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Camp Fire brings fun for new and old campers alike

Posted on June 19, 2019

Boys and girls alike could be seen playing, laughing and enjoying Popsicle treats yesterday afternoon at Camp Fire El Dorado’s annual day camp at Camp Wotapi, in Parkers Chapel.

“I think just to get the kids outside and have more of an appreciation for nature and be unplugged from their electronics for a week,” said Leanne Harrell, executive director of Camp Fire El Dorado. “A lot of kids don’t do that anymore.”

Over 150 children, both Camp Fire members and otherwise, have spent the week so far learning how to shoot BB guns, practicing archery, making crafts and playing camp-wide games of capture the flag, among other activities.

Molly Harter, a lifelong Camp Fire member, is the camp director this year. She’s been a Camp Fire member since she was in the first grade; a junior in college now, she returned as a counselor this year for her eighth year in a row.

“I’ve done it for the past two years,” Harter said. “It’s been a pretty interesting role… Hanging out with the girls that I went to high school with that were younger than me, and seeing them again, is nice.”

She said Harrell’s leadership is a big reason why she keeps coming back, saying returning for camp every year feels like “coming home.”

Harter said she has made lifelong friendships through Camp Fire; many of those friends also came to Camp Wotapi this year as counselors.

“The counselors have been my favorite this year, they’ve been a little bit more helpful,” Harter said. “And then the kids change every year, so it’s nice to see them with a different personality sometimes.”

Clarabeth Black, a 12-year-old Camp Fire member since kindergarten, always comes to Camp Wotapi. Harrell said one year, she even came with a cast on her arm because she was so excited about camp.

“I like that we can hang out with our friends and play games,” Clarabeth said.

Her favorite part of camp so far has been playing Ga-Ga ball, a variation of dodge ball played with the ball on the ground in a pit, where children are eliminated if they’re hit with a ball.

“They love playing Ga-Ga ball. That’s one of their favorite things,” Harrell said. “We had [the Ga-Ga ball pit] built several years ago and I wish I would have built two, it’s that popular.”

For Clarabeth, Camp Fire is more than Camp Wotapi – throughout the school year, she helps with various community service projects, like visiting the Salvation Army and donating dog toys to the animals at the Union County Animal Protection Society.

“We get to help the community,” she said.

Camp Wotapi will continue through the rest of the week. This afternoon, the children will be cooking spaghetti over camp fires in Dutch ovens around noon, and at 3 p.m., they will be having a color war, covering each other in different colored powders matching their camp teams.

On Thursday, the children will hold a turtle race with turtles they’ve found at home or at camp. Tuesday afternoon, Harper Gates and Taylynn Clark could be found playing with the Purple Team’s turtle.

Both Taylynn and Harper are first-time campers this year. All the activities at Camp Wotapi this year have been fun, they said.

“I like that we eat the Popsicle,” Taylynn said, describing her favorite part of camp. “The turtle is so cute.”

“My favorite part was the hoola hoop race,” Harper said. “I was almost at the end. I only had three more.”

Harrell said each camp counselor is a former or current Camp Fire member, including some that are only in seventhgrade. There is even one graduate student acting as counselor this year.

One of her favorite things about the camp is that it keeps children outside and away from screens.

“A lot of kids don’t have that, time away from phones,” she said. “[At Camp Wotapi], they are out in the woods all day every day.”

More boys than usual have attended Camp Wotapi this year. Harrell noted in a previous interview that both boys and girls are welcome in Camp Fire. Camp Wotapi, though, is open to the public, so attendees are both Camp Fire members and nonmembers.

Camp Wotapi will continue through Friday. To learn more about Camp Fire El Dorado, visit

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or