Organizers of fund-raiser hope to save Girl Scout camp

Volunteers will make a last-ditch effort Saturday to raise enough money to save 18.8 acres of a Howard County Girl Scout camp from developers, but organizers concede the spaghetti dinner and silent auction in Clarksville are unlikely to garner enough to keep Camp Ilchester intact.

Officials from the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland are selling about half the Ellicott City camp's land to raise money to build new corporate offices in Baltimore. They have received bids from developers, which may be disclosed in the next few weeks.


Other undeveloped land in the area has sold for more than $50,000 an acre. Friends of Camp Inc. so far has raised $15,000 to make a bid for the land, far below the $650,000 goal set for the Save Our Camp campaign.

Monica Suchoski, vice president of Friends of Camp, said her group's efforts have been hampered by a lack of time. Plans to sell the land were announced last summer.


"We only had two months to do it," Ms. Suchoski said, because the group couldn't raise money during the fall United Way campaign or the fall Girl Scout cookie drive. United Way gives money to the Girl Scouts, so fund raising couldn't be done during the United Way drive.

Cookie sales end Friday, so volunteers picked Saturday for their spaghetti dinner and auction at the Clarksville fire hall on Route 108. The auction will feature such items as autographed pictures of country music stars Vince Gill and Patty Loveless and a tour of radio station WPOC. There also will be a prize wheel, which people can spin for a $5 donation.

"I've never done anything like this before," said Marilyn Hopkins, a parent volunteer who is organizing the silent auction. She said she expects the event to draw 400 or more people.

Admission to the dinner and auction, which will last from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., costs $6 for adults and $4 for children, up to $20 per family.

Ms. Suchoski said that if the group is unable to purchase any of the camp land or adjoining land, the money will be used for capital improvements on the remaining land.

Also, money will be returned to anyone who contributed on the condition that it be used to purchase the land, she said.

Nancy Wisthoff, director of the Howard County Girl Scout Day Camp, which operates at Camp Ilchester, has said that losing the land would put constraints on outdoor programs and would eliminate camping sites. She is leading the fund-raising campaign.

Lisa Lungaro Cid, executive director of the nonprofit Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, has said that selling half of Ilchester's land .. would not ruin the camp. The camp's remaining 20 acres would contain all of the camp's buildings, including its large, modern activity center, a lodge for camping and other facilities, she has said.


"I really do hope we can buy at least 3 acres," Ms. Hopkins said. "If we can't save it it's not that the camp will be gone, it's that the wooded part will be gone. It would be like camping at church."