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Girl Up Club Members Soar at St. Mark’s Camp

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St. Mark’s Episcopal Church just concluded its inaugural summer camp. The three-day ‘Camp Marco’ was held June 13-15 and was geared toward girls who are members of Manatee Middle School’s Girl UP program. Girl Up is a global movement sponsored by the United Nations that promotes leadership development, entrepreneurship, and the exploration of global issues that affect women ( This year’s campers consisted of 12 middle school girls and three high school student counselors that were selected for their strong leadership abilities and academic strength. This camp gave students the opportunity to share new experiences, strengthen friendships and enjoy a bit of relaxation.

1. Girl Up members visit Cape Marco Domes during St. Mark’s Camp Marco program..jpg

Girl Up members visit Cape Marco Domes during St. Mark’s Camp Marco program.


2. The cooking competition, held on the last day of camp, produced delicious results..jpg

The cooking competition, held on the last day of camp, produced delicious results.


Camp Marco was designed by a committee led by Rev. Jessica Babcock and Family Ministry Leader Peggy Totten. “It was truly inspirational to see God at work creating and forming our future leaders. With these young folks, the world is in good hands and St. Mark’s is happy to be part of their journey,” said Rev. Babcock.

“These past three days have been an absolute dream for our girls! Every day it made my heart happy to see their smiles, laughs, and faces as they were amazed by the beauty that nature has to offer in our beautiful Marco Island and Naples,” said Liz Garcia, Manatee Middle School’s Eighth Grade Language Arts teacher, who participated as a chaperone at Camp Marco.

3. Learning new instruments and practicing for their musical performance..jpg

Learning new instruments and practicing for their musical performance.


4. This airboat ride through the Everglades was a first for many of the campers..jpg

This airboat ride through the Everglades was a first for many of the campers.


The first day of Camp Marco featured an exciting airboat ride in the Everglades. Despite living here most of their lives, many campers had not experienced this type of boating adventure. To encourage the campers to step outside of their comfort zones even more, the girls were invited to hold a baby alligator. After a delicious taco lunch, they worked with Mr. Shane Totten, Marco Island Academy Art Teacher and leader of St. Mark’s No Exceptions Band, to make music together in an improvised band before they spent the afternoon enjoying the sun and surf at Marco Island’s South Beach.

Day two of Camp Marco was no less exciting and included a stroll through the Naples Botanical Gardens, where the campers enjoyed learning about tropical plants and flowers throughout the grounds. Later in the day, campers had more music practice and then learned to make beautiful, beaded bracelets with local artist Mary Limont, assisted by members of St. Mark's Artists in Residence. Limont combines her love for nature with texture and color. She considers herself an “organic” artist and was eager to share her techniques with the campers. 

5. Shelling on Kice Island.jpg

The shelling on Kice island produced a bounty of beautiful shells the girls can treasure as a reminder of their Camp Marco experience.


6. Who’s afraid to hold an alligator.jpg

Who’s afraid to hold an alligator? Not this Girl Up Camp Marco participant!


On the final day of Camp Marco, the girls were treated to a shelling trip donated by Florida Adventures and Rentals. With Florida Adventures’ skilled staff, the girls boated to Kice Island to hunt for shells. Sand dollars, Florida Cones, Murex, Horse Conch, Lighting Whelks, Junonias, Tulips, Olives and so many more were the popular finds on this shelling tour. Upon returning, they enjoyed a lunch of Island Chicken and fries, donated in part by Island Chicken, and then an ice cream bar for dessert. This was followed by their performance of Bob Marley’s One Love. You can find this special performance on St. Mark’s Facebook page at To end the day, campers participated in a competitive cooking competition modeled after the television show Chopped. According to the adult volunteer judges, all entries were delicious, and all chefs were winners. 

7. Touring Naples Botanical Gardens.jpg

Touring the Naples Botanical Garden.

8. Mary Limont teaches Girl Up members how to make beaded bracelets..jpg

Mary Limont teaches Girl Up members how to make beaded bracelets.


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Erika Torres, Girl Up Leader, and Manatee Middle School Literacy Coach said, “Camp Marco was such an incredible experience for these girls. There were many firsts! First boat ride, first time holding an alligator, first time eating crickets, first cooking contest, and on and on. St. Mark’s did a wonderful job of providing enriching, fun and varied activities. One of the most special times for me was watching them experience music time together. Each girl played a new and different instrument each day as they learned to play two Bob Marley songs. Watching them work together to play these songs was amazing. Their giggles were magical! St. Mark’s blessed these girls and created beautiful childhood memories for each one of them.”

For more information, contact Nina Christensen, Parish Administrator, at 239-394-7242 or


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