In 2020 when the Girls Quest Board of Directors made the decision to cancel Camp 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Connie Stine, our Camp Director, wasn’t willing to shut the door to providing a camping experience for girls. She decided that if we couldn’t physically bring girls together safely for camp at Camp Oh-Neh-Tah, she’d figure out a way to safely bring camp to our girls. And with that determination GirlsQUEST@Home (GQ@H) was born—a 10-day virtual camping experience delivered in the safety of a participant’s home. The program ran from August 3-12, 2020 and was held between 9am-12pm each day.

The Board sends THANKS and KUDOS to Connie for bringing her vision of GQ@H to fruition and successfully delivering the program that received rave reviews from participants, parents and instructors. The reviews were so good that the Board granted Connie’s request to offer the program on an on-going basis under the umbrella of GirlsQUEST@Home Year-Round (GQ@HYR). GQ@HYR is offered on select Saturdays from 1:00-4:00pm and the first workshop was delivered on October 17, 2020.

So let’s take a step back and look at what has made GQ@H and GQ@HYR so successful…….

First and foremost, Connie’s drive and commitment to bring our young campers together to interact, learn, grow and have F-U-N.

Second, Connie’s dedicated Planning Committee and Instructors who volunteer their time to develop the Workshops and/or facilitate them. Thanks to these individuals who give up their time for meetings and bring their expertise to the screen while working with young girls.

Third, a Workshop design that has proven to engage girls by providing variety that has continuity, opportunities for discussion and sharing, activities that tap creativity and free expression, and chances to participate in camp favorites that have been loved since the late 1800’s.

Focusing on the Workshops—they are themed and sometimes tie into a holiday or the season. February workshops focused on Valentine’s Day with workshops titles like Share the Love and Festival of Love. Spring brought Spring into Courage and Spring Shenanigans. Christmas, the busiest cookie making time of the year, had workshops entitled Cookies, Crafts and Confidence and Cookies and Compliments.

To get participants engaged and contributing, Connie created a “Gratitude Tree” (that has leaves that change with the season) and a “Kindness Bee”, as consistent visuals/activities that become a common thread through all the Workshops. Girls are asked different questions each Workshop that will surface answers related to gratitude or kindness and their responses are recorded and pinned to the Gratitude Tree or Kindness Bee. The earlier Workshops focused on gratitude and the more recent ones focused on kindness.

One of the elements that I really liked about the Workshops was Connie’s use of a book entitled A Strong Girl’s Guide to Being, by Lani Silversides. The book, which is part guided journal and part workbook, focuses on building self-esteem, seeing possibilities and maintaining a positive mindset. I also appreciate how Connie integrated topics that related to Black History Month and Women’s History Month (if she conducted a Workshop in February or March); and how she invited Guest Speakers, who addressed self-esteem and career topics, to bring a different voice to the Workshops.

Core elements of the Workshops that girls can count on include Craft Quest, Nature Quest, Song Fest, games and a physical activity like dance or yoga. They look forward to the “Quest Box” of supplies, that always arrives before a scheduled Workshop, to get a hint of the Craft Quest activity for the upcoming Workshop. Some of the Craft Quests have been putting together a Valentine Pillow, a Rustic Picture Frame, Christmas Ornaments, a Banner and a Courage Box. Girls have also decorated cookies as a craft activity.

Beavers, brown bears and honey bees have been the focus of Nature Quest, along with a game called Wildlife Fun. And Song Fest has pulled songs, from the Girls Quest Song Book, that girls have been singing at Camp Oh-Neh-Tah for years—the Beaver Song, Green Trees, Bananas, We Are Many and Taps. For games, the girls have played the Name Game, Confidence Jeopardy, a Trivial game on the platform and their FAVORITE game—SCAVENGER HUNT.

The virtual program that was quickly developed as a replacement, has found a home in our program offering right next to SEED and the Teen Leadership programs. GQ@H and GQ@HYR have provided another avenue to reach our mission and has enabled us to keep girls engaged between camp sessions, build a stronger relationship with campers and families, and it serves as a feeder program to our camp program.

The next step for this virtual program is to occasionally come offline and into a physical space. We’d love to offer the Workshop face to face. Be on the lookout for that announcement.

Before I close this Blog, I just want to say “THANKS” again to Connie. Without her there would not be a GQ@H or GQ@HYR.