Would You Be Upset? (Hot Days, Buses and Camp)

Updated on June 15, 2017
J.G. asks from Chicago, IL
14 answers

I have had some issues with the Girl Scouts over the years. I was a troop leader, and I quickly realized how disorganized it was. In fact, a little while ago I tried to call the number on my "camp info" sheet, and I got THEIR message box, i.e. the number they call to retrieve messages.

In any case, today was hot (96). When I picked my daughter up from her bus, she told me that she had no water when she got on the bus. She is the last stop, so she was on the bus for 70 minutes. She said they filled the bottles and then had a long walk to the bus pick up area, and by the time they got there, they were out of water.

The windows were open on the bus. I'm thinking it isn't air conditioned? 96 and no water on a hot bus? This strikes me as stupid, stupid, stupid. I'm actually questioning trusting these people with my daughter. All of the girls had bright red faces getting off the bus.

And to make matters worse, they lost one of the girls that should have been on the bus! One girl wasn't on it, and the poor mom kept saying,"where is my daughter." (at this point, camp had been out 75 minutes and the camp was technically closed!)

There is an air quality control day tomorrow, and I may not send her to camp. If the air goes orange, I will keep her home. I'm also thinking of just picking her up from camp, but I cannot fathom having the other kids in the car for the 45 minutes it will take to do so. But I also can't fathom letting my daughter sit on a hot bus when its 90+ outside. I would prefer to just pull her and stay with my gut: this organization isn't worth our time and money, but my daughter likes camp. Mind you she has never been to a different camp, so she may prefer something else! She hasn't been a girl scout for 3 years! She has just been going to camp.

She said her day was kind of miserable because of the heat, and they only played 1 water game. When I mentioned the air quality alert, she didn't seem to mind having to stay home tomorrow. Last year she was a ball of excitement after the first day. But when it's that hot outside, who wants to be outside? If she does go tomorrow, I already have a 32 ounce water bottle freezing. I will send her with her normal 24 ounce bottle and my 32 bottle. But isn't it their responsibility to make sure she has enough water?!?!?!?!

In any case, would you be upset about your child being on a bus for 70 minutes with no water and air conditioning? Am I just overreacting? I grew up with no air conditioning, but it just doesn't seem safe to me now.

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N.B.

answers from Oklahoma City on

Water is a necessity. Call them in the morning and tell them either they fix this issue or you're out.

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B.A.

answers from Columbus on

I was a counselor at a Girl Scout summer camp, later became the camp director, and then later a troop leader. Was this a camping trip that was organized and led by the council, or was it organized and led by several troop leaders?

The Girl Scout organization is extremely safety conscious. There are detailed guidelines regarding every activity and event, and they're taken seriously. But even with all those guidelines, there's still a bit of common sense involved. And there are tips and tricks that are learned over the years. For instance, I would have arranged for the bus driver to have extra water jugs on the bus. But that's because I saw other leaders do the same thing and filed the idea in the back of my mind. It always seemed like council-based activities went a little smoother. First, because they are planned by people who do so as a full-time job. And, second, because the people planning the events have some experience under their belts.

I think what you have to think about was whether she was just uncomfortable, or was she truly in danger. She was on the bus for 75 minutes, and the windows were down so there was air circulating in the bus. And she wasn't doing anything physically strenuous. So while it may have been nice to have water on the bus, it doesn't really sound like it was a huge safety risk.

And being uncomfortable is sometimes a part of camping. I led a group of girls on a backpacking trip in Wyoming. They were hot, tired, and sore every day. But they had a blast, and when their parents picked them up at they airport, they couldn't wait to brag about how tough the trip was, with smiles plastered across their faces. I have no doubt that some of those girls still remember that trip and how they pushed past their discomfort to accomplish something. It's the tough things that help build character and memories. And that's part of the appeal of camping. That's why millions of Americans choose to sleep outside rather than in a Holiday Inn every summer.

With that said, I also had a tremendous amount of respect for parents who asked me questions about their child's safety. (When it was 18, it seemed a bit surreal to me that parents were placing their kids in my care for a week without even knowing my full name, let alone my qualifications!) If I were you, I'd get there a little bit early tomorrow to talk with whomever is in charge of the trip. Calmly, and respectfully, tell them that you're a bit concerned about the heat and air quality. And ask them what safeguards they have in place.

Regarding the girl that they lost... That's just inexcusable. But keep in mind that you don't know the full story of what happened. I once had a camper who's parents didn't pick her up at the end of camp. Like camp ended at 5:00 pm, and her father arrived to pick her up at 1:00 am. After I called every one of her emergency contacts and several of her neighbors while the rest of the staff gave up their Friday night plans to keep the poor child calm. On the surface, it made her parents look horrible. But when I started asking more questions, I realized it was just a messy custody situation where the custodial mother had given the custodial father inaccurate information. You don't know what really happened with that mother-- maybe she was at the wrong pickup location.

9 moms found this helpful

D.D.

answers from Boston on

They did have water; they just drank it all before they got on the bus. I'm sure the people at the camp had no idea how long your daughter would be on the bus. The girls were hot and so was everyone else without a/c yesterday.

I'd let them know about the wrong phone number on the sheet,send her with 2 water bottles tomorrow and tell her to fill them both before the leaves for the bus, and let everything else go. Camp is about learning and experiencing things. Yesterday she experienced a hot bus ride after a fun day. Leave it at that.

And as far as the other mother who's daughter was missing? You don't know the story on that one. Could have got to the wrong stop. Daughter could have gotten off with a friend somewhere else. Don't make someone else's issue yours in trying to prove your point.

6 moms found this helpful

N.G.

answers from Boston on

I think we no longer want our kids to experience any discomfort. Yes, you are overreacting.

4 moms found this helpful

D.B.

answers from Boston on

You have a history of issues with this group, so you're not just basing your opinion on one episode.

My guess is they are using a typical school bus, right? That's what most camps use. So no, there's probably no air conditioning. But there are not enough safety practices in place to offset that, which to me is a bigger problem.

The kids' activities should have included things like the pool/lake or games with sprinklers and spraying just to cool them down. When they are near a water source (hose, sink, whatever), the kids should fill bottles and douse each other to cool down. Give your daughter instructions to do so.

I do think it's reasonable to send her with more than one water bottle, and she can fill one at a time to avoid carrying a whole lot of heavy bottles, but with the instructions to fill both at the end of the day. (By the way, be careful about freezing plastic bottles! I'd use stainless steel bottles and fill both halfway with water, and freeze them, then top them off with ice water before departure.)

There are head scarves made especially for wetting down and wrapping, either on the back of the neck or around the forehead, and they have ties to keep them in place. You could consider a spray bottle too to spritz water on the face/neck to cool her down.

I'd get the camp people on the phone asap and find out what the preparations/precautions are as well as the instructions to the kids re having enough water. And losing a kid? Not cool. I'd call the GS regional office or the town/county health department (whoever supervises camps) and report health concerns. Ask for a list of requirements for counselors, who's on the bus (monitor/counselor), what the attendance procedure is to make sure all kids are accounted for, and what they are trained to do to cool kids down and to recognize the signs of heat stroke. (Go ahead and scare them about their liability if you have to.)

If it's a bad air quality day, you can keep her home, but it doesn't solve the problem for the next day. Every camp my son has ever attended has had strong practices in place, with a way for kids who are really suffering to be sent to the director's office or the nurse to cool down.

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G.♣.

answers from Springfield on

I don't think you're overreacting at all, but I do think you can still find a way to send her safely. I think the extra water bottle is a great idea! Another think I would do is soak a washcloth and put it in a plastic bag. She can put this on her neck when she gets on the bus at the end of the day.

When the bus picks her up, are there any counselors or just the bus driver? If there are counselors, you might want to mention to them your thoughts about today and see how they respond. Last week was definitely mild in comparison, and it's possible the camp didn't quite think through their schedule for today. I would think they would be much more prepared tomorrow.

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

Had I not been on a non-air-conditioned train without windows that could open for an hour this afternoon I might have agreed with you but I have the experience fresh in my head so I can tell you that sure, it's uncomfortable (it was 95 degrees at the time and commuter trains are crowded), but not a health risk.

Give the camp a break - it's probably the first really hot day of the season (if your weather pattern is anything like ours, it was in the 40s last week and shot up to 90+ a few days ago). I think your idea to pack extra water is a good one. If there isn't a place to refill before they get on the bus, it's not really reasonable to expect the camp to have jugs and jugs of water (which would have been sitting on a hot bus all day) to refill the bottles as they get to the bus. A second water bottle seems like it would solve the problem.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

Great answers below as to how girl scouts camps are run - that's been our experience too. Ours have been very safety conscious - do seem a bit chaotic, but usually that's just the first day. My husband volunteered with boy scouts when our kids were little, and he said it was nuts, but fun nuts - and no one was in danger. It's not your typical rec program - it's more old fashioned like when we were kids was always the impression I got (why we liked them and the kids had fun).

As for the water - I'd ask about that. Send extra (I always pack extras for my kids).

I personally would pick up my kid. Are you dropping her off in the mornings or is she taking that long ride in the am too? That's a long hot day. If you can swing it, I would. Or carpool with another family maybe.

My own personal experience is, when you start to feel some program is failing your kid, and you see problem after problem - usually that's an indication to us that it's no longer a good fit, or it's not working for us any more.

So - if I were you, and you feel this isn't working out - then I would look around at other camp options. Mine usually want to go with friends and we've been exposed to camps we normally would never have thought of. We're doing a drama camp this year for example. Sometimes 3 years is long enough and a switch would be good.

I agree with the others though about the buses - I would not expect air conditioning on a bus for a kids' camp. I am sure we did it, and I don't remember carrying around water bottles when I was a kid - I remember being physically hot and exhausted as a kid - I do think times have changed. Certainly if it's a safety issue though - bring extra water. I know my kids however, if they drank two full bottles of water, would have to go to the washroom if they were expected to hold if for 70 minutes. That's why I would just solve it by picking them up.

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S.L.

answers from Denver on

The only two things I would follow through include:
Letting them know about the phone number problem
Losing a kid (I'm curious, did the other mother do anything about it? Did they find the kid?

The only buses that are air conditioned are tour buses - and those would probably be way too expensive for kids camp. If I were you I would look into a different camp. I purposefully had my kid (when she was that age) go to an indoor camp at a health club (or rec center). They had lots of activities in the gym...tumbling, dance etc. and they would swim at the end of the day in an indoor pool. It was nice because they never got too hot and I didn't have to mess with sunscreen. They did go outside sometimes and they ate lunch under the trees outside, but it wasn't a big part of their day. Summer temps can get in the 90's and over 100 sometimes here, so indoors worked for us.

I always sent my kid with a lunch with a water bottle in the lunch box and an extra water bottle to carry around. That was always enough - especially indoors.

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C.C.

answers from New York on

An air-conditioned bus with bottles of cold water passed around to the passengers, sounds more like a tour group than the average camp transportation!

Make sure that your daughter has plenty of water for herself...being able to fill two bottles sounds like a good idea. You could also get your daughter one of those personal handheld fans kids like (some include water mist).

As for the camp activities, I think you could certainly find camps that do more indoor activities and/or more water activities. Whether your daughter would prefer that or whether this camp has enough other attractive qualities, is for you and your daughter to decide.

One other thought - if you know the other campers' parents, maybe you could organize a group effort of buying water for the bus? If each parent chipped in for one case of water bottles (from Costco etc), and someone got a big cooler filled with ice, you might be able to have a cold case of water on the bus each day?

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E.J.

answers from Chicago on

I would want an explanation, but I probably wouldn't leave my kid on the bus that long either.....

Are you talking about GS day camp put on by your local council? If so, then there is paperwork you need to fill out. Here, after ours is filled out, we get a phone call from the unit leader of the group are kids are placed in along with the unit leaders contact info. The unit leaders also send out a parent email everyday informing parents of camps next day activities, change in plans or any concerns (such as this heat wave). I would be contacting these people and asking questions. If this is not put on by your local council, then I would have not trusted the organizers and not put my child in it.

One of the questions I would ask is how they adjusted the activities due to the heat including transportation. Perhaps your daughter left somethings out? And you well know, most of these people are volunteers.

Our camp also has a nurse onsite.

If it were me, I would probably at least pick my kid up from camp. They are ALL tired and hot after camp. You can picnic with the other two or play games while you wait for camp to end. 75 minutes is too long a bus ride for a kid.
As far as a child being lost...our school district has children get on wrong bus every year the first week...so it unfortunately happens. Also, when I went to camp training, the trainer (who honestly looked like she had been doing this for 100 years and could solar cook a 4 course meal using just a mirror and foil) told us she lost a child at camp. The child decided she wanted to keep hiking and left the group....they found her shortly after.

I am a unit leader for our camp right now. We have 7 full time leaders over us each day (including a nurse) that do nothing but monitor camp and the kids (they don't run a unit). It was so chaotic yesterday on first day, then add the heat in with that it was organized chaos, but the kids loved it.

We made adjustments: 2 gallons of water brought per kid instead on 1, extra coolers, two 30 pound bags of ice, 2 frozen water gallons, we dip bandanas/hats in ice water, set up in shade, go for slow hikes which are usually in shade, playing drip..drip..drop..a few times a day, and a water break at least every 30 minutes (we even checked water levels, LOL) but we can't make them drink....

Keep in mind that the heat of the day was worse after 3 pm, after camp was over.

So if your child is having issues breathing because of air quality, if she really needs to be prodded to drink, and if you have no trust in camp then no I would not send my child.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

Can you drive her there and pick her up? Definitely pack her an extra water bottle that is frozen. At the end of the day have her fill up BOTH water bottles...one to drink on the walk and one to drink on the bus (if you can't pick her up). If your daughter enjoys herself and camp and has fun I would still send her! My daughter does a Girl Scout day camp one week each summer and we are very happy with it. She has so much fun each year.

W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

so you didn't send your daughter with enough water for a hot day? Or they didn't plan for enough water for everyone? Girl Scouts are supposed to be PREPARED. So they should have planned for water for girls. Especially for hot days.

They lost a girl? Did they find her?

If it's a school bus? No AC? Typical. Private bus? Should have AC. and the windows should be down if no AC.

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D..

answers from Miami on

This camp is poorly organized. I've seen camps like that before.

Most camps don't have buses. Part of your job sending your child to camp is the transportation. I used to drive an hour back and forth to take my kids to camp (total of 4 frickin' hours in the car for me), unless I stuck around the town for the day until it was time to pick them up. Why? Because it was a good camp and the reason they were in camp was to have a good experience and learn stuff they didn't learn in the regular school year or at home with me.

On really hot days, pick her up. So what if the other kids are in the car? They don't get a say in it. I would rather spend the time in the car, than my child end up with heat stroke. And they SHOULD have water on the bus, but there is probably no adult riding on it other than the driver, so it probably wouldn't be given out anyway.

Separately, I'd call and complain. And I'd ask them why they don't have more planned to help with the heat during the daily activities. You might not get anywhere, but at least you make them think about it.

At least you aren't the terrified mother. Boy, would heads roll over THAT if that child were mine... Next year, find another camp...

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