Stay up-to-date on the latest news from Camp Fire and Camp Hantesa!

June 2, 2020

Artist: Nikkolas Smith

Our hearts and minds are heavy with grief and anger from the multiple incidents of brutality and racism we have witnessed over the past several weeks. We must stand with our black youth, families, and staff in sadness, compassion, and anger for the repeated trauma and racism they have faced and continue to face in our country. It’s time for change.

These recent incidents continue to shine a spotlight on injustice and systemic racism and structures that hurt so many and wound our communities, time and time again. And then there are the very real harmful mental health impacts youth and adults face when these high-profile incidents of police brutality and white supremacy go viral. Yes, when they are caught on film they bring much-needed attention to the issues, but we recognize these are not isolated incidents. 

As an organization, our own color-blindness may have kept us from speaking up on issues of race but we believe it absolutely shapes our experiences and claiming to not see color can harm us and stop us from addressing the inequities we know exist. In alignment with our values, standing up for and with our young people, our inclusion statement, and the work we are doing as an organization to address and expand our commitment to diversity and inclusion, we want to publicly acknowledge the grief and trauma our black youth, families and, staff are experiencing. We care about youWe see you, and we want to extend our support and find out how we can better serve you. We must do better. Our youth deserve that from all of us.




Greg Zweber

President & CEO, Camp Fire National Headquarters

February 2, 2018

Site donated by Iowa-based integrated marketing firm Hill Productions & Media Group, Inc. as follow-up to Des Moines dsmHack event

DES MOINES, IA – The board of directors, staff and volunteers of Camp Fire Heart of Iowa are excited to announce the organization has launched a new, fully-redesigned website. The new site features many upgrades throughout, including cleaner user experience, current layout and easier management for the staff. The website will continue to provide news and information about their activities and services to current and future campers. There is also an easy “Donate” area on the site to be involved by providing funding or supplies to the non-profit.

The idea for this website overhaul first came about in the fall of 2016, when Camp Hantesa Assistant Director Owen Ballard noticed a post on Facebook about a group offering free technology assistance and services for non-profit entities.

We saw the advertisement for the dskHack event and thought it was too good to be true. We immediately thought about how big of a difference a new website would make in the way families learn about us and sign up for our programs so we decided to submit an application!

Volunteers from all over Iowa, consisting of web coding experts, applications software developers, graphic designers, project managers, and more, gathered for the 48 hour event in early March of 2018. Each non-profit group presented a “pitch” to the volunteers, telling of their needs, wants and hopes for what the assistance received at the event might lead to. Volunteers selected which non-profit they would like to work with and began work right away, spending the next 48 hours developing tools and solutions at no cost for the organizations.

As the 48 hours wrapped up, the volunteers working to assist Camp Fire Heart of Iowa with their website saw that it would not be possible to totally complete the website during that time. Each individual did all he or she could do finish as much as possible and a presentation was made to the entire group of event attendees on progress and next steps. Team Camp Fire’s next steps were apparent: some post-hackathon development would be necessary.

Following the dsmHack event, a few volunteers stayed in touch, working remotely from one another (distributed all across Iowa, in fact) to lay out a plan. It became clear that the best plan of action would be for Hill Productions & Media Group (HPMG) to “take the reins”, so to speak, and complete the site. It might be noted that HPMG became involved because two team members, Sarah Howk and Diana Upton-Hill, had attended the hackathon as volunteers and worked on the project since its inception. VP and Senior Project Manager of HPMG shares about the decision to move forward with the website, even after the 48-hour event was over:

Sarah and I were truly touched by the enthusiasm and passion of the Camp Fire Heart of Iowa team members during the event. We knew we couldn’t just leave them with a half-finished product, and really wanted to provide a website that would serve them well for years to come. It wasn’t difficult for me to convince the rest of our [HPMG] team that donating our services to complete the website was a great idea. Everyone was on board.

The website is now live at and can be viewed all over the world. Check out the site to see camp offerings, news & upcoming events, photos, staff bios and make a donation to the organization.

Camp Fire Heart of Iowa is a recognized leader in providing programs for more than 6000 youth every year whenever they are out of school. Camp Fire shines in its commitment to inclusion, welcoming every kind of kid and family from every walk of life.

May 19, 2017

Camp Fire Heart of Iowa/Camp Hantesa Receive YLI Community Partner Award

A total of 42 students from 22 area high schools graduated in the 2017 Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI) class. YLI introduces, develops and fosters leadership among high school sophomores and juniors in Greater Des Moines (DSM) through experiential mentoring and leadership opportunities that enhance self-esteem and encourage involvement in all levels of community life. YLI is an initiative of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

The following people and organizations were awarded as part of the graduation of the Class of 2017:

YLI Community Partner Award: Camp Hantesa, Camp Fire
Mentor of the Year Award: Mallory Murphy, Norwalk High School
Impact Award: Greg Jackson, Wells Fargo
YLI Outstanding Youth Award: Caroline Fink, Dowling Catholic High School

The full 2017 YLI graduating class is as follows:
Antonio Angel, Van Meter High School
Jacob Barr, North Polk High School
Sean Boles, Van Meter High School
Marcus Chew, Valley High School
Peyton Chilton, Waukee High School
Breton Clark, Valley High School
Sophia David, Woodward-Granger High School
Josiah DeValois, North Polk High School
Arleth DeAvila, Lincoln High School
Natalie Elizalde, Ankeny Centennial High School
Caroline Fink, Dowling Catholic High School
Nolan Grimes, Dallas Center-Grimes High School
Kallie Hirl, Norwalk High School
Trinity Hopkey, Norwalk High School
Chase Johnston, East High School
Tyler Juffernbruch, Indianola High School
Omer Kantarevic, Johnston High School
Jason Koromo, Hoover High School
Joshua Lawless, Carlisle High School
Drake Leek, Norwalk High School
George Long, Dowling Catholic High School
Achol Makuet, Roosevelt High School
John Martin Jr., Hoover High School
Katie Michalski, Johnston High School
Jacob A. Mulcahy, Ankeny High School
Megan Nelson, Valley High School
Robert Nishimwe, North High School
Delefine Niyigena, North High School
Nate Ramirez, Carlisle High School
Katie Reeder, Johnston High School
Malerie Rike, Homeschool – West Des Moines Homeschool Ancillary Program
Jackson Rutto, Urbandale High School
Brooke Seller, Dallas Center-Grimes High School
Shantelia Shook, Lincoln High School
Timaris Shumpert, East High School
Chaimae Sibouih, Roosevelt High School
Varun Vepa, Urbandale High School
Claire Ward, Southeast Polk High School
Roan Wilhelm, Ankeny Centennial High School
Connor Willeford, Southeast Polk High School
Nicholas A. Worthington, Lincoln High School
Sankalp Yamsani, Waukee High School

Since its inception in 2001, 461 students have graduated from the program. For more information, visit

About the Youth Leadership Initiative
YLI began as a project of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute’s Community Leadership class of 2001 – 2002. It an initiative of The Greater Des Moines Partnership. Now in its 15th year, YLI’s mission is to help local youth see a community that is welcoming, nurturing and vital which provides ample opportunity for participation in meaningful community change, networking, and individual growth. Since its inception, 461students have successfully graduated from the program.

About the Greater Des Moines PartnershipThe Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce and more than 6,000 Regional Business Members, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes Des Moines as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at

September 29, 2016

Receiving a $300,000 grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation (MACF) was, according to Camp Fire Heart of Iowa Executive Director Robert Reid, “a game changer—which is good!”

Naturally, receiving $300,000 is a revenue boost. However, when the foundation comes to the council and personally asks the council to apply—and then walks them through the application process—all that goodness becomes something great.

Among other social-serving goals, the foundation wants to expand opportunities for kids to attend camp—to reduce the barriers that keep them away.

According to their grant guidelines, MACF provides funding to support programs that address unmet needs; that give individuals and communities the tools to become self-sufficient; that will be sustainable after support ends, and that build on and strengthen strong relationships within communities. The foundation also focuses on environmental concerns. With an emphasis on issues Camp Fire Heart of Iowa advocates for every day, it is clear why the foundation paid them a visit and offered them funding.

Bob explained that MACF, which is expanding from its Minnesota roots into Iowa and other Midwestern states, seeks out organizations that align with the parameters of their mission. “They asked the hard, though right, questions,” explained Robert. The foundation wanted to know why youth come to camp. What stops them from coming? What messages do kids respond to?

In fact, a percentage of the $300,000 will be allocated to contract with a market research firm that will pursue answers to these basic drivers of camp attendance. Other funds will be directed to hiring a naturalist to bolster the Camp Hantesa nature programs. Two new outreach positions will also be staffed.

“Though we were surprised when we heard representatives from the MACF were coming to visit our council,” shared Bob, “when they arrived we had a good grasp of who they were and what they were trying to do. We were also very frank about our challenges.”

The conversation obviously went well.