CF66 is a yearly summer program developed by Camp Fire USA Sunshine Council, Lakeland, Florida, that gives teenagers the chance of a lifetime – to grow and mature while giving service, learning new skills, and traveling to new destinations. Mixing MTV’s “Road Rules” with service learning and personal skills training, CF66 Road Trips are the adventure of a lifetime. Each day of the trip, teens solve clues and navigate to a different destination where they learn about the needs of that community and complete an intensive service project. The balance of the day is filled with team challenges, travel time, evening reflection time and occasional excursions. The youth come from different backgrounds, bond as teams, and perform thousands of hours volunteer work throughout the state of Florida and beyond.
The impact of the trip is tremendous – teens come away with a sense of accomplishment and pride that they made a difference. Routinely during reflection, the teens share how they have never had to physically work so hard or put so much emphasis on teamwork and striving for a common goal. They gain a new level of empathy for those who face difficult challenges in their daily life and are inspired by other volunteers they meet during their journey. There is no one who comes home the same person they were six days earlier.
The communities they visit directly benefit from the 64 man-hours of volunteer time the group contributes to the completion of a project that day. Projects are picked based on their intensity level – the more difficult, dirty, challenging the better. Shuffling papers in an air conditioned office is not a project for a CF66 Service-Learning Road Trip, while digging irrigation lines, painting houses, removing exotic trees, or sorting salvage at a food bank are right on target. Often the work would simply not get done if not for this dedicated group of teen volunteers. An even greater level of impact is achieved by the opportunity for the group of teens on any trip to demonstrate to the adults they encounter what an amazing force teenagers can be in the community. Too often the focus on teens is negative – CF66 shifts the attention to positive and inspirational. What our teens hear along the way is “I have never seen a group work so hard or accomplish so much in so little time” or “You work harder than any group of adult volunteers we’ve ever had help” – words that build self-esteem in our youth and are necessary steps to build a stronger country.