2024 Camp Dates

Staff Training: Aug 4

Session 1: Aug 5-7

Session 2: Aug 8-10

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Camp 50th Celebration

Aug 4, 3pm - 9pm

History of Camp Friendship

The humble beginnings of Camp Friendship have been well documented for the future to enjoy and remember our past accomplishments. What started out as a simple dream has blossomed in to a beautiful family. Camp Friendship started in 1974; Jeanne Johannsen made a presentation to the Black Hills Girl Scout Council Camp Committee and the Board of Directors, proposing that a camp for the handicapped be established at the Black Hills Girl Scout Council's (BHGSC) Camp Paha Sapa. In the presentation, she cited the program and retention benefits to girls, further camp utilization, and the opportunity to aid individuals with handicaps. The state Jaycees were currently operating a successful summer camp near Baltic, SD, and Jeanne felt that individuals in our area should have the same opportunity. The Camp Committee and Board approved, but stipulated that the program use no Girls Scout funds. After nearly a year of planning, a funding source had not yet been obtained. Rapid City Jaycee Paul Belanger, also on the BHGSC Board, proposed forming an alliance between the Girl Scouts and South Dakota Jaycees to establish a summer camp for the handicapped. With the approval of both groups, lots of hard work, trips to Pierre and Custer, promotion, recruitment, and the love of many people, Camp Friendship was born.

The first session of Camp Friendship was held at Girl Scout Camp Paha Sapa the summer of 1975. Staff attended without the benefit of prior training; they had to learn to work together during camp. By the end of the session, they had truly become a "family". Campers included Patty Buckman's Girl Scout troop from the Black Hills Workshop; without them Camp Friendship would not have happened. Program Aids (PAs) were Girl and Boy scouts from area towns. Adults Staff included BHGSC personnel, Girl and Boy Scout Leaders, special education personnel, cooks, and directors Jeanne Johannsen and Wilma Knutson. During the first few years of planning and implementation, the BHGSC Board presidents and BHGSC Executive Directors were also involved.

The First year's activities were centered on an Olympic theme. At the suggestion of Fred Zantow, they established the tradition of planting trees in the Camp Friendship Forest. Friendship Bells were exchanged, songs were sung, and laughs were shared. Camp Friendship; proclaimed a smashing success, was granted on-going status as a Girl Scout/Jaycee joint program.

From this Beginning Camp Friendship has grown to serve over 90 campers, and over 150 volunteers and their families. Jaycee involvement has grown from initial financial support and helping with male units to total involvement in fundraising and planning, and an active involvement with program activities during camp. In addition to state and local Jaycee financial support, Camp Friendship enjoys support from local Knights of Columbus chapters, Optimists, Kiwanis, other civic organizations, as well as private donors.

Camp Friendship is staffed entirely by volunteers and has had staff members from all Black Hills area towns, eastern South Dakota, many other states, and even international participation. Camp Friendship received the South Dakota Governor's "Volunteer of the Year" award in 1985 recognizing our outstanding staff and program. The Camp Friendship "PA of the Year" Award was established in 1987 to recognize outstanding youth leadership. The recipient is announced at the conclusion of camp each summer. Camp Friendship changed from a Jaycee cooperative venture with the Girl Scouts to a Boy Scout Venture post in 1994 due to increasing concerns over the availability of liability and health insurance for male members under the age of 18. We continue to enjoy the support of both Scouting programs and local youth groups in helping to recruit staff members.

The summer of 1994 was the end of Camp Friendship sessions at Camp Paha Sapa. Due to the uncertainty of Paha Sapa's usage, Camp Friendship 1995 was held at the National Guard camp, Camp Rapid. Financial difficulties for the Girl Scout Council caused them to sell the Camp Paha Sapa property in October of 1996, and Camp Friendship was left without a home. Many hours were spent searching the hills for a suitable camp facility. The Presbytery Church Camp Rimrock was chosen, and Camp Friendship held their first sessions at the camp the summer of 1996. We have certainly enjoyed the support of the Presbytery of South Dakota in allowing us to use their camp since then.

The summer of 1999 marked Camp Friendship's 25th year of operation. An anniversary celebration was held at Rapid City's Canyon Lake Park where past and present volunteers came to reminisce, laugh, and shed tears of joy. The opening of the time capsule initially buried at Camp Paha Sapa and awards given recognizing our volunteers' continued support were just a few highlights of the celebration. The year 1999 also carried Camp Friendship into its fourth generation of leadership. These leaders, along with the guidance of the past and the possibilities of the future, work to help assure Camp's continuation for generations to come.

The summer of 2004 brought our 30th Anniversary Celebration with a return to Camp Paha Sapa. The celebration was held at Camp Paha, located 13 miles South of Lead/Deadwood, SD off of Hwy 385, July 24th 11am - 7pm. We enjoyed spending time with staff past and present.

The summer of 2014 brought our 40th Anniversary Celebration! The celebration was held at Kamp Kinship (formerly Camp Paha), located 13 miles South of Lead/Deadwood, SD off of Hwy 385, with an open house for all former campers and staff on August 16th 10am - 7pm. We enjoyed spending time with everyone past and present.