‘The Building of a Sisterhood’: Camp LiveGirl Marks 10 Years


Camp LiveGirl. Contributed

For 10 years, a local camp has been providing girls in grades five through eight the chance to become “confident, inclusive leaders.”

Camp LiveGirl. Contributed

LiveGirl’s summer camp is designed to bring leadership development and mentoring skills to girls of all ages. 

While after-school groups such as “Confidence Club” or “LiveGirl League” give girls and young women opportunities to embrace their individuality, advocate for themselves, and develop resilience in the face of challenges, “Camp LiveGirl” fills a gap in the summer.

Camp LiveGirl Program Director Shamare Holmes said, “We wanted to make sure that during the summer we don’t lose sight of what our girls need.”

What they need is increasingly important given rising rates among young girls of multiple mental and emotional health problems, such as depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation, experts say. And Camp LiveGirl addresses those issues head-on.

In middle school, many girls experience a drop in confidence, their self-esteem reaching all-time lows. For that reason, LiveGirl—founded by New Canaan’s Sheri West, CEO—starts working with them during this period, encouraging them to build resilience and develop their strengths while connecting them with a support system. 

Camp LiveGirl. Contributed

“When you’re in middle school it’s an awkward time so LiveGirl provides that added support to teachers, parents, guidance counselors,” Holmes said.

“Once you build confidence, you have already won the battle,” she added.

Camp LiveGirl 2023 commences July 10 and runs for five weeks.

It’s designed as “a good time where parents can trust their girls are being invested in,” Holmes said. 

Those who have attended the camp—such as Maggie Murphy, who started as a fifth-grade camper and never stopped, eventually taking on the role of counselor as an incoming high school senior—agree.

“The culture at the camp is truly indescribable,” Murphy said. “Camp is the reason I have been so involved at LiveGirl. It’s the building of a sisterhood.”

Many girls, such as Murphy, return year after year, inspired to equip the next generation with the skills they have learned. 

Serenity Mayhew, another former camper-turned-counselor, said that she’s seen some girls return to the camp since she herself started.

“I have the same group of little seventh-graders that have been going since they were kids,” Mayhew said. “It’s a good community.” 

Holmes said that she takes pride in returning families. 

That’s a testament to what LiveGirl offers and what they make our girls feel,” she said.

The time at camp is well structured and planned, but remains inductive to moments of organic fun. A typical day begins with the “Brave Leaders Academy,” an interactive group led by certified confidence coaches, in which girls explore skills such as empathy, building confidence, fostering self esteem, creating meaningful friendships, and engaging in open discussion through workshops, hands-on interactive sessions, and team-building exercises.

“Brave Leader Academy allows for us to get to know the girls, and for them to get to know us,” Mayhew said. 

The camp also offers “Upstanding Friends and Citizenship” or “UFC” training, a program created by Holmes where girls learn how to forge friendships and relationships with each other, with a focus on how to co-exist with those who are different. 

“Because, you know, middle school is a little messy,” Holmes said.

The girls are also provided with a lively guest speaker for 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning of each day. Past guest speakers include CNN Anchor Alisyn Camerota, Race Car Driver Sarah Edwards, and MasterCard Vice President Nicole Lindsay. 

“Almost every speaker that attends Camp LiveGirl says they wish they had an opportunity like this when they were younger,” Murphy said. 

According to Mayhew, the speakers “get better and better every year.”

Other offerings include crafts, physical activities, and hands-on experiences such as DesignLab, which exposes them to STEM projects. Girls can learn about coding, flying drones, and other hobbies and skills traditionally associated with men. 

“Coding, we were told, is mainly for guys,” Mayhew said. “So they put it in [the curriculum] for us to show women can code, too”.

In a world where gender inequality can begin in middle school or even earlier, Camp LiveGirl creates a transformative summer program that introduces girls to the tools they need to navigate their lives with confidence, advocates say. 

“I think every girl should go for at least one week,” Murphy said. 

Camp LiveGirl will be taking place in New Canaan July 10th-14th, July 17th-21st, and July 24th-28th at St. Luke’s School for rising grades five through eight. Participants can learn more and sign up at golivegirl.org/camp. 

4 thoughts on “‘The Building of a Sisterhood’: Camp LiveGirl Marks 10 Years

  1. Incredible feature- Elizabeth Reed & NewCanaanite. Thanks for your coverage of our 10-year camp anniversary. A very special milestone for LiveGirl and our town. Thanks to St.Luke’s School, and designLab Leader, Kim Gerardi, for their wonderful partnership. Thank you, Mike Dinan, for your local coverage of community events.

    More reflection on our 10 YR:
    “It’s important to look back at where you’ve been to see how far you’ve come.” – Unknown

    Ten years –

    This summer, we look back and celebrate ten years of Camp LiveGirl.

    LiveGirl was founded in 2014 when we offered our first one-week summer camp at New Canaan High School. It started as a three-generation dream. Given my background in leadership development, I was determined to build evidence-based programming that would equip girls with the leadership skills, mentors, and role models to thrive. My mother had been a passionate middle school teacher for over 30 years and convinced me that this was the critical age to first focus on. My daughter, then in sixth grade, was our muse and advisor. So, with the vision to bring girls together from various zip codes and build an inclusive sisterhood and community of belonging, Camp LiveGirl was born.

    I partnered with Dr. Meg Domino, then Executive Director of New Canaan CARES, to build the original leadership curriculum, and tapped my network of fierce female leaders- including Kate Vanek and Jenny Alonzo- to serve as keynote speakers and role models. Community and school leaders, including teacher Mike Patrona, stepped up to round out the camp experience. Leadership experts, including Meghan Davis of the BRAVE Institute and Alison Waller, former LiveGirl Program Director, were instrumental in growing the camp program over the years.

    That first summer convinced me that we had embarked on something special, important, and necessary. The relationships built and impact made surpassed everyone’s expectations.

    The rest, as they say, is history. LiveGirl has grown exponentially. This summer, we will offer six weeks of Camp LiveGirl, expanding beyond New Canaan to Hartford and Waterbuy. LiveGirl Program Director Shamare Holmes and St. Luke’s School Teacher Kim Gerardi have transformed Camp LiveGirl into a uniquely robust experience, featuring our innovative Brave Leaders Academy and STEM designLab. LiveGirl has expanded to provide year-round leadership development, mentorship, and career readiness for girls in grades 5 through college. We have served over 14,000 girls since that first camp in 2014.

    I am grateful to all those who believed in our vision from the very beginning, including founding Board members Brian West, Meg Domino, Laura Magnotta, and Jeanne Peloso, as well as the village of people who have joined us since. The collective commitment and dedication to empowering the next generation of female leaders is truly inspiring.

  2. 14,000 girls! That’s amazing! LiveGirl is such an incredible organization that really helps girls to seek their potential. It just makes me beam with a smile to read how it’s grown since Charlotte was first involved back in 2014! Well done Sheri, Allison & the whole LiveGirl team!!!

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