Tuesday, April 27, 2021

An Expert Witness

On March 31st a reader reached out to me with the question: is this on your radar? The enclosed link took me to an announcement that the Girl Scouts of Maryland were considering the sale of Camp Ilchester. The reasoning was that they would be the best stewards of their resources by using money from the sale to support other state Girl Scout properties and programs.

Almost immediately I imagined a variety of local responses: broken-hearted Girl Scouts, environmentalists concerned about the possible loss of green space, and the consternation of those who oppose an increase of new housing/development in the county. I reached out to my friend and neighborhood Girl Scout leader Jeanne Lay for some perspective. She was trying to maintain an open mind but I could tell that the prospect of losing Camp Ilchester was a significant loss. 

After some conversation I had an idea. I didn’t want to throw myself into this issue without a better understanding of what Camp Ilchester really means in Howard County. I asked her if she could let her former Girl Scouts (since graduated) know I was interested in their thoughts.

Not long after that I received a friendly email from Oakland Mills High School graduate Alex Sellman. She wrote that she’d be happy to help and I told her what I was looking for:

I am hoping to gather some personal stories from Girl Scouts about their favorite memories of Camp Ilchester. They could be funny, or explain what made the camp special to them. My goal is to write a blog post in which the Girl Scouts’ experiences shine through and speak for themselves about the value of Camp Ilchester. 

By the end of the week I received her response, somehow fit in between her classes and other college commitments. Here it is, full of happy memories and the realization of how much these experiences meant to her and her fellow Scouts.


About Camp

Camp Ilchester is a place where I and many of my fellow scouts have called home. Each summer my friends and I would look forward to those two best weeks of the summer. Each year every person at camp would have to come up with a fun “camp name” to be called for those two weeks. It always added to the fun and excitement of our camp experience. We would pack our bags and sit-upons and get ready to load the buses the next morning. We’d sing very joyful songs the whole ride there from “Girl Scout Camp” to “The Duck Socks” and the “The Littlest Worm”. It was an amazing memory before we even reached the campgrounds. When we got there we had a day full of friends, arts, crafts, archery, nature, and snow cones. 

 A Fun Story 

Each day at camp was always packed with fun and excitement. Some of it was the excitement of knowing that in the afternoon we would get to have snow cones or head down to the archery range. The best camp stories come from the times we didn’t even see coming, though. One happened 2018, during the 6th-grade sleepover.  This event is a rite of passage for the girls as they plan to start middle school in the fall and become PA’s/counselors-in-training the next summer when they return to camp. The sixth-grade sleepover is a special night for these girls and the counselors, too, who have waited to go back and work the special event. 

​In the summer of 2018, the weather was terrible. It started to pour right after we had finished making “trash can stew” (a giant stew cooked in a brand new trash can) for dinner. We rushed to pack up all of our stuff and get the girls inside where we set up tents in the main room of the Petterson Nature Center. We made a glowstick fire and sat around and sang songs late into the night. After we decided to turn in we were awoken at 4 am by fire alarms going off. We rushed the girls outside and called the fire department. When they arrived they said it was just a problem with the alarm there was no fire. 

So we had about 30 girls outside at 4 am. What were we going to do? Of course: Morning Yoga! All of the PA’s gathered together with the girls and decided to lead a yoga session in which none of us knew yoga so we had no idea what we were doing. The girls later told us they loved the yoga because it was all about the fun and now looking back it was one of my favorite camp memories. My friends and I still see each other when we are home from college and we talk about this crazy night almost every time. 

 Why Camp is Family

Camp has always held a special place in my heart. It is where I have met most of my best friends. My camp friends are like family to me. Our camp family tragically lost one of our own, Charlotte “Chewy” Zaremba, in 2017. The loss of Chewy impacted many of us very deeply. We wanted to keep her memory alive at camp. Troop 471 made a wonderful bench in her honor that lives at camp and should remain at camp for years to come. 

When the class of 2019 was about to finish our time at camp as PA’s and bridge into adulthood we wanted a way to bring Chewy with us - - because for many years she was there for so many of our favorite memories. For us she will always be a part of of of our camp family. I, along with Anna “Ace”,and Sophie “Ducky”, began brainstorming ways to honor Chewy as we went through this major camp milestone. The day we crossed that bridge to begin our journey as adults we carried Chewy’s memorial bench with us as a symbol that her memory would always be with us. 

Chewy is always in our hearts and minds but she especially lives on at Camp Ilchester. Those campgrounds where we met, and where we had so many fun times, hold all the memories of our friends and the learning and adventures we experienced as campers there.

- - Alexandra Sellman, Texas A&M University, Aerospace Engineering ‘23


If you would like additional information on this topic, I suggest the following:

“Not just a piece of property,” Ana Faguy, Baltimore Sun

Save Camp Ilchester, Change.Org

A message from the GSCM Board of Directors, 4/23/21

I’m sure there are plenty of people around town who have opinions about this. May I suggest that, before you make up your mind one way or the other, talk to an expert: a Girl Scout.




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