by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Rocker Cyndi Lauper from the 1980s was absolutely right: Girls just want to have fun — at American Heritage Girls summer camp.
Girls from five Catholic-sponsored American Heritage Girls troops romped all over Prairie Star Ranch near Williamsburg Aug. 14-16, earning badges and engaging in a range of outdoor and spiritual activities.
“The girls love it,” said Kim Grandon, troop coordinator for AHG Troop KS-2206, sponsored by Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood. “They have so much energy. We don’t have one spare moment. Their entire weekend is planned out and they go, and they go, and they go. They sing while they walk and make up their skits and songs for the bonfire. They just love every bit of camp.”
American Heritage Girls, founded in 1995, is a nationwide Christ-centered character development and leadership program for girls ages 5 to 18.
“Our troop was the first [Catholic AHG unit] in our archdiocese,” said Grandon. “We went to a camp [in 2013] for all the area AHG troops that first summer. It was fine, but it lacked the things we place value on in our faith, so we decided to have our own camp.”
This is the second year Prairie Star Ranch hosted the American Heritage Girls with 54 girls and 37 adults, an increase of 33 campers over last year.
Participating troops included MO-6506, sponsored by Knights of Columbus Council 6506 in Blue Springs, Missouri; KS-2206; KS-1279 from St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood; KS-0138 from Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa; and KS-3130 from Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.
American Heritage Girls earn proficiency badges that fall under five categories: patriotic, family living, arts, outdoors skills and personal well-being.
The different units of a troop have different requirements appropriate for their age levels.
“This year we chose a Native American theme,” said Grandon. “We tried to focus on earning the Native American badge for all our units. The little girls made clay pots and painted designs on them. The middle-aged girls built their own tepees. The older girls brought their 18-inch dolls, researched different clothing worn by different tribes and made outfits for the dolls.”
The girls earned their textile badge by making wampum belts, rosary bracelets and tie-dye shirts. And they did activities such as archery, canoeing, swimming and horseback riding. They also enjoyed a hayride and evening bonfire activities with songs and skits.
“We were fortunate this year that ‘Wet Willie’ was still up, so we used the big water slide,” said Grandon.
Because AHG is Christ-centered, prayer and worship was a big part of the camp. The girls earned their joyful mysteries of the rosary badge, recited rosaries, prayed before meals, worshiped at Mass on Saturday evening and participated in eucharistic adoration Sunday morning. There were also prayer and talks before and after activities.
The Prairie Star Ranch retreat team facilitated the activities at the camp.
“The girls were joyful and excited to be at the camp,” said Katie Friess, a retreat team member. “They were ready to take part in all the activities with much enthusiasm.”
Friess was impressed by how natural prayer was for the girls and how the AHG incorporates the Catholic faith into all their activities. She was also impressed by how much the mission of Prairie Star Ranch and the AHG matched each other.
“This was definitely the kind of group we want to see,” said Friess. “The leaders were organized and clear in their expectations. The kids were awesome, so excited to be at camp and participate in all the activities. They want to be here, and that gives us a lot of joy.”
“Also, the fact that [AHG] is seeking to build the Catholic faith of their campers is really exciting for us at Prairie Star Ranch,” added Friess. “It is our mission to unite youth and families to the church through evangelization, Catholic formation and adventure catechesis. American Heritage Girls fits right into that mission.”