the headquarters for the Lecompton division, was active in Topeka and Shawnee County before the 1920s. The Lecompton division of Camp Fire has been serving the youth of Douglas County for almost 20 years.
Camp Fire was exclusively a girls organization until 1975 when boys began to participate for the first time. Even though boys had been admitted for four years, Camp Fire Girls took until 1979 to change its name to Camp Fire Inc.
With the name change and the co-ed admission practices, Camp Fire of Lecompton has reported a steady rise in the number of boys joining the group. This year, Cook estimates the number to be approximately 12 boys, with more showing interest each year.
Garth Leochner is one of the boys who has taken advantage of the Camp Fire program.
``IT HELPS me to set goals,'' Garth said. The awards that Camp Fire gives for achievement allow him to measure his abilities.''
The pursuit of awards is a way that Camp Fire can reward its members for their hard work. The ultimate award that Camp Fire members strive for is the Wohelo medallion. Wohelo is the Camp Fire watchword that combines the first two letters of the three ideas that Camp Fire teacher: work, health and love.
According to its statement of purpose, Camp Fire offers ``a program of informal education.'' It can give youths another outlet for learning.
``Many of the projects they work on at the different levels are comparable to what they study in school,'' said Sandy Shores, mother of Shelly and a Camp Fire leader for almost 25 years. ``The groups are informal, relaxed, and smaller in size than their classes at school. And with the different types of activities we have, it's sometimes more fun.''
Shores said the children's teachers encourage participation in Camp Fire. Two of its educational activities are ``Our good Earth,'' in which they study preservation of resources, and ``Discover Kansas.''
Camp Fire also provides educational trips. Shores' group toured the water treatment plant at Clinton Lake, the governor's mansion and the state capitol.
Nature often is a focus.
``WE HAD a project where we studied bald eagles,'' Shelly Shores said. ``I learned that they were all practically extinct, but they are coming back. I learned that a bald eagle, when it lands on a telephone wire, can spread its wings to touch both poles.''
The adult leaders who work with a group through all the grade levels, learn as much as the children, they said.
``It has allowed me to grow as a person,'' Sandy Shores said.
``The leaders have just as much fun as the kids. We love it,'' Cook said.
While the youths in Camp Fire are helping themselves with education, they also are ``responsible to themselves and to others,'' the statement of purpose says.
``We go on outings to nursing homes and stuff,'' said Mandy Roscovious. One of her favorite trips was to take cookies to patients in the Topeka Veterans Administration Hospital on Valentines Day.
Camp Fire's service to others includes participating in the annual CROP Walk and helping with Santa's Workshop.
THE CAMP Fire participants get sponsors for their walk from Lecompton to Lake Perry. Most of the money they raise goes to the Christian Rural Overseas Program, a division of Church World Services. About 15 to 25 percent stays in Lecompton to support the Food Pantry, a congregate meals program.
Santa's Workshop is ``a great big free garage sale'' held in November in the Community Building, according to Janet Bowman, a Camp Fire lender. People bring in merchandise to exchange.
It also is a way for needy residents to be helped anonymously. Vicki Loechner said Camp Fire is informed of a family in need and accepts donations through Santa's Warehouse. It uses the money to buy needed goods for the family, she said.
Any leftover merchandise is taken to a Lawrence nursing home.
``A big part of Camp Fire is service to others,'' Cook said.