CAVE SPRING–“Every June I went to a place where laughter bounced off the trees and echoed through the trails along the creek. [Camp Dark Hollow] may have moved to a new location, but the heart and soul of the camp will never change,” Kristi Mullins Casey says.
Camp Dark Hollow was truly a magical place. Located near Salem along Route 311, Casey spent her entire childhood, and much of her young adult life, waiting for those three weeks of Girl Scout camp every summer.
Although Casey may have her own children now, at heart she is still a Girl Scout herself. She still has the integrity, the teamwork, and the compassion that she learned at Camp Dark Hollow as a child. Those are the traits of a Girl Scout; and those are the traits that Casey still shows today.
For Girl Scouts, it’s at nationwide camps just like Dark Hollow where they learn courage and leadership; where girls grow up, and where they find role models. For Casey, the importance of Girl Scout camp, where she spent every summer as a child, and worked every summer until 2000, cannot be overstated.
“With [Camp Dark Hollow], it was just home away from home. I spent three weeks there every summer, from 1984 until 2000,” Casey said. “I guess I grew up at summer camp, I matured there. I had such great role models there, and they helped me become a role model for other girls.”
It has been years since Casey stopped working at the camp. The Salem High School graduate now lives in New York City after marrying a firefighter from the area. Yet for her, the importance of Girl Scout camp remains. Even now that the Virginia Skyline Council has sold Camp Dark Hollow and bought 67 acres on Yellow Mountain Road in which to expand, she still remains committed to her old camp, and what it represents. She knows how important Girl Scout camp was to her, and she wants today’s Girl Scouts to have the same experiences from the Cave Spring-based Icimani Adventure Center.
Since the Icimani Adventure Center opened in 2009, she and other Camp Dark Hollow Girl Scouts have remained loyal to the Virginia Skyline Council, even when they are hours away.
“Over the past couple of years, we’ve had folks associated with Camp Dark Hollow [playing a large part in our fundraising],” Development & Public Relations Officer Nina Zanella said. “They’ve really gathered and rallied to bring water and electricity to a [rural] part of camp.”
Casey has been one of those Dark Hollow campers who has been so supportive, even traveling to Roanoke for the camp’s dedication last year. In June, though, Casey will make an even bigger impact. She hopes to raise $2,500 for Camp Icimani by running a half-marathon. Casey is part of CareRunners, a nationwide group of about 20 runners who help one another fundraise for their causes by running races.
“We just decided that we should get together and work together to raise money,” Casey said. “We choose different charities and different people to honor.”
Casey has already run several half-marathons with CareRunners, raising money for different events, and helping her friends raise money for their events as well. But this time, Casey knew that she wanted to raise money for Camp Icimani, and honor Girl Scout business director Rose “Shorty” Allen, who also coordinated Girl Scout cookie sales in this region for years.
“Rose [Allen] has never really been acknowledged for what she has done for so many years. She’s one of those people that was always there, but that wasn’t in the limelight,” Casey said about one of the people who made Girl Scout camp great, and even made Casey who she is today. “She gave so much of her time and herself over the years, and I felt it would be a privilege for me to give back in her honor.”
By running a half-marathon in Allen’s name, Casey is honoring a woman who spent her whole life working hard to turn young girls into leaders. At the same time, Casey is raising money for the Icimani Adventure Center. The center has 63 acres of playing fields, hiking trails, a climbing wall, and a main building with showers and a kitchen. What they need next, though, is funding for raised platform tent camping. Any money Casey raises will go towards building the platforms.
“We’re thrilled that these Scouts from old, that have been part of the Dark Hollow camp… would want to get together to honor their own, and raise money for Girl Scouts,” Zanella said.
For Casey, though, it’s not just about raising money and honoring a hero. For her, running a half-marathon is about accomplishing something she was told she could never do, by using the strength she was taught in Scouts. Casey suffers from asthma, and was told she would never be able to run. Yet when three of her family members— her mother, her brother, and her sister-in-law— were all diagnosed with cancer at the same time, and told they had little chance of survival, it inspired her to do something she was told was impossible: running. It took her six months to prepare for her first half-marathon, which she ran to raise money to fight leukemia, and to honor her family.
“When I crossed that finish line, I wanted to do it again, and I wanted to do it for more people,” Casey said.
In June she will run the 13.1 Chicago race, and hopes that her efforts will earn at least $2,500 that she can send to Camp Icimani. The run is an investment in the future of Girl Scouts, and an investment in the future of girls everywhere.
To donate to CareRunners for Icimani, visit http://www.carerunners.com