Camp Fire Alaska | Light the Fire Within



The Legacy


The Camp Fire logos over the years

Camp Fire has been an innovative leader in youth development for more than 100 years.

Camp Fire was founded as a national organization in 1910 and started operating in Alaska in 1913. One of the first youth organizations in the state, today we are a leader in youth development and the largest licensed provider of school-age childcare in Alaska.

We got our start as Camp Fire Girls in 1910, founded by Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick and his wife, Charlotte Vetter Gulick. They believed girls deserved the outdoor learning experiences that boys had and wanted to help “guide young people on their journey to self-discovery.”

Shortly after the national agency was formed, Edith Kempthorne started Alaska’s first Camp Fire club in Juneau in 1913 as part of a national movement to extend the Camp Fire model through the “Guardians of the Fire” program. Camp Fire was one of the first youth organizations in Alaska.

In 1959, the first official Camp Fire council began operating as The Chugach Council of Anchorage, serving 350 girls through Camp Fire clubs. Camp Fire started Camp Yalani at King’s Lake Camp in Wasilla in 1960 and offered two one-week sessions for girls each summer.

Joan Hurst, the Alaska Council’s first executive director, arrived in 1962. Camp Si-La-Meo, Camp Fire’s day camp program, was the first formal program launched in 1963.

Following the earthquake in 1964, Camp Fire Alaska received national support from Camp Fire’s friendship fund. The local volunteers gathered supplies and went to villages that had been impacted by the quake. This was the beginning of our Rural Alaska Program. The rural program was later expanded to address the issue of high drowning rates in Alaska’s villages by offering water safety and swimming lessons to children.

In 1966, Camp Kushtaka (Camp K) opened after many volunteer hours spent securing land permits, constructing buildings and clearing land.

Camp Fire was the nation’s first multiracial, multicultural, and nonsectarian organization for girls. We became co-ed in 1975, changing our name to Camp Fire Boys and Girls. Since then, ALL youth have been welcome at Camp Fire.

Joan Hurst played a critical role in creating the first Child Care Assistance Program in Alaska to assist working families with child care expenses. Camp Fire opens School Age Child Care programs before and after school.

Camp Fire Alaska’s Community Centers Program was started in 1978 by a team of social work students in the Fairview and Mountain View neighborhoods in Anchorage. The purpose of the program was to provide safe and nurturing after-school alternatives to youth in economically challenged neighborhoods at no cost to families.

In 1993, Camp Fire added sexual orientation to its Inclusion Policy.

In 1997, Camp Fire founded Absolutely Incredible Kid Day®—a national initiative to encourage the young people in our lives. Each year, millions of people use this day to write notes, letters, emails, social media posts, texts, etc, to the kids in their lives, celebrating their unique talents and telling them how awesome they are! Absolutely Incredible Kid Day takes place every year on the third Thursday of March.

In 2001, Camp Fire Alaska’s first Champions for Children Breakfast Fundraiser is held in order to raise money as well as awareness of the work we are doing and the needs in our community.

In 2002, Camp Fire Alaska began a process of redeveloping Camp K on Kenai Lake, raising $3.25 million to cover the cost of building new infrastructure including cabins with running water and flush toilets. Camp K now has new cabins with running water and flush toilets, a new dining hall/kitchen and a large activity field.

A new health center and shower house became operational in 2013.

In 2010, Camp Fire celebrated its 100th birthday. Camp Fire participants across the country all lit campfires at the same time to honor the legacy of our organization. Camp Fire continues to celebrate its birthday on March 17th every year.

In 2012, Camp Fire became the first national youth development organization in the United States to implement the Thriving framework developed by the Thrive Foundation for Youth, based on the pillars of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Camp Fire was one of the first organizations to teach kids and teens SEL skills through its programs with this new Thrive{ology} framework, a research-based approach for youth success.

In 2019, Camp Fire Alaska launched a new Fire Tenders Society for major donors who have given $100K or more in their lifetime of giving. Twelve inductees are recognized.

In 2020, Camp Fire Alaska launches a new Capital Campaign to further develop Camp K. Additional cabins, trails, a nature center and electricity are all a part of the new development plan.

In 2021, Camp Fire Alaska received the BEETLES grant from The Lawrence Hall of Science at Berkley University and Justice Outside (formerly Youth Outside) to participate in the Working Towards Racial Equity (WTRE) workshop series. This 2-year workshop series was design to foster equitable, inclusive, and culturally relevant work environments and organizations.


In 2022, Camp Fire Alaska underwent a historical CEO transition. Barbara Dubovich retired after 40 years with the agency. Melanie Hooper became the new CEO.

In 2023, after 60 years, Camp Si-La-Meo, Camp Fire’s day camp program, becomes Camp Fireweed.

The Camp Fire Alaska main office operates on the ancestral land of the Dena’ina people. Camp Fire Alaska runs programing on the lands of the Athabascan, Yup’ik, Chup’ik, Sougpiaq, and Inupiaq peoples. We value and thank them for their current and historic commitment to and protection of this land. We pledge to assist, in partnership, in the environmental stewardship of these lands. We strive to learn more about the history of the Native peoples of Alaska and the historic trauma they have suffered. We commit to being an active ally through activities, actions, and organizational decisions and practices. We understand that this is a dynamic process through which our Land Acknowledgement practices, and statement will evolve as we receive feedback from tribal partners and acquire a deeper understanding of and from the Native peoples of Alaska.