Plainfield Girl Scout Creates Accessible Playground for Everyone

Plainfield Girl Scout Creates Accessible Playground for Everyone

No matter how old you are, you will always get a little excited seeing a swing set in your neighborhood park or school. Swings symbolize childhood memories and having a good time with friends. But sometimes it’s harder for some to use a playground than others.

Girl Scout Ambassador Rachel Lau dedicated her Gold Award project to making sure everyone could have a good time at the park by taking six months to raise money for the Plainfield Parks and Recreation team to buy ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-friendly swings.

In an interview with the parks district, Lau explained why she chose the swings for her Gold Award project.

“I am a huge advocate for children with mental and physical disabilities. I researched the parks within Plainfield, Illinois and found that several were not designed to be safe for children with mental and physical disabilities,” said Lau. “For that reason, I [wanted] to modify a playground in Plainfield to make it handicap-friendly for children.”

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The swings were also the most realistic and cost-efficient solution for this problem that she discovered in her community. The project is also very close to Lau’s heart because of a family friend who has Asperger’s syndrome.

“I was first inspired for my project when I noticed that a family friend, Holden, had trouble playing at public parks,” said Lau. “I often saw the heartbreak of his mom having to pull him off of the equipment.”

This project has made a significant impact in her community and she has truly seen the reward that comes with investing in a sustainable project.

“One of the most successful aspects of my project so far would be my fundraising efforts and finally being able to purchase the swings,” Lau said. “Watching all of my heard work come together was truly rewarding.”

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Rachael Lau’s family friend, Holden

“I hope that these swings will be sustainable for the future because they will stay permanently in their respective parks (Northwest Community Park and Renwick Park) so that children with any disability will be able to enjoy Plainfield parks, just like Holden,” said Lau.

The ADA swings are located at Bott Park,  24550 W. Renwick Rd., as well as Northwest Community Park,  127th St. Plainfield, thanks to Rachel’s fundraising and the Plainfield Park District.

To learn more about how you can earn your Gold Award, click here.

Girl Scouts Celebrate Grand Opening of Camp Juniper Knoll’s New Dining Hall

Girl Scouts Celebrate Grand Opening of Camp Juniper Knoll’s New Dining Hall

A few years ago, a heavy snowstorm destroyed the dining hall at our beloved Camp Juniper Knoll in East Troy, Wisconsin. But on Saturday, July 23 we celebrated the grand opening of the new dining hall with nearly 200 Girl Scout friends, families and supporters.

 

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The exterior of the dining hall at Camp Juniper Knoll

The new dining hall, which was built by VJS Construction Services in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, contains state-of-the-art equipment and storage, a new trading post, refillable water bottle station, heavy-duty windows and more.

Activities at the grand opening celebration included camp classics such as hay wagon rides, canoeing, archery, hiking and a community art project installation.

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Chefs Scott Allred and David Koelling worked with some of our Girl Scout campers to create delicious Girl Scout Cookie-inspired desserts, such as Savannah Smiles and vanilla panna cotta, Tagalong ice cream sundaes, Thin Mint brownies and Samoa cupcakes.

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“The reason we invested in this property is to learn about the great outdoors, for you to form new friendships, and so you can have exceptional experiences,” said Nancy Wright, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Girls, this is a really cool moment in history. You are creating amazing memories that will last a lifetime.”

For more information about Camp Juniper Knoll and our various summer camp programs, click here. To donate to the dining hall kitchen registry, click here.

 

Girl Scouts Celebrate ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’ at Bank of America

Girl Scouts Celebrate ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’ at Bank of America

The #GirlPower was strong at the Bank of America ‘Bring Your Daughter, Niece and Mentee to Work Day!’ Employees at the Bank of America financial center in downtown Chicago invited Nancy Wright, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, and three special guests — Girl Scouts Cadette Susan Tatelli, Anya Konieczka and Areesha Majeed — to speak about the importance of women in leadership.

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During her remarks, Wright discussed the growing number of women in leadership positions and connected this confidence in girls to the main character in the popular animated movie Zootopia and contestants on the reality singing show The Voice. She stressed the importance of trying again, and than failing at something can be a great stepping stone.

“To fail simply means it is your ‘First Attempt In Learning,'” explained Wright. “Remember, oftentimes, when you fail it makes you step back, rethink your approach and try again with even more passion, heart and power. And this is what makes all the difference moving forward.”

Meanwhile, the Girl Scout panelists spoke to their experiences in Girl Scouting and their contributions to their communities through service projects and leadership roles.

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Anya, an 11-year-old Girl Scout Junior, earned her Bronze Award after organizing a hair donation drive in Downers Grove, Illinois. She was inspired to start the project after her friend’s mother was diagnosed with cancer.

“I want everyone who has lost their confidence by losing their hair to find it again,” she said.

In the future, Anya hopes to continue her love of coding, and eventually code for a robot that will help find the cure for cancer.

Susan, a 13-year-old Girl Scout Senior, made headlines with her Silver Award project, which focused on the self-administration of epinephrine. She wants to help those who are still learning about their allergies and those who are not fully aware of what to do during a life-threatening reaction. Susan, who was recently appointed to Food Allergy and Reaction Education (FARE)’s Teen Advisory Group, wants to continue to help raise awareness about food allergies through her Gold Award.

Meanwhile, Majeed, a 19-year-old Girl Scout alumna and Brownie troop co-leader, discussed the importance of empowerment. The 19-year-old rising sophomore at Northwestern University in Evanston wants to be an actuary to study the measurement of empowerment and how this affects young girls.

About 50 Bank of America employees and their daughters, neices and mentees participated in the luncheon.

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“I share the same desire with everyone here today,” Wright said, “the desire to inspire girls and young women to pursue their dreams without reservations.”

 

Chicago Girl Scout Leads Peaceful Black Lives Matter Protest

Chicago Girl Scout Leads Peaceful Black Lives Matter Protest

In 2012, Trayvon Martin was murdered, and my generation experienced a traumatic shock. The black-and-white photos in our history books of Civil Rights icons Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr., along with photos of black people hanging from trees, weren’t just history — they represented our reality, too. Realizing that the injustice my ancestors fought against hadn’t been eradicated was discouraging. Simultaneously, it ignited a fire of anger and strength. My peers and I were upset that we would have to fight the same fight, but also ambitious enough to step up to the challenge.

This same fire has been fueled even more as we have watched many videos of black people lying in the streets, many put there by the hands of those who had sworn to protect and serve. Through the Black Lives Matter movement, my peers and I have been inspired to speak against these repeated acts of blatant oppression.

I attended my first protest in 2013, right before my freshman year of high school. My mother and I participated in a march down Chicago’s congested Michigan Avenue after the murder of Trayvon Martin in order to demand justice.

Since then, I’ve evolved into a poet, artist of other mediums, and outspoken activist. In August 2015, I started The I Project, an initiative to humanize youth affected by intersectionality through activist-inspired art. The I Project allows art to unite youth, and allows marginalized groups, not others, to pen their own narratives. Earlier this year, I represented the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana at the United Nations’ 60th Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. There, I gave a speech about my project and activism to a vast audience, which included prime ministers and politicians from around the world.

It was that experience that taught me the meaning of what it means to be an activist and advocate, and led me to join three other incredible black teen girls to lead more than 1,000 people from Chicago’s Millennium Park through Michigan Avenue, shutting down both directions of traffic, this past weekend.

To read Eva’s entire essay, visit TeenVogue.com.

 

Girl Scout Adventures in Colorado

Girl Scout Adventures in Colorado

Fourteen of our Girl Scouts had the chance to visit Colorado this summer as part of our council’s travel experiences and explore the great outdoors! Learn more about their adventures from the girls themselves in the journal entries they sent home every night:

Day 1

Hello from Snow Mountain Ranch! We started off the day with our flight to Denver. Our pilot was hilarious and we enjoyed the free snacks. Once in Denver, we boarded our very own bus. Our bus driver was named Buffalo Bill and he had a very nice cowboy hat (by the way, it took Bill three years to become an official cowboy!). We drove through the mountains and our ears were popping as we slowly climbed the mountains. We even saw some buffalo and some snowy white caps!

Later, we checked into our rooms and ate dinner RIGHT AWAY (because we were starving). We then walked back to our rooms and enjoyed some free time. To finish off the night, we had a brief orientation meeting to plan our schedules for the week. We were overjoyed to hear that there ARE in fact llamas on property!
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Day 2

Today was our first official day of doing activities. All of the girls doing the one-hour horseback riding had to get up early to eat breakfast at the mess hall. They served French toast sticks and salami along with fruits, yogurt, granola and cereals, etc. We were all assigned to different horses and some were not as cooperative as others! Don’t worry, we were all wearing helmets.

All of the girls that were also doing archery then took a rented car to the other side of camp, to be on time. For the session, we all got to shoot the arrows at targets in the hay stacks. After a tired morning, we all walked back to get lunch. The meal (tuna noodle casserole) was delicious!

The adventurous people of the group dared to then go to the high-ropes course. We had to use teamwork to make the dream work on the “Giants’ Ladder.” After working from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., many girls got tired and went back to their rooms before going to the cafeteria for dinner. We all had a little bit of time to roller skate and play dodge ball in the Kiva (activity area) before going to a meeting about tomorrow’s fun. Many went on a last-minute hike to see the sunset for beautiful pictures.
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Day 3

Today, all of us had a lot of fun whitewater rafting. We made A LOT of fun memories that will last a lifetime. To start out our day, most of the girls went on a morning sunrise hike and got a lot of pictures. We quickly went back to our rooms to get ready for whitewater rafting. We had a quick breakfast before we loaded the buses to leave. We had a fun bus ride filled with laughter and song singing.

When we got the facility, we got fitted from our PFDs (personal flotation devices) and helmets, then we grabbed our paddles and took a few cute pictures. We hopped on the bus to get to the bank where we were loaded on to our rafts to begin our day of mad adventuring.

At the beginning, we did a lot of sightseeing, and one of the most beautiful things that we saw was a bald eagle. After about five minutes on the river, we hit our first batch of rapids. It was scary at first, but after a few good splashes, we realized how much fun we were going to have. We went through a few more rapids before we reached a small rock that we could jump off of. Most of the girls went without hesitation and were for sure shocked by the cold.

After jumping, we got back in to the raft and headed to the second section of rapids on our trip. On the second section, we got our first taste of what the Colorado River can dish out. It was a major adrenaline rush! After this, we stopped for a very hardy lunch and then cruised down the river. We got to jump out of the raft a couple times.

After dinner, some of the girls went on a beautiful hike where we got to see the sunset. We are excited to see what else Colorado has to offer!
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Day 4

Today, we had a splendid time with our activities. When we woke up, we met up with beautiful horses that would take us to our delicious meal of pancakes, sausage and eggs. The cowboys were very kind and treated us to their stories of their many travels brought by their talent of horse wrangling (with the help of Mrs. Garlough’s ongoing questions).

Later, we hiked over to the Rowley Homestead, where we whittled away at our award-winning hiking sticks. It was hard work whittling and sanding them, but they will definitely come in handy on our many hikes. We then ate lunch and hurried over to the summer tubing hill, where a steep bumpy hill and a lot of fun awaited us. All of us really enjoyed the experience, and the mist that was sprayed at us as we rode down was very refreshing, since it was such a hot day.

Next, we split up and had a while to relax and enjoy the afternoon. Some of the campers rented bikes and rode on some of the beautiful trails hugging the mountains. There were highs and lows, but overall it was an activity not to be missed! Other campers just relaxed in their rooms, went to the craft cabin, or enjoyed a refreshing swim in the pool. After that, we all met up for a cookout, and enjoyed the many different options that met each lifestyle.

Then we played on the playground until a sandstorm rolled in, but this was not exactly a bad thing, since it led us to a special needs talent show. It brought tears to many of our eyes. Their courage showed us how foolish we are to worry about what other people think of our talents. When it ended some of us went over to the roller rink and got an awesome view of a double rainbow — it went right over our cabin, what a coincidence! Finally, after a long day, we all headed back to our cabin to rest up for another full day tomorrow.
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Day 5

Today we had a busy, but exciting day. We woke up to a breakfast of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, and French toast. Some of us went on a very early morning hike. Some took later hikes, but both were spectacular. There was also a few on a horseback ride. Six people, including Mrs. Baudhuin and Ashley, went on a beautiful scenic waterfall hike. We took tons of photos, and ended up exploring a cave. The horseback ride was two hours long and was very exciting.

Afterward, we headed over to lunch, which included Rice Krispy Treats. Then we went canoeing on a beautiful lake. We played fun games, such as retrieving tennis balls from the lake. There was lots of teamwork involved to win the competition! We also had fun playing with the minnows, but we didn’t catch any, although we tried hard. We splashed each other a ton, but luckily no canoes were tipped over. But one person did intentionally fall in! We headed back for a few hours of free time — some swimming, some drawing.

Whatever it was, our time was not wasted! However, we noticed some dark clouds overhead. It started raining, so we weren’t able to go zip lining. Dinner was delicious including a wide variety of desserts to choose from, including coconut crème pie, ice cream, and carrot cake. Despite the rain, we had plenty of excitement. We decided to lounge inside and play a game of spoons. Don’t worry, no serious injuries, but it was quite vicious! We sang songs, had laughs, and ended up playing even more games. As we get ready to go to bed, we can all agree it was a very adventurous day. We are now looking forward to more fun and amazement tomorrow!
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Day 6

We had an exciting day today! We started our day off with getting on the bus to go to Rocky Mountain National Park. Once we got there we went to the Holzwarth Homestead. Our group took a tour of the homestead where we learned about the settlers that lived there. One of the groups worked on their tree badge and learned about the different trees in the area. At the end of our time at the homestead, we tried to lasso a wooden horse. All of us then got on the bus to go get lunch.

After lunch, we headed to the Continental Divide for a photo opp. Then our group went to the Alpine Visitor’s Center to go on a hike. The hike was to the highest point you could hike to. The elevation was 12,005 feet! While we were at the visitor’s center I (Molly) earned my junior ranger badge. On our way to Grand Lake we saw three moose and an elk.

Back in the town, we shopped for souvenirs. While we were there most of us got Dairy King. A little after we got back some of us went on hikes. One of the hikes was a waterfall hike. Once the girls made it to the waterfall, they took a picture in the waterfall. The water was really cold. While some girls were on the waterfall hike, a few other girls went on another hike nine mile mountain (it’s actually two miles). IMG_6839

Day 7 – Last Day

Hi there from our last day at Snow Mountain Ranch! We started off our day with a trip to the climbing wall. Several people got to hit the buzzer at the top of the wall. We think that the wall was at least 30 feet tall, but it certainly felt taller once you started to climb up it. We had very sore fingers by the end of our climbing trip. Then a small group of us went down to the craft cabin and participated in a glass fusion class.

After creating our works of art, we ran over to get photos done by our good friend Dill, a seasoned professional. After capturing our beautiful faces on to a digital screen we went on a trip down a 55-foot-high zip line! It was a thousand feet across. After this, our group split into doing a couple of activities. One was a three-mile hike up to a waterfall. We got a bit wet, but it was worth it in the end.

The others in our group went on a steak dinner horseback ride. The ride to our dinner spot was about an hour and a half long, and some of our horses were a bit temperamental. The steak was amazing and we had potatoes and beans as a side dish. We all also got to avoid the rain, which was nice! After our very busy day we ended it with a group campfire. Our trained CIT2s helped build it and the girls led camp songs throughout, ending it with their favorite song “On My Honor.” We’re going to miss our adventures in the Colorado Mountains, but we are excited to see our families and tell them all about our trip.
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Do you want to travel with Girl Scouts? For more information on our council’s travel programs, click here or email Ashley Christensen at achristensen@girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

 

Kankakee Girl Scout Troop Embodies the True Meaning of Sisterhood

Kankakee Girl Scout Troop Embodies the True Meaning of Sisterhood

Eight years ago, Girl Scout Daisy Mia Martin was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), which is a congenital heart defect that affects normal blood flow due to the incorrect formation of the left side of the heart, causing holes or gaps in the walls.

Since diagnosis, Mia has had 14 procedures, four of which were open heart.

“Looking at her, you would never know,” said her mom, Jaime Martin. “She is a very strong girl. She never gets gives up on what she wants to accomplish, and if she can’t do something, she will keep working on it until she does get it.”

When Mia was entering first grade, Bonfield Grade School in Bonfield, Illinois held a fair that included a Girl Scouting table. Mia and her mom did not hesitate to register and get started in Troop 75410. Part of the reason Mia wanted to join was because her family had received so much help and she wanted to give back to the community by participating in Girl Scouts.

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Mia (left) and her friends love getting together during Girl Scout meetings – Troop 75410, Service Unit  746

This year, Mia has perfect attendance at her Girl Scout meetings.

“She’s always asking if this is a Monday she has a Girl Scout meeting,” her mom said. “She has already learned so much in just one year – earning all her Daisy pedals and 23 patches, and selling over 200 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies!”

Mia is highly involved in the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) chapter near her, where she stays around procedure times. According to Mia, her favorite day at RMH so far was the day her Sister Girl Scouts visited her and brought her goodies.

The troop members made breakfast bags for the current and future guests. Mia and her friends toured RMH, and she explained how much this place has done for her and her family throughout her many procedures. There is an engraved brick on RMH’s campus in memory of her grandmother and in honor of Mia. Mia loves to show off her brick to her guests and visitors.

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Mia pictured with the brick that honors her and remembers her grandmother. (Credit: RMHC Chicago and Northwest Indiana Facebook)

Mia and her family want to encourage their community to support the Ronald McDonald House through their Pop Tab Collection Program. This program benefits Ronald McDonald House Charities  of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI) through their recycling partner, United Scrap Metal, which donates the market-value of the recycled items back to RMHC-CNI. Last year RMHC-CNI raised more than $40,000. Since it started, the Martin family has already collected one million pop tabs! In honor of this great accomplishment, Mia’s name will now be on the wall at RMH. Pop tab collections can be dropped off at various addresses listed on the website.

In addition to collecting pop tabs, Mia and her Daisy troop have been selling lemonade to raise funds for RMHC.

The Martin family says that Girl Scouting has made a huge impact in Mia’s life so far as a great organization that accepts everyone and demonstrates openness and love.

“She is my miracle,” her mother said fondly. “I just try to teach her to be thankful for every day and live life to the fullest!”