The Great Escape began as a Patriots’ Trail Council volunteer 'thank you' event. Times changed and as they did, attendance slid. After discussion with PTGSC staff member Mary Strom, a group of dedicated Escapers met in the winter of 2005 at Camp Wabasso to discuss how to revive this once popular event. The result was the revamped and renamed “Great Escape”, first held on September 16-18, 2005. In order to be financially responsible and decrease the physical, financial and staff burden on Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, it was decided in 2008 that the committee would become financially independent.
From the earliest days when it was “The Leaders’ Great Escape” the mission has been and continues to be “Gracious Living in the Out of Doors.” The event offers a retreat experience to Ambassador and adult Girl Scouts. Committee members believe that volunteers who spend relaxed time with new friends and old in a safe, fun, rewarding environment will return home renewed and energized to work with girls.
Great Escape is a workshop weekend that strives to be low cost, requiring that presenters donate their expertise and services, only being reimbursed for supplies. All presenters (including campus GS, GSEM facilitators and professionals) are vetted by committee members to ensure that any workshop presented includes GS values and if activities are taken back to a troop, that they would be (or could be made) safe for girls.
The committee seeks to live up to the principles of Girl Scouting by welcoming all who are interested, including Ambassador Girl Scouts. Committee members have included former and current camp staff, recently graduated campus Girl Scouts, GSEM facilitators, senior citizens, those currently working with troops and those who are not, as well as women from outside GSEM, affiliated with other councils. Attendees have included women and men from Florida, New York, New England, Washington State, Pennsylvania, Canada and beyond! Camp Wabasso was chosen as a location for the event because it offers inclusion for those who are differently-abled in sleeping accommodations as well as workshop accessibility. Attendees have included those who are physically challenged, vision and hearing impaired and those with other needs. We have accommodated participants with walkers, canes and have had a guide dog regularly attend with her owner. GE camperships are given with no questions asked, so that we can truly be “sisters to every Girl Scout”.
Finally, as Girl Scouts, we believe strongly in leaving things better than we found them. This means that not only does the committee seek to be financially responsible, it also seeks to support the council (and the greater GS community.) Since Great Escape has been keeping records of fees and donations, the Committee has paid over $11,000 for the use of the camp during under-utilized time periods. Great Escape, by running a fund-raising auction each year, has raised and donated more than $10,750, most of which has been earmarked for Camp Wabasso. The committee collaborates with site managers, rangers, summer camp directors and others to determine need and accept recommendations for donations. Our donations have been used by GSEM to buy new tables and windows for the Dining Hall, chairs and a new chair rack in the Lodge and to purchase mildew-resistant paint, a dehumidifier and a new stove for the basement of the Lodge, making it cozier and more user-friendly. Also, more than 25 new mattresses were purchased for the camp cots. In 2013, money was donated to help buy new ceiling fans/lights for the theatre so that it can be used more often. In 2014, $1500.00 was earmarked for reconstruction of the Adventure course.
In addition to our monetary donations, Great Escape has also provided hands-on service to the wider Girl Scouting movement through several projects. At the end of each annual Great Escape Weekend, participants break down the cots in the tent units at Wabasso, saving the Council the cost of hiring help to do this. A handmade quilt was created by Committee members and donated to the American Room at Foxlease in England. Several Committee members collaborated to make curtains for Camp Laurel Wood in Spencer.