It wasn’t easy sending my daughter to camp for the first time. She just turned 9 years old and I was following the advice of my fellow Girl Scout leaders who said, “Angela, it’s time. She’s ready.” It didn’t matter that I wasn’t 100% ready for her to go away on her own for a week. In my heart, I knew she would be fine. I knew she would have an amazing time, but seeing her in the van ready to be whisked away to Skylark Ranch made me second guess our decision. “Angela, walk away. Let’s go,” my husband said. So we left.

It was the longest week of my life. When I picked her up, she was filthy, but she also had the biggest smile on her face—she was absolutely glowing. We stopped for lunch on the way home and she couldn’t stop talking about camp (and that’s saying a lot because she’s already a chatterbox). She was already planning the following year’s trip.

After that first trip, she was hooked and I knew we made the best decision for our daughter. Girl Scout camp plays an essential part in the growth of your girls. Research has proven that going away to camp helps children learn to be independent, make connections with peers from various backgrounds, develop new skills, learn to respect the differences of others and learn about responsibility.

I’ve seen all of these benefits first hand. From the day my daughter came back from camp she started setting these amazing goals for herself—she wanted to become a program aide, she wanted to learn more Girl Scout songs, she wanted to go camping (something we had never done as a family).

She went to camp the next year at Bothin and fell in love with the place. She did archery, the ropes course, and stayed up all night with her new camp friends.

Last year, she returned to Skylark, but had a different experience. She went with two of her Girl Scout friends and it was her favorite experience yet. They slept in a lighthouse near the beach, went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, slept under the stars, and had an overall amazing time.

Angela and her daughter, Diana

This summer, my youngest daughter turns 9, and now it’s her turn to head off to camp for the first time. Even though the girls will be attending different programs and enjoying their own experiences, we are sending our two girls to camp at the same time, so big sister can keep an eye on little sister (and maybe vice versa).

We make Girl Scout camp a priority in our family every year. Yes, there are family vacations, softball tournaments, and other extracurricular activities, but Girl Scout camp is mandatory. We are very fortunate to be able to pay for most of it ourselves. My mom sees the benefits in the camps and the growth in her granddaughters and has offered to provide some financial support. Girl Scouts offers financial aid as well so check them out because even a little bit helps.

Pro Tip: There are family and troop camps as well, so talk to your troop and see if the girls are interested in attending Girl Scout camp together. Maybe it’s a goal that the troop can work towards at cookie time, so every girl can enjoy the camp experience.

Girl Scouts is about giving girls unique experiences—whether they are learning business skills, having fun with STEM, traveling the world, or going to camp. I encourage you to sit down with your troop or your family, look through the catalog (or view the camp brochure online), and visit camprocks.org to read more about the camps. Whether she likes crafts or adventure or something in between, there’s a camp program for every girl. As a mom and a troop leader, trust me when I say, your girls will have the time of their lives at camp!

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Angela BorchertAngela Borchert—Angela is finishing her sixth year as a Girl Scout leader in Vacaville/TAFB Service Unit and loves every minute of it. Her Girl Scouts have helped her embrace glue guns and dirt while taking her on her first kayaking outing. She’s been camping more times in the last four years than she has her entire life thanks to Girl Scouts!