Inside the state’s only co-ed scout day camp

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

More than two decades ago, Diana Mullins and Cherie Bostic began a cub scout troop on the campus of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. In the summers, they took their scouts to the woods for a week of day camp at Greenbrier State Forest. Campers came from Greenbrier, Summers, Monroe, and Pocahontas counties. 

“My daughter, Jenny, wanted to be in a girl scout troop,” remembers Emily Shirey. “They needed a leader…and I’ve been doing it for the last 29 years, 25 along with Marth Snider.” 

Emily and Martha are retiring after next year. “It will be my 30th year as director, and for five years before that I took care of the swimming pool. It’s time,” Emily says. 

In those decades of service, Emily has seen it all–floods, derechos, fires, and multiple generations of children. “My grandkids come now, and I’ve got kids who were my campers now coming back to volunteer with their kids.” 

How has the camp changed? 

Over the years, the camp has evolved. When they began, there were no cell phones. But they needed a way to contact the outside world in case of an emergency. They worked with the phone company to install a phone jack in the middle of the woods.

“If we had an emergency,” Emily explains, “we took our rotary phone out into the woods, plugged it in, and called for help.”

Emily bought her first cell phone because of camp. Now she and her volunteers all carry them. 

Girls are also now allowed to shoot BB guns, which was not the case when the camp first started. “It was a national scout regulation (which kept girls from shooting at first),” says Emily. “I argued our girls shoot and they hunt deer; we are in West Virginia! They finally realized the girls could come into the 21st century and relaxed the regulation.”

How has camp stayed the same? 

Aside from these changes, little about the camp has changed. The constancy of the leadership, programming, and mission makes it a summer staple in southern West Virginia. 

“It’s been co-ed from the beginning,” says Emily. “We are the only girl scout day camp that has boys. The girls do just as good as the boys.”

They offer crafts, sports, archery, nature adventures, and work on skills such as learning how to use a compass. “How many parents get to take their kids to play in the woods? We offer that.” 

Cub scouts and girl scouts get the first chance to register, and the public is then allowed to register after that. Campers come from Marlingon, Monroe County, Rainelle, and even as far away as Florida. 

An army of volunteers

Emily and Martha are joined on their leadership team by Robert Cox and Hannah Morningstar-Stout. An army of additional teenage and adult volunteers make the day camp possible. 

Everyone volunteers. No one is paid for their time. 

“A lot of my volunteers take their vacation time to do camp,” Emily explains. “I couldn’t do it without them.”

They start planning camp every January. Meetings begin on a monthly basis and grow to weekly as camp time rolls around. 

Additional community organizations and businesses make the camp possible. 

“All of our fruit was donated by Corey Brothers and Tri-County Produce. Greenbrier County Schools lets us use buses. Martin and Jones lets us store our equipment every year for free. We have a great relationship with the sheriff’s office and the Department of Natural Resources. Gillespie’s in White Sulphur does so much. It’s a community effort for sure,” says Emily. 

End of an era

Emily Shirey & Martha Snider

With Emily and Martha heading into their final year of leadership, they feel very good about the future of the camp. “It’s in good hands,” Emily offers. 

“Kids get to be be kids here,” she says. “They get to go have fun in the woods. It’s structured but it’s freeing.” 

The most frequent question Emily receives at the end of camp each year is: Can we do this again next week? 

“Some of these kids will never get the opportunity to learn how to swim or shoot a bow or learn how to put on a life jacket. It’s a lot better than sitting at home.” 

Mark your calendars now for next year’s Scout Day Camp, which will be the end of an era as Emily Shirey and Martha Snider retire. The camp will be held the week of July 8, 2024. Stay tuned to RealWV for further details next winter.

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