Franklin Countys First News

Overnight camp for girls offers leadership, teamwork and more

Campers go for a hike during their week-long stay in Wilton.

WILTON - What started as a babysitting gig fourteen years ago has turned into an official non-profit summer camp on Wilson Lake, bringing girls living a city lifestyle to the woods of Western Maine.

Growing Together, a program of Growing Routes, is a week-long overnight camp for girls that intertwines the simple fun of summer with foundational skills of leadership and teamwork. Started by part-time Wilton resident, Chloë Rowse, the camp is an extension of a shorter, day-long program that Rowse runs in Portland. Many of the girls who sign up for the overnight experience come from the day camp, Rowse said.

"The camp is small, which makes it really special," Rowse said.

Rowse spent her childhood summers on Wilson Lake in a four-generation fishing camp passed down from her great grandparents. When her father was in his early twenties he completely rebuilt the old cabin where Growing Together is now hosted. While Rowse does plan the week down to the minute, she said the girls are encouraged to make it what they want.

"One time I had this whole day planned out, but then we realized that one of the girls had never tried orange juice before. So decided to witch plans and do this big ceremony for her to try orange juice for the first time," Rowse said. "It was really cool to see them come up with this idea and then be able to support them in making it happen. It gives them an opportunity to have a voice."

This same opportunity was given to Rowse by her parents when she was 12 years old, asking to fly to Germany to visit a pen pal.

"They told me I had to pay for the flight. I think it was their way of giving me freedom but not really expecting me to be able to do it," she said.

Rowse started the first version of summer camp shortly after, saving up her money to travel to Germany.

This past year Rowse started the non-profit, Growing Routes, to offer all of her programming through. She hopes to get to a point of being able to accept all campers regardless of affordability. Six of her campers this year are on partial or full scholarships. Rowse said she also hopes to gain more interest from local girls who might want to sign up.

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