CMP regularly receives letters and emails from our club leaders. Here’s a letter from a Girl Scout Program Officer which explains his journey on adding a rifle camp to the Girl Scout camp program. We are sharing this article as a resource for other leaders. If your club needs assistance to start or expand their marksmanship programs, please contact the CMP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m from Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois, and we were the first Girl Scout Council to form a CMP team. We started just as Covid was breaking up. I’ve had the team officially since before Covid, but it took time to get the rest of my ducks in a row.
It was a five-year battle for me to get my CEO at the time to get on board with allowing us to have air rifles at the camps. In my role with the council, I manage all office properties and all our camps, along with managing all the outdoor programs. This translates into the fact that beside running the properties, I facilitate programs with the girls directly.
I’ve been an archery instructor for the girls for 38+ years. Working with the girls, they have always asked to shoot guns. I was able to help, being a trained rifle and pistol instructor and a Chief Range Safety Officer. I could train enough people to run the program.
We worked on long range plans for our camps. We held 22 town hall meetings with hundreds of girls attending to voice their opinions on what they wanted to do to keep them engaged in Girl Scouts. At 21 of those 22 town hall meetings held across the northern quarter of Illinois, the girls said they wanted shooting sports.
We still have not asked for any funding, although, like us, I’m betting many teams could use some funding. We are limited because we can’t use council funds. Despite all the hurdles, we have now competed a few times a year with Tina Odle, CMP Illinois State Director, in Kankakee, Illinois.
I have six girls that have stuck with it, and I have many more wanting to join. We have tryouts in April where we will try to grow the team to 12 girls. We have funded this by each girl paying $5.00 (now $10.00) each practice to cover the cost of ammo and targets. Council did invest to purchase 12 Daisy 599 rifles, and the girls parents purchase them directly from us, at cost, to be on the team.
We’ve also built an indoor range at one of our camps and hold practice there (it was an old dining hall), and we did receive four air rifles donated by the CMP to help us with a junior team.
I have lofty goals. In my time, I have taught archery for many years. Two of the girls that I introduced to archery have actually competed in the Olympics. I was not their coach, I just introduced them because they were friends of my daughters and fell in love with archery. One was an alternate and the other won a bronze medal, many years ago now.
I would love to see one of the girls from a Girl Scout team compete in the Olympics before I die, which I’m not planning on for a while yet. I will be retiring and moving away from Illinois to Georgia in a few months. I found a good person to take over as coach of the team.
Although my CEO is now retired, she was not afraid to let us be the first in the country to form a team. Others have followed, which is why you now have three Girl Scout council teams. I am so happy the CMP does the work it does to educate firearms and safety of using firearms to youth.
Beside the small air rifle team we have, we have ranges at all three of our camps, so any girl whose parents sign the waiver to allow her girl to shoot can come to our camps, where we have 22 trained Range Safety Officers and eight rifle instructors to teach, spark interest and learn proper safety procedures.
Just this year, we put software in place to properly track numbers of users, and we had over 500 girls shooting at our ranges. At each of our three camps, we have different range setups just to keep it unique. Each of the girls go through a safety talk, handling instructions and what to do if they find a gun laying on the ground. Then, the girls get to shoot, which is all they really want.
I wanted you to know a little of what it took to get some Girl Scout teams started. I’m not a person to help spread the word other than by mouth, face to face. I’d love to promote our team through your newsletter. The girls’ program deserves to be known.
When I visited Camp Perry, I walked down what I would call a Hall of Honor. I saw the Boy Scouts of America awards cabinets. I also knew, at that time, there was no active team, and it was just an honor given to the Boy Scouts. I was saddened to know there were no Girl Scout awards cabinets. Someday, I hope there can be a Girl Scout display case.
I’m hoping, when I’m retired, to make it over to Camp Perry during your big events during the summer to see some of what I can only imagine through seeing pictures.
I just wanted to let you know how proud I am of our little Girl Scout Air Rifle team – of how far they have come.
Chief Property and Program Officer
Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States. For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org.