Riley Ball’s lifelong involvement with Camp Fire recently helped her earn a $2,500 college scholarship.
“I was basically born into Camp Fire,” she said. “My mom was a Camp Fire kid.”
In fact, her mother, Tracy Taitch, turned her love of the organization into a career. When Riley was born, Taitch was serving as a district director. In addition, she served as Camp Dart-Lo director for 15 years before retiring in 2007.
Ball’s earliest memories involve Dart-Lo. Located on 51 acres along the Little Spokane River, the day camp offered endless opportunities for fun and exploration.
“I was there every weekday during the summer since I was months old,” she said. “It’s my home.”
She enjoyed the outdoor activities like swimming, hiking and archery, but what she most appreciated was that Dart-Lo was a place where every kid felt welcomed and accepted.
Ball worked hard to achieve Camp Fire milestones, but what she really looked forward to was the day she’d become a camp counselor. However, just when that goal was in sight, she learned that due to budgetary constraints the organization wouldn’t be operating the camp at Dart-Lo in 2012.
The news was devastating to Ball.
She and her mother discussed possible solutions. Taitch offered to serve as camp director on a volunteer basis. She and Ball requested – and received – permission from the Camp Fire Council to offer two weeks of camp with a volunteer staff.
With council approval, Ball, at 16, took an active role in recruiting staff and planning and navigating complex logistics. She found five Horizon members from her own Camp Fire Club to spend two weeks cleaning the main lodge, outbuildings, trails, fire pits, and the swimming pool.
The camp was a resounding success, but Ball didn’t rest on her laurels. Instead, she looked ahead to the next summer. She and her fellow volunteers planned several fundraising events that brought campers, family and friends back to camp. They hosted Ghost, Goblins, and Goodies Day for Halloween, Pluto Play Day, Nacho Bar Day with a live band, and a pancake feed.
These activities secured enough donations that Ball’s team of volunteers, with help from council staff, were able to open Camp Dart-Lo for five weeks last summer.
“This will be our third summer running Dart-Lo on a volunteer basis,” Ball said.
Her commitment hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2012, she received the Unity in the Community Outstanding Youth Leader Award.
This month Ball graduated from Mead High School and also received an associate’s degree from Spokane Falls Community College, thanks to Running Start.
Like her mom before her, she also recently received the Wohelo Award – Camp Fire’s highest honor available to youth.
Her academic diligence and community involvement resulted in her receiving a presidential scholarship from Eastern Washington University as well as the $2,500 P.E.O. STAR Scholarship.
Ball plans to attend EWU this fall and later transfer to the WSU School of Nursing. “I’d love to be a labor and delivery nurse,” she said. “I’ve always loved kids. My mom calls me ‘mother hen.’ ”
Her mother’s passion for Camp Fire sparked a flame in Ball that still burns brightly. “I truly believe that Camp Fire played a large role in shaping me,” she said. “I learned to work with others, and how to feel comfortable in my own skin.”