Happy camper: Free State grad camps in 50 states

Amelia Firns-Hubert

When her daughter was just 7 weeks old, Kathi Firns-Hubert and her husband, Barney, fastened the newborn into her car seat and took her camping.

Though she wouldn’t remember her first camping trip (to the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield), Amelia Firns-Hubert would have plenty of other camping experiences. In fact, she would have at least 50.

This summer, Amelia reached a goal she set when she was in sixth grade — to camp in every state in the country before college.

“I was just so proud that she pulled this off,” Kathi says. “I think she realizes how lucky she is that she’s had these experiences in her life.”

Kathi and Barney went on a camping trip every year, and when their children were born, they brought them along. One of Amelia’s earliest memories is of camping with her family.

“When I was 4 or 5, my brothers would take me with them,” she says. “They would carry me down the trails. Sometimes it wasn’t fun being stuck in the car for hours, but that’s not what I remember. I remember the fun stuff.”

The only time Amelia doubted whether she would accomplish her goal was in June. Kathi had back surgery and was unsure whether she could accompany her daughter to her final state, Rhode Island. But after last-minute planning and the OK from Kathi’s doctor, they made the trip.

“I was really excited,” Amelia says. “We got there late, and it was after a long drive. We stopped at a rest stop, but it was closed, and I just took a quick picture. It didn’t really hit me until the next day when I was walking around.”

Though Amelia enjoys all the usual things associated with camping — hiking, wildlife, the mountains — her memories of the trips wouldn’t be the same without the people she’s shared them with: her family. She remembers collecting firewood with her brothers, pitching the tent with her dad and watching her mom cook dinner as her dad played his guitar and sang.

“We always go together, pack up the car and have two weeks just as family,” Amelia says. “No work, no computer, no e-mail, no nothing. It’s really good family time.”

This fall, Amelia — a graduate of Free State High School — began her freshman year at Coffeyville Community College and is on a cheer scholarship. And even though she reached her goal, she’s not satisfied quite yet. Amelia’s made a new goal for herself.

“I want to go to all seven continents before I die,” she says.