Our History

Founded to Help Youth Thrive
For over 100 years Camp Fire has actively engaged youth and teens in building essential skills for life.

Our heritage of cultivating community building, supporting academic readiness, and embracing diversity sets us apart.

Camp Fire was founded in 1910 by Luther Gulick, M.D., and his wife, Charlotte Gulick. They created Camp Fire “to guide young people on their journey to self-discovery.” The Gulicks felt strongly that the experiences young people have early in life teach them to care for themselves, their environment, and the people around them for a lifetime.

Camp Fire has been a leader and innovator in youth development from the very beginning. We’re proud to have led the way on some important issues.

Camp Fire was America’s first nonsectarian and multicultural organization for girls.

In 1975, Camp Fire became a coeducational organization. Boys and girls learn to play and work alongside each other and appreciate their similarities and differences in positive ways. Today, our programs serve roughly equal numbers of boys and girls.

In 1988, Camp Fire formalized its longstanding focus on teen service and leadership. Teens in Action was created to seize the energy and ideas of teens to tackle real issues in their communities. Nationwide, teens participate annually in community service projects that develop their skills and make real differences in their communities.

In 1993, Camp Fire added sexual orientation to its Inclusion Policy.

In 1997, Camp Fire introduced Absolutely Incredible Kid Day®—a national initiative that has touched millions of youth. Each year, adults and older teens write letters to youth, celebrating each child’s unique talents and pledging their encouragement and support. Absolutely Incredible Kid Day takes place annually on the third Thursday of March.

In 2010, Camp Fire celebrated its 100th birthday. Camp Fire participants across the country all lit campfires at the same time to honor the legacy of our organization. Camp Fire continues to celebrate its birthday on March 17th every year.

In 2012, Camp Fire became the first national youth development organization in the United States to implement the Thriving framework developed by the Thrive Foundation for Youth.