Meet Andrea

“Camp Fire is a safe and open place for kids to be kids and to experience nature,” says Andrea Koller, who volunteers for Camp Fire Minnesota.

Guest post by Sigrid Tornquist,
Camp Fire Minnesota Grant Writer

Read Time < 1 minute

“Camp Fire is a safe and open place for kids to be kids and to experience nature,” says Andrea Koller, who volunteers for Camp Fire Minnesota. “Kids have a lot of negative influences they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis and having a good place like Camp Fire for them to go for a nature-filled experience is incredibly valuable.”

Andrea is a civil engineer at the planning and design consultation firm Kimley-Horn, based in St. Paul, Minnesota—and is also a Camp Fire Iowa alumna.

Camp Fire began playing a part in Andrea’s life when she was five years old in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She participated throughout her elementary school years in the Camp Fire group that met weekly at her neighborhood school and later volunteered with her family at the Camp Fire Camp near Walker, Iowa. “Camp Fire taught me a lot and gave me so many opportunities to connect with nature,” Andrea says. “We learned how to build a fire and also how to build our own camp stoves using empty tin cans from the cafeteria. One night we slept out under the stars and I had never done that before. I remember looking at the stars, talking with my friends and then suddenly waking up the next morning. It all taught me such an appreciation of nature.”


Andrea also credits Camp Fire for contributing to her leadership and team-building skills. “Our leader did a really good job of giving us the tools to plan trips to the camp for an overnight or weekend and then she’d let us take the lead,” Andrea remembers. “She let us give input even at the youngest ages. I’ve taken that forward in how I work with people now.”

“Camp Fire also gave me an appreciation for giving back,” she continues. “The camp in Iowa was volunteer-based and my family would go up for volunteer days—painting, cleaning or whatever they needed us to do. It brought us closer as a family doing that together.”

When asked how she gained the confidence she needed to enter the male-dominated field of civil engineering, Andrea is thoughtful. “Kimley-Horn has a strong female presence in the company overall so it’s sometimes easy to forget that it’s a male dominated field but in school it definitely was,” she says. “I’ve always had a lot of people in my life that encouraged me to do what I wanted to do. But for people who don’t have that, I think places like Camp Fire are so important to support them, particularly with STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math].”

Early connections Andrea had with nature at Camp Fire Iowa, coupled with experiences volunteering there as a teen, are among the catalysts behind Andrea’s desire to be a part of Camp Fire Minnesota’s vibrant team of volunteers. Andrea looked up Camp Fire Minnesota and got on the mailing list when she moved to St. Paul in 2015, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2019 when a coworker invited her to a Coffee with Camp Fire event that she signed on to be a volunteer. “Marnie [Camp Fire Minnesota’s CEO] was very welcoming and I thought I’d like to learn about where I could get involved,” Andrea says. “I became a part of Camp Fire’s Real Estate Group, which is a great crossover of professional and personal passions.”

Being able to volunteer at Camp Fire Minnesota is important to Andrea because the bottom line is that it’s a place that opens doors for children to be immersed in nature and build on their strengths, regardless of their families’ finances. “It’s critical for kids living in the city who maybe wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to get those outdoor experiences,” she says.

And for Andrea, the things she learned at Camp Fire about living responsibly, being a creative problem solver, and loving nature are simply a part of who she is now. “We made those camp stoves with a big empty can from peaches, an empty tuna can, and some cardboard and candle wax,” she remembers. “Then we fried eggs and bacon on top.”

She smiles and shakes her head at the memory. “I could still make one today if you gave me the supplies. I’m positive.”

Camp Fire experiences stay with youth and often carry into adulthood, just like they did with Andrea. How can you invest in the future of Camp Fire youth? Make a year-end donation before December 31, 2019. Every gift made will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000, by the Otto Bremer Trust.

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