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S.W. Florida Daily News


Camp Brave Heart teaches young girls at Iona McGregor Fire District

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Camp Brave Heart is an innovative program designed to empower young girls and foster a sense of community involvement. Developed by the Iona McGregor Fire District in Florida, the program combines outdoor activities, interactive lessons, and hands-on experiences to teach young girls about leadership, teamwork, and critical thinking. Through these activities, girls are encouraged to step out of their comfort zones, overcome obstacles, and develop skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. This program is an inspiring example of how local organizations can positively impact young people in their communities.

Camp Brave Heart: An Empowering Experience for Young Girls at Iona McGregor Fire District

Despite significant progress towards women’s empowerment in recent years, women continue to face challenges in many aspects of their lives. Young girls, in particular, may feel the pressure of gender stereotypes and may lack the confidence needed to pursue their goals and aspirations. However, programs like Camp Brave Heart – a week-long summer day camp organized by the Iona McGregor Fire District in Fort Myers, Florida – seek to inspire and empower young girls to become leaders and make a positive difference in their communities.

What is Camp Brave Heart?

Camp Brave Heart is a program tailored to young girls aged 10-14, offering them the opportunity to learn technical skills and leadership qualities in a supportive and empowering environment. The camp was created in 2012 by Connie Hoppe, a firefighter at the Iona McGregor Fire District, who wanted to provide young girls with exposure to the firefighting profession and the skills and confidence to pursue it if they choose to do so.

The Benefits of Camp Brave Heart

Camp Brave Heart offers many benefits to participants, including:

1. Technical Skills: Girls at Camp Brave Heart learn a variety of technical skills related to firefighting, including how to operate hoses, climb ladders, and use self-contained breathing apparatus. These skills not only give girls an opportunity to learn new things but also challenges them to push their limits and overcome their fears.

2. Team Building: The camp also focuses on building camaraderie and teamwork skills among the attendees. Through group activities and challenges, young girls learn to cooperate, communicate and trust each other, skills that are valuable not only in firefighting but in any profession or personal relationship.

3. Self-Esteem: Camp Brave Heart provides an environment where girls are encouraged to take risks and challenge themselves, an experience that can help build self-esteem and confidence. Through the camp’s mentoring and support, girls can see that they have the ability to achieve their goals and make a difference in their communities.

4. Role Models: Camp Brave Heart gives young girls the chance to interact with female firefighters who serve as role models and inspiration. By seeing women in non-traditional roles and professions, girls can expand their understanding of what is possible for their own lives.

5. Community Involvement: Camp Brave Heart is not just about firefighting skills; it also gives girls an awareness of their community and the importance of service. Participants have opportunities to volunteer and engage with their local fire department and other community organizations. This creates a sense of responsibility and ownership over the communities they live in.

The Impact of Camp Brave Heart

The impact of Camp Brave Heart goes beyond the individual girls who participate. By promoting gender diversity and supporting female leadership, the camp has the potential to impact the entire firefighting profession. Women currently make up a small percentage of firefighters nationwide, and initiatives like Camp Brave Heart can inspire and empower young girls to break through gender barriers and pursue careers in public safety.

Additionally, Camp Brave Heart is a direct reflection of the Iona McGregor Fire District’s commitment to community outreach and education. The district recognizes the importance of community involvement and wants to give young girls the opportunity to see public service careers as a viable option.


Camp Brave Heart is more than just a summer day camp for young girls – it is a program that instills confidence, teaches practical skills, builds teamwork and community involvement, and helps create new opportunities for female leadership. By providing a positive, supportive environment for girls to challenge themselves, learn new skills, and connect with empowered female mentors, Camp Brave Heart is contributing to a more equitable and diverse future.


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