Monday, April 30, 2012

Letters from Girls ~ Columbia Falls Service Unit ~ Typed and Annotated by Ann Brooks

     Here's a typed up version of some letters from girls hoping to save Camp Westana.  I will copy the originals (they are wonderful, handwritten, and include colorful artwork) before sending them to council.  What I record here, then, is a typed, black and white, flat version of their letters.  In order to portray some of the authentic flavor, I'll include some of the events I overheard or otherwise gleaned from being present when pen (or marker) was put to paper (when I can).  Also I'll keep the author's original spellings.

“please help us save the Westana Camp.  Please because some people haven't been their And it looks fun! 
please save it.”  “By Jenisha 3433”.  (2nd Grade) This text also includes a drawing of a blue, white, and red flag on a pink pole. 

This letter and the ones following were written by a young troop, 1st and 2nd graders.  This is their first year as a troop and they have NEVER been to Camp Westana.  Ever. An older girl, a 9th grader, sat with them and helped them with their spelling and showed them a slide show of some of the things her troop had done over the past 9 years at Camp Westana.  One of the things that really caught the younger girls' attention were the photos of the Columbia Falls Service Unit retiring three American flags at Camp Westana.
They had many questions and the 9th grader tried hard to answer them.  I remember walking by and hearing “But why?” “But why?” “But why?” as the older girl tried to explain what we were doing in the photos.  It must have made an impression, because all the girls drew flags in their letters.  Here's the next.

“westana lodge dont let the flag fall.”  Picture of an American flag. “america flag I like gril sckot it is fun.”  by:  renee 3433 (1st grade)

“I wish I was in westana it looks awsome.  I hope you gize (guys) keep the camp.  I hoped you gizes had fun.” Picture of an American flag.  “let's help america!”  by Rylee 3433 (2nd Grade)

“I hope you get to keep westana.  I hope it was fun those days!” By Rylee 3433 (2nd Grade)

Helping the younger girls made quite an impression on the older girl too.  I found her later, by herself, in tears.  I thought she was hurt or someone from our troop had been mean to her and I asked her what was wrong.  She said “Oh, you know, seeing all those pictures of camp.  I want to take my girl there someday...” 

“Dear Council,
     My name is Neva Joy.  I joined Girl Scouts when I was in second grade.  I remember my first campout at Westana.  I was sooo scared Because I had never Been camping before.  My troop had a campout in our co-Leader's Backyard to get us ready.
      Westana is a part of who I am.  I Brought my camera to one of the camp-outs.  That's when I realized I want to Be a Wildlife Photographer.
       The scariest thing that ever happened to me was at Westana.  Someone who was there Before us had left a bunch of dead firecrackers on the ground.” (These were actually party poppers)  “Everyone was pulling on the strings pretending they'd blew up.  I finally got the courage to try one of the hundreds laying on the ground....It went off in my face!
      This camp has made me friends, memories, and life lessons.  It's not just me.  If you take this camp away YOU WILL be Breaking the hearts of hundreds of girls, big and small.” 
“Signed Neva.” (15 years old)

Neva didn't hear the suggestion that she write what Westana means to her, so she wrote her strongest memory of being there, which she took to be her scariest.  She's in ninth grade now and she said she still thinks of this scary moment sometimes if she's sleepy in study hall, and it never fails to wake her right up!

   My name is Katie Colleen.  I am 12 years old, in 7th grade, and a Girl Scout Cadette.  I want to save Camp Westana because of the memories, fun , and tradition.
    Thinking of Westana brings me to remember great friends, fun activities, and good times that will stay with me forever.
     One of my teachers used to be a Girl Scout, and she's been going to Westana her whole life!”

The teacher referenced in the above letter was also reportedly MARRIED at Westana!!!!

“Dear Girl Scout Council,
   I am Briana and I live in C. Falls.  I love camp westana.  It was so fun when I want ice fishing with my sisters troop at camp westana.  Then we made an iglow and then we told stary storys in the iglow.  I really want to keep the camp.”  “Sincerely, Briana”  (4th grade)

“Dear Council,
     Please don't get rid of Camp Westana!  I have had so many good times there and created so many memories.   Like building a giant snow cave in the winter and swimming in the lake during the summer.  I made many new friends over the years....I know I am not the only one this camp means a lot too.  Please don't take away my childhood memories.”  
“Sincerely and with hope, Karina (14 years)” (9th grade)

“Dear Girl Scout Council,
    Hello, I am Shanae and I am trying to save Camp Westana for Girl Scouts also I am in Angela's Girl Scout troop.”  “Sincerely, Shanae”  (7th grade)

(No salutation)
       “Ever since I was a little girl, camping at Westana was very interesting.  The friends, the forest, and the overall comforting environment.”
         “Today, I am 14 and was disturbed of the thought that my memories may be taken from me.  Only pictures to remind me of the times I've had their.”
         “Today I will fight.  Today, I WILL save Westana.”
        “Sincerely, Savannah” (7th grade)

This next letter is on crumpled, wrinkled, lined paper with multiple erasures.  The girl carried it around with her for two days trying to convey her feelings.  She really wanted an online thesaurus!  But no internet where we were....I think she did just fine on her own. 

“Dear Girl Scout Council,
      I am writing this letter in hopes that you will take action on behalf of the raise of the lease upon the Westana property.  The following through of this would result in great despair in the Girl Scout community of the Flathead Valley (as well as all visitors).  I know that I have enjoyed the winter escapades and summer sojourns to this excellent facility.  There have been many a fond memory made and hopefully (with your assistance) a numerous amount more.
        Having this wonderful camp is very beneficial.  It gives a closer (not to mention less expensive for troops...and with your support....everyone) opportunity for girls to participate in camping—something that isn't self-initiated these days.  This camp is a memory base for us treking veterans and a station for the younger generations.  I have spent many a winter advancing through the snow, followed by my laden sled and assuring myself that it will all be over by tomorrow.  But this mind set does not stay as soon as I cross the threshold of the Shooting Star minicamp.  The time spent learning the trade of outdoor cooking, and the ice fishing that leads to snowball fights.  The sledding and building of elaborate snow forts and decorations made, are fundamentals for any young girl's memory bank.  I have hope that Camp Westana will be available for everyone, now and the future, to use and love.”
“Thank you very much for considering my thoughts, Skye” (9th grade)

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could convey what this camp has meant to our family; we have rented this wonderful camp for almost 20 years for our family reunion (every 3 yrs.)Its heartbreaking to us that this camp might be lost. I personally was a girl scout until I graduated high school & camped every summer since I was in 5th grade..all the way from the cabin to later...survival outings. I know these experiences helped me acquire my love for nature & the outdoors. It tears at my heart to think that this wonderful camp might not be available in the future for girls of all ages to have the chance to experience what I did growing up. I live in Las Vegas now but I was born in Montana & will ALWAYS consider it my home. I hope & pray this camp can be saved for future generations.
    Linda Tindall (Bevis) Ulrich...Las Vegas, NV...