Communication Builds Our Community

Middle School Girls Learn to be Fearless at Weekend Camp

Lincoln Community Development, Rotary on the Ridge Host Annual Event

Nearly two dozen middle school girls from Lake Wales and the surrounding area spent the weekend March 11-13 at camp learning about female empowerment and being encouraged to be "fearless" and to never stop reaching to achieve their goals.

Rotary on the Ridge and the Lincoln Community Development Corp. partnered to host the first ever Camp Fearless at Lake Aurora Christian Camp. The girls participated in adventure activities, such as a zipline, giant swing and the gaga ball pit, and heard from a variety of discussion leaders and speakers.

Ashley Cockrell, a new officer with the Lake Wales Police Department, told the girls to "never, never, never, never give up." Cockrell always wanted to be a police officer, and finally achieved that goal recently at the age of 41. Cockrell said she never let being a girl get in the way of her accomplishments, including becoming the first female to score in an NCAA Division 1 Football game. Cockrell was a kicker for not only her high school football team but also the Jacksonville University Gamecocks, where she achieved the noteworthy milestone.

Twenty-four-year-old Nicholas Bique, a 2016 graduate of Harrison School for the Arts and soon-to-be inducted Rotarian, helped the girls with outdoor activities, led dancing at a party Saturday night and offered an inspirational message Sunday morning, showing the many things he already has accomplished in life.

The girls enjoyed DJ MiniC, Rotarian Joe Carter, who provided not only music for an evening of dancing, but an extremely popular photo booth. Volunteers helped girls with their hair, nails and makeup to prepare for the Gorgeous Girls Gala.

Rotary on the Ridge members Mary Walkup and Stephanie Edwards co-chaired Camp Fearless, with the help of committee members Chevon Baccus, Stephanie Mosely, Sara Jones, Debra Wright-Hudson, Taylor Hamilton, Caroline Swanson, Fran Hanrahan and Beulah Mace.

Walkup presented a leadership award to one girl in each grade level, in honor of Dr. Lyn Jones, who helped get the planning started for Camp Fearless prior to her death in August 2021. Recipients were 6th grader Cadence Curchy, 7th grader Ayvalei Joyner, and 8th grader Ariel Hilton.

Rotary on the Ridge members led various interactive sessions, including Terri Miller introducing breathwork, meditation and journaling; Chevon Baccus lea a mask building exercise to help the girls explore what attributes they share with the world and what they hide; Leslie Grondin covered non-verbal communication; and Anne Gibson led an exercise on identifying leaders. Walkup, Edwards and Lincoln CDC officer Mosley helped the girls find their unique spark, prompting each of four groups to develop community service project ideas, which they presented Sunday afternoon.

Rotarian Fred Halde, a retired minister, led a devotional Sunday morning and Library Director Tina Peak led two yoga sessions. Professional women from the community joined the girls for Sunday lunch.

Camp Fearless was provided at no cost to the campers, counselors and adult volunteers. About $9,000 was raised from local businesses, foundations and individuals. In addition to Rotary on the Ridge and the Lincoln CDC the camp was supported by Aviator PPG/Eric Farewell, Chevon & Mike Baccus, the City of Lake Wales, Coldwell Banker Erin Floyd Team, Laura & Frank Hunt, Susan & Jim Jahna, the Jahna Foundation-Lake Wales Junior Woman's Club, Native Imagery, Spa Haven, State Farm/Christina Richards, Citizens Bank & Trust, Edward Jones/Vanessa & Jeffrey Colburn, Rebekah Jahna, Kevin Kitto, State Farm/Mike Pearce, Capo Security/Gio Fazzini, Coldwell Banker/Julie Seay, Jennifer & Geert d'Hollander, Anne Gibson, Leslie Grondin, Sara Irvine, Marilyn & Emil Jahna, Terri Miller, Donna Parker, Salud & Associates-Diane & Bob Stephens, Mary Walkup, and Sandra Wolf.

The first group of Camp Fearless participants declared the weekend a huge success and committed to Camp Fearless Two in 2023. In notes to sponsors, the girls expressed their appreciation. While many cited the zip line and giant swing as their favorites, they also said they enjoyed making new friends, learning to be kind to one another, hearing from motivational speakers, awesome food and overcoming their fears.

"Because of you I have made new friends," wrote Samantha Battle, a McLaughlin Middle School 6th grader.

"Thank you for letting us come out here and learn how fearless we are," wrote Maci Young, an Oasis Christian School 7th grader.

Camp Fearless girls were drawn from seven area middle schools. Rotary on the Ridge is a regional, after-hours service club that meets every Monday from 5-6 at the Ouellette Law Firm meeting room in Lake Wales. Guests are welcome. For more information, contact Chevon Baccus at 863-651-1065 or email [email protected].


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