STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For nearly six months, Steamboat Springs High School student Christine Bolt worked hard to build a program that would culminate in a night of singing songs around a campfire and sleeping in tents.
She named it “Camp Bloom,” inspired by a flower’s stages of growth.
For some of the 10 participants, it was their first time camping.
For most, it was their first time camping without their families.
Designed for kids on the autism spectrum and with special needs, Bolt taught the campers how to build a fire, set up a tent and cook outdoors.
During three two-hour preparation sessions last week, the campers also learned about wilderness safety and best practices when interacting with wildlife.
With the goal of obtaining a Girl Scout Gold Award, Bolt’s mission was to create something that did not exist in the community, and something that could carry on without her.
The award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. It recognizes girls “who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable Take Action projects that have sustainable impact in their communities-and beyond.”
Bolt said she was inspired to create her own camp in Steamboat after going to a counselor-in-training camp in Woodland Park, where the Girl Scouts helped to put on a “water day” for about 150 kids with special needs.
“It was really fun for them,” Bolt said. “I wanted to bring that here.”
So, she began sending emails and making phone calls. She learned a lot about soliciting donations and created lesson plans and a slide show presentation prior to getting approval from the Girl Scout organization.
Bolt found support in the Yampa Valley Autism Program and Executive Director Lisa Lorenz.
“It’s an opportunity for kids with disabilities to stretch their legs, try something new, learn skills and become more independent in a supported setting,” Lorenz said.
Bolt also received help from three fellow Girl Scouts, Eileen Cashen, Lucy Travis and Claire Fisher as well as the community with donations from Walmart, City Market, Big Agnes, Plan Rx, Memorial Regional Health and Thrival Mode Chiropractic.
With the location provided by Yampatika, the campers and support staff arrived at Legacy Ranch on Friday afternoon.
Once the tents were set up, they built a fire — without using newspaper —and prepared dinner: the walking taco, which consists of meat, cheese and other toppings dumped in a bag of chips.
They made brands, burned onto wood. They sang songs and told stories, which was a highlight for camper Fiona McClure, an aspiring actress. She loves singing and acting, she said, “because it’s a place where you can express yourself and let everything else go.”
For camper Xavier Knolt, the highlight was making s’mores with peanut butter cups.
Of course, there were mosquitoes, and the cars were a bit loud, but, other than that, everyone still managed to sleep well. And they got lucky with no rain and a relatively warm summer night.
On Saturday morning, as they took down the tents and watched the last of the breakfast campfire coals smolder, Bolt said, “It went very well. It was really successful, especially considering I’ve never done anything like it before.”
She said she plans to hold the camp again next summer.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.