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The Ranger Diaries

Ranger Diaries- Ranger Headshots

Pictured from left to right: Ranger Courtney from Camp Wildwood, Ranger Darryl from Camp Wai Lani, Ranger Deb from Camp Indian Echo, and Ranger Steve from Camp Dorothy Thomas.

If you’re anything like us, you’ve been missing Girl Scout Camp something awful these past few months. That’s why were so excited to announce our new initiative: The Ranger Diaries . 

Through The Ranger Diaries, Rangers Courtney Hatch, Darryl Behensky, Deb Dereniski, and  Steve Huegel and will share with the things you know and love about our camps: nature, adventure, and even some improvements for when we can finally return! And, some fun things you might not know. We’ll share big updates (like this one) in our blog, and we’ll share even more on social media; so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

For this first issue, we talked to our rangers to find out what they love about being such a key part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. 

1. How long have you been with GSWCF?

Courtney: 11 years total, 4 years as a staff member. I have been a volunteer troop leader for 11 years – I still have Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors! My first 1.5 years as a staff member, I was Assistant Ranger at Camp Wildwood before transitioning to the Ranger position. I was a Girl Scout for 13 years and earned my Girl Scout Gold Award with another council in Texas.

Darryl: Almost 7 years, but I’ve been with Girl Scouts for 20+!

Deb: I’ve been a staff member for 17 years. I was a volunteer 7 years before becoming a staff member. I volunteered with my daughter’s troop and used to teach Dutch Oven Cooking. 

Steve: Two years

2. What’s your favorite thing about your camp?

Courtney: My favorite part of Camp Wildwood is the endless possibilities and opportunities that it holds for current and future Girl Scouts.  It allows them to experience and be immersed in an old-growth Florida forest, while still being in a safe and secure environment.

It has all the regular camp activities and offers all levels of camping opportunities. There’s also the Homestead area with the garden, the horses and soon we will have our lake back!  To put it in a shorter answer: My favorite think about Camp Wildwood is the camp as a whole, and what it provides for the Girl Scouts.

Darryl: The unique opportunity Camp Wai Lani provides our members. Camp Wai Lani is 42+ acres on the Gulf of Mexico in the most densely populated county in the state. This affords our girls the opportunity to explore, grow and become leaders all within a very short drive of their homes.

Deb: I love every aspect of Indian Echo but my favorites are the challenge course, fitness trail, and the night eyes on the Lupine Trail. Seeing the girls enjoying Daisy Lake on the paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks is the highlight of my weekends here.

Steve: Camp Dorothy Thomas is a sanctuary that is close to the city, but can sometimes make you feel like you’re on the edge of the world.

3. What’s your favorite part about Summer Camp?

Courtney: Hearing the excited laughter and chatter as it echoes through the woods.  Plus, seeing how much joy camp brings to the girls, and knowing that I have had a part to play in that.

Darryl: Watching and encouraging camper’s growth by overcoming fears and gaining self-confidence, while not being aware of their development because they’re having too much fun! 

Deb: My favorite part of camp is seeing the girls making friends and memories. I love the flag ceremonies and hearing the girls sing.

Steve: Watching the comradery that is created during the girls’ time at camp and knowing that the friendships created here might last a lifetime.

4. What’s your camp’s best kept secret?

Courtney: The amphitheater and the planted pines area. For a wilderness trained leader, it is the perfect area to do a test run on a true primitive camping experience with their troop before going out on their own. 

Darryl: Not many people know that Camp Wai Lani owns a small mangrove island  that girls can reach by canoe or kayak from the boathouse. It even has a (very) small beach where you can see up close how mangroves help prevent beach erosion.

Deb: You can find a “catface” on an old pine tree. These whisker-like markings were left behind after extracting turpentine from the tree in the early 1900’s. There is also a small concrete slab near Calusa, our wilderness campsite, from the early 1960’s that used to be a food storage building when Camp Indian Echo had no buildings and was strictly a wilderness camp. There are also some time capsules buried there from troops more than 10 years ago!

Steve: Camp Dorothy Thomas has a pair of nesting Sandhill cranes who have lived here for more than 3 years!


5. What have you been working on while girls have been away from camp?


Courtney: Building a fire circle and painting bunk beds at our new cabins at Camp Wildwood – the Firefly Unit.  I’ve also spent time painting and improving the pool house and bathhouse, as well as deep cleaning, inventorying and organizing all of the buildings on top of day-to-day maintenance of the property.

Darryl: Many improvements! I’ll be showcasing some of those in pictures and videos (coming soon!)

Deb: I have been busier without troops visiting camp. I’ve been catching up on projects such as staining, painting, and cleaning. We have new signs, a new well house and a cargo container at the beach for our paddleboards. The property line has been surveyed and marked, and we installed new security systems in those areas. I also participated in a Virtual Destination at Camp with the girls which was so exciting!

Steve: We’ve been painting and re-screening buildings. We painted the lodge’s kitchen and cut down trees and limbs along all roads and pathways. We’re also creating new spaces for girls to explore.

6. What’s your favorite Girl Scout Cookie?

Courtney: Tagalongs

Darryl: Samoas

Deb: My favorite cookie is the Samoa, but I love them all. This year I was able to share cookies with the Forestry Service when they did our controlled burn. The camp is already rejuvenating, and new growth and habitats are flourishing! 

Steve: I enjoy them all!

Please note: all photos were taken prior to our camps being closed due to COVID-19.