Gold Award Spotlight: Meet the 2019 Recipients, Part 2!

The Gold Award Equation

80 Girl Scouts + 6,400+ service hours = amazing projects that create impact in our community.

The Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. The Gold Award projects from our 2019 class impacted many different aspects of communities both in Chicago-land and abroad. Girl Scouts created projects that focused on health education, environmental protection, exposure to STEM, child literacy, and so much more. Providing an everlasting effect on communities was something each girl worked hard to achieve and they all succeeded.

Assist us on congratulating this hard working group of Gold Award Girl Scouts! View the photo album and program booklet from this year’s recognition ceremony.

Don’t miss out on meeting the previously featured Gold Award Girls Scouts!
Part One: Meet the first 10 girls (last names A-B) »

Part Two: Meet 10 Gold Award Girl Scouts

Continue to follow along to meet more Gold Award girls throughout this blog series!

DeVonna B.

DeVonna’s project was a series of videos on a YouTube channel she created called S.C.A.L.E. which stands for Sickle Cell Awareness and Lifestyle Empowerment. The videos were created to educate the general public about Sickle Cell Disease, and to give those who suffer from the disease tips and tricks to ease symptoms and improve treatment.

LaTosha Desiree B.

LaTosha created educational videos about living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. For example, how to check their blood sugar and what to do when your blood sugar is high or low. She hosted two events where girls watched the video and were challenged to make smoothies under 30 carbohydrates. The girls were given hands-on experience administering shots of Insulin and Lantus into grapes. View LaTosha’s videos.

Kaitlyn Elizabeth B.

Kaitlyn created science videos aimed to help fifth graders gain a better understanding of multiple STEM topics in a fun and engaging way. Along with her videos, she created instructions for household science experiments so children can practice STEM using items from around their home! With the help of her family and adviser, she created these videos for several middle schools.

Gillian B.

Gillian built a three-bin composter, hand-washing station, and website with a seed donation platform for an urban community garden in Maywood, Illinois. She worked closely with Maywood community activists—Proviso East High School student volunteers, Proviso Partners for Health, and Chicago Botanic Gardens—to empower citizens and offer support and introduce healthy lifestyle practices in a historically marginalized, food desert community.

Lindsey M. B.

Lindsey’s Gold Award, For the Love of Adler, raised community awareness for the David Adler Cultural Center. In 2019 the center is celebrating the 100-year mark of the estate. For this project she used her love of the arts and talent for research to make professional and educational brochures. She worked with the staff and historians to create a brochure with a timeline, organizational history, biography of Mr. Adler, historical pictures, and the center’s current mission.

Alita C.

Alita’s Gold Award project provided gardening experience that enriched and benefited the health and lives of clients at St. Agnes Adult Day Service Center. She enriched their lives through gardening in a raised bed.

Tiffany Diane C.

Tiffany Diane’s project helped families from homeless shelters receive basic toiletries needed for everyday living. She held a donation drive dinner where more than 250 people were in attendance. This project had such a huge impact on the community that other organizations will be presenting their own donation drives in years to come.

Kourtney C.

Less than half of people practicing in the STEM field are females. Kourtney’s project addressed this issue by spreading the word to girls about how fun and rewarding STEM can be. She did this through planning and executing a STEM workshop for 4th and 5th grade girls, maintaining a Facebook and Instagram page, and delivering information about STEM to Housing Opportunities.

Sofia C.

Sofia created 80 literacy reading kits for children in Pre-K through grade 8 that utilize the Libertyville Township food pantry. She worked with literacy experts, librarians, and her project adviser to create these kits (that contained a book, resources sheet, parent guide, stuffed animal (for the younger kids), journal and dictionary (for the older kids), and fun things like stickers and bookmarks. She will continue her project by creating a three year cycle which the Libertyville Township will take over and fund.

Lauren L. D.

For her Gold Award, Lauren trained her dog to become a therapy dog, and worked with him to receive his certification. She took her dog to many places once he was certified, including nursing homes to help the residents with loneliness, schools to help reduce stress, and a day camp to educate kids about therapy dogs and other types of working animals.

Girl Scouts Highest Awards

Bronze. Silver. Gold. These represent the highest honors a Girl Scout can earn.

All three awards give you the chance to do big things while supporting an issue you care about. You might plant a community garden at your school or inspire others to eat healthy foods for your Bronze, advocate for animal rights for your Silver, or build a career network that encourages girls to become scientists and engineers for your Gold. Whatever you choose, you’ll inspire others (and yourself). 

As you earn one of Girl Scouts’ highest awards, you’ll change your corner of the world—and beyond. The possibilities are endless.

Learn more about earning the Girl Scouts’ Highest Awards.

Gold Award Spotlight: Meet the 2019 Recipients

Join Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana in congratulating the 2019 class of Gold Award Girl Scouts! In this eight-part blog series, we will highlight the projects from all of our Gold Award recipients!

The Ceremony: A Recap

On Saturday, May 18, 2019 friends, family and supporters gathered to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of 80 young women as they officially became Gold Award Girl Scouts. At the annual ceremony, girls received their Gold Award Pin, patch and certificate and were honored by our CEO, Nancy Wright, and Board President, Kathy Scherer. Attendees were also treated to an empowering “Words of Inspiration” speech by Girl Scout Alum and U.S. Coast Guard Commander Zeita Merchant.

This year, each of the girls worked through projects focusing on a variety of topics such as child-literacy, women in STEM, environmental conservation, homelessness/poverty, civic issues, animal rights and more. As a group, these young women spent more than 6,400 hours taking action in their communities all to make a lasting, sustainable difference on issues they saw with their own eyes.

Please join us in congratulating this outstanding group of Gold Award Girl Scouts. View photos from this year’s Gold Award Ceremony in our photo album on Facebook.

To learn more about Gold Award projects, check out the informational program booklet on our website.

Meet 10 Gold Award Girl Scouts

Continue to follow along to meet more Gold Award girls throughout this blog series!

Samantha A.

Samantha started the campaign “#sayno2straws.” Along with the hashtag, she created a website, Instagram hashtag, and promotional video and educated girls at the Bolingbrook Jamboree on the importance of using sustainable products. Later, she made a speech and showed her video to the whole camp to raise awareness for her project and spread the word of sustainability.

Melanie Elizabeth A.

For her Gold Award, Melanie Elizabeth hosted a culinary class for girls in grades 4 through 8. During the class she taught them basic and necessary cooking skills. Putting what they learned in action, she had them practice on fruits and vegetables. She also taught them how to make a pizza from scratch, and finished the class by making smoothies and veggie plates.

Maeve A.

Maeve’s Gold Award project focused on improving mental health education. She worked with Erika’s Lighthouse and Our Lady of Humility Primary School in Beach Park to create a program that could be delivered to 7th and 8th graders preparing for high school. The main focus of the program was to teach girls how to be aware of their own feelings and how to cope with stress.

Kendra A.

Kendra’s project was geared toward helping children undergoing chemotherapy. She created bags centered around making their first chemo visit a better experience for them and their families. The bags provided personal care items, books, toys and positive notes of support, and reached patients in Illinois, North and South Carolina, and Texas. Each bag had HOPE imprinted on them, the acronym standing for ‘Have Only Positive Expectations’.

Zoe B.

Zoe’s Gold Award project focused on community service. She worked with multiple organizations such as Disney, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and local churches in order to obtain food and grooming supplies for homeless people in Chicago. These items were collected in bags and then distributed to the homeless men, women and children in or near Chicago.

Olivia B.

Olivia’s project was all about self love and appreciation. To combat negative self image and social comparison in young girls, Olivia sought to spread love not only in her school, but in her Glenview community using the campaign slogan “You Are Worthy.” She used brightly painted rocks to attract local pedestrians and put signs in various windows with the inspirational message “You Are Worthy.”

Sarah B.

For her Gold Award, Sarah gave back to her church by creating a place for the congregation to enjoy and feel more in touch with God. She worked with a group of volunteers to transform the old courtyard into a spectacular garden and place for prayer or meditation, in hopes of attracting butterflies and the eyes of the congregation.

Amanda Lynn B.

When Amanda started her Gold Award, she decided to focus on homelessness, specifically on the lack of access to education for homeless children. For her project, she started a tutoring program at a shelter in Joliet with a group of volunteers that she recruited. They helped the children with homework as well as played games with the younger kids.

Sarah B.

For Sarah’s Gold Award, she created a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math) event to inspire youth to see the bridge between STEM and the arts. Attendees participated in activities for each letter of STEAM and learned about different opportunities to put the right and left sides of their brain to work.

Mary Theresa B.

Mary’s Gold Award project was a reading mentorship program between local high school and elementary school students. At a local elementary school’s Learning Resource Center, high school students helped younger students with reading curriculum and developing positive, encouraging relationships. Her project was designed to improve literacy and foster a love of and confidence with reading.

Highest Awards

Bronze. Silver. Gold. These represent the highest honors a Girl Scout can earn.

All three awards give you the chance to do big things while supporting an issue you care about. You might plant a community garden at your school, or inspire others to eat healthy foods for your Bronze. You might advocate for animal rights for your Silver, or build a career network that encourages girls to become scientists and engineers for your Gold. Whatever you choose, you’ll inspire others (and yourself). 

As you earn one of Girl Scouts’ highest awards, you’ll change your corner of the world—and beyond. The possibilities are endless.

Are you ready to make a difference in the world? Earn the Girl Scouts’ Highest Awards.

Are you ready to make a difference in the world? Earn the Girl Scouts’ Highest Awards.

Wow—talk about impressive! Girl Scouts everywhere are changing the world in meaningful ways. What can we say? It’s in our DNA.

Bronze. Silver. Gold. These represent the highest honors a Girl Scout can earn. All three awards give you the chance to do big things while working on an issue that’s captured your interest in a big way. Do you know a girl who is ready to be a part of this prestigious group of young women who are changing the world?

Learn more about the Highest Awards, and read on for an announcement about a change in requirements for the Girl Scout Silver Award and the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Attention Older Girl Scouts! As of October 1st, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) is pleased to announce a change in requirements for the Girl Scout Silver Award and the Girl Scout Gold Award. Girls may now complete final projects that benefit the Girl Scout community. In order to make sure that this change doesn’t dilute the prestige, leadership efforts, or impact of each girl’s project, Silver and Gold Awards must still meet the requirements that are key to taking sustainable action:

  • The project makes a lasting difference in the local community, region, or beyond;
  • The project puts the Girl Scout Promise and Law into action;
  • The project includes provisions to ensure sustainability;
  • The project identifies national and/global links to the girl’s selected issue;
  • And the project inspires others.

This change does not impact girls who have already begun or submitted a project plan, since girls choose an issue first, and then add in the other parameters that will make it sustainable.

If you have any specific questions, please contact Annie Gilmartin, Manager of Highest Awards, the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

Video: Girl Scout Gold Award from GirlScoutsUSA on Vimeo.

Girl Scouts Awards $10K in College Scholarships

Girl Scouts Awards $10K in College Scholarships

Six Gold Award honorees from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) have received a total of $10,000 in college scholarships in honor of their commitment to making the world a better place.

This year’s recipients are Amber Adams-Holecek, a sophomore at Central Michigan University from Chicago; Karyn N. Baldwin, a senior at Illinois State University from Hoffman Estates; Alecia Bell, a freshman at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignfrom Hillside; Rachel Bennett, a junior at Culver-Stockton College from Hazel Crest; Brianna McCormick, a freshman at Roosevelt University from Oak Park; and Gloria Elizabeth Tabaczyk, a junior at Michigan State University from Hinsdale.

“The Girl Scout Gold Award provides a hands-on experience for young women to take action and provide a solution for a problem in their communities,” said CEO of GSGCNWI Nancy Wright. “By establishing this scholarship, we’re investing in the next generation of women leaders and creating opportunities for them to flourish in college, their careers and life.”

The Girl Scout Gold Award, which is celebrating its centennial this year, is the highest award that a Girl Scout aged 14-18 may earn. Commitment to earning the Gold Award develops skills related to leadership, time management, and community awareness, which set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship. The Gold Award recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 80 hours or more of a significant service project that fulfills a need within a girl’s community (whether local or global), creates change and is sustainable.

More than 20 recent Gold Award honorees applied for the inaugural GSGCNWI Gold Award scholarship, which was made possible by generous endowments to the council. High school seniors who received their Gold Award as a Girl Scout Senior or Ambassador in GSGCNWI are eligible to apply. Applications for next year’s scholarship will open March 15, 2017.

As awareness of the Girl Scout Gold Award continues to grow, so does its prestige. An increasing number of colleges are offering financial incentives to those who earn Girl Scout Gold Awards and admissions counselors view it as a sign of an individual girl’s ability to lead. To learn more about the scholarships available to Gold Award honorees or to donate to the GSGCNWI Gold Award scholarship fund, please visit www.girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute’s report, The Power of the Girl Scout Gold Award: Excellence in Leadership and Life, Girl Scout Gold Award recipients receive greater lifetime benefits than their peers with regard to positive sense of self, life satisfaction, leadership, life success, community service and civic engagement as a result of their experience in Girl Scouting, including earning their Gold Award.

Girls have earned Girl Scouts of the USA’s highest awards since 1916, just four years after the organization’s founding in 1912. These awards include the Golden Eagle of Merit, Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, First Class and the current Girl Scout Gold Award which was introduced in 1980. Over the course of the last century, millions of Girl Scout alumnae have positively impacted their communities and the world with their creative, impactful and sustainable community service, or Take Action, projects.

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana impacts the lives of more than 52,000 girls and nearly 20,000 adult members in 245 communities in six Illinois counties (Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kankakee, Lake, and Will) and four Indiana counties (Jasper, Lake, Newton, and Porter). Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. For more information, visit www.girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

In a Stressful World, This Girl Scout Brings Calm

In a Stressful World, This Girl Scout Brings Calm

Of course it’s always important to remember to take a step back and really think about your actions before acting on them and your words before you say them. Kaitlyn Kropp knows what it’s like to need a minute to cool down. “I have mood swings and so sometimes I’d feel overwhelmed and just kind of lose it,” she says. “It was hard on me, and I know it was hard for other people, too. I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, though, and I wanted to not have those problems. I didn’t like that my feelings of sadness or fear could take over like that.”

So, like a true leader, this 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador set out to problem solve and help herself and other kids facing similar problems. And it turns out many teens are living with these types of issues. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, three out of every fifty teens aged 13-18 are grappling with severe anxiety disorder.

“We used to have something called a ‘processing room’ at school, where kids could go and talk through their feelings with a teacher or a counselor, or write them down. But that’s not what everyone needs—in fact, if you’re freaking out, having to talk or to write something that makes sense can add even more pressure. That was the case with me, and I knew a few other kids who felt the same,” Kaitlyn says. “All I really wanted was an enclosed space where I could be by myself and chill for a few minutes so I could calm down and get back to my school work without having a bad incident.”

To read more of Kaitlyn’s story, visit GirlScouts.org. To stand with us as champions for girls, donate today.

Chicago Girl Scout Gives Back to Baton Rouge

Chicago Girl Scout Gives Back to Baton Rouge

When Mairead Skelton, a 17-year-old Girl Scout from Chicago, learned about the devastating flood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana earlier this year, she knew she had to do something about it.

“My daughter did something similar years ago when [Hurricane] Katrina hit and Mairead was one of the girls who helped her,” said Bernadette Colletti, Mairead’s Girl Scout troop leader. “On the second day of the flood [in Baton Rouge], Mairead asked if she could do something for the kids down there. So I contacted the diocese to see if there was a need and obtained a list of schools.”

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With the help of her troop leader, Sister Girl Scouts, friends, family, classmates and local politicans, Mairead collected more than 6,000 school supply items for students and teachers in Baton Rouge.

“We sent messages to the surrounding communities and churches asking for donations and my parish allowed me to put donation boxes in the back of the church,” Mariead said. “I asked my principal if this was something we could do and we organized a school supply drive. I also reached out to elected officials who represented my neighborhood and they made monetary donations.”

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In addition to the school supplies, Mairead and her Sister Girl Scouts made prayer cards for the schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge and decorated the bags with either an outline of the state of Louisiana or the state’s symbol, the fleur de lis. In October, Colleti and Mairead drove to Baton Rouge to personally deliver the items during a Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Praireville, Louisiana.

“I can’t describe the feeling because it was so amazing and life-changing to meet some of the families affected by the flood,” said Mairead. “My troop leader and the whole congregation stood up and started clapping for me during the Mass. I started crying, I was so overwhelmed.”

After the Mass, about 30 people came up to Mairead to express their gratitude and the principal of St. John’s Primary School, Kim Naquien, presented her with a big poster board signed by the entire third-grade class as a thank-you gift.

“She may have been inspired by us, but truly she is an inspiration to us to serve one another,” Naquin told the congregation, according to The Catholic Commentator.

And Mairead was truly touched by the gesture.

“It was such an inspiration to me,” Mairead said. “My favorite was a little kid who gave me a thumbs-up as he was walking out.”

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And Mairead’s desire to give back didn’t stop there. With encouragement from her troop leader, Mairead decided to turn the school supply drive into her Gold Award project and host emergency preparedness sessions at the Chicago Park District.

“That way, if something like the flood were to happen, people would be prepared,” explained Mairead.

The Gold Award is the highest award that a Girl Scout ages 14-18 may earn and recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 80 hours or more, dedicated toward their service project.

“I’ve made so many friends over the last 10 years I’ve been a Girl Scouts,” Mairead said, “and there are so many skills I’ve learned — from being a people person when selling Girl Scout Cookies to not being afraid to speak up when people are talking about an issue or doing a project like this to help others in my community and all over.”

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Local Girl Scout Receives Scepter of Light Award

Local Girl Scout Receives Scepter of Light Award

Kaitlyn Kropp knows what it takes to be a leader.

On Monday, October 10, 2016, the 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador received the Elena of Avalor Scepter of Light Award in honor of her ability to lead through everyday challenges  with the same attributes that define Disney’s Elena of Avalor.

Diane Ikemiyashiro, director of original programming for Disney Junior, presented Kaitlyn with the award on ABC7 and said it symbolizes the “true meaning of leadership.”

Earlier this year, Kaitlyn created an impressive sensory room at The Academy of Forest View in Arlington Heights as her Gold Award project to give those with autism the ability to minimize their stress before returning to class.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout between the ages of 14 and 17 can earn. The leadership skills, organizational skills, and sense of community and commitment required to complete the process set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship.

Reactions to Kaitlyn’s Gold Award project have been so positive that other schools have contacted her about creating similar spaces in their schools. Click here to see Kaitlyn in action.

A BIG thank you to Roz Varon ABC7, Girl Scout alum and former troop leader, for having us on!

How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

With a plethora of construction paper, scissors, glue and fun facts spread before me and my Girl Scout troop, we began the riveting task of creating the world’s best table display for World Thinking Day.

As a wide-eyed Girl Scout Junior, Thinking Day granted me the opportunity to taste new food, meet new people and explore a world of possibilities. It was there, at that glue-covered table, that I discovered my passion for other cultures and travel.

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Growing up, my troop and I would sing camp songs in Cherokee, make music with Lummi sticks, eat Irish soda bread and dream of traveling to the Girl Scout World Centers. We were courageous in spirit, compassionate by action and eager to meet everyone. Little did I know just how much the lessons I learned with my troop would impact the course of my life.

As I got older, I realized that not everyone was as compassionate toward other people and cultures as my troop and I were. So, in my final year as a Girl Scout Ambassador, I combined my passion for culture and the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) Millennium Goal of achieving world peace to create the framework for my Gold Award Project.

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Through my project, I educated local students and my Sister Girl Scouts about the lives of people in other countries, especially children in war zones. As part of my project, I conducted a toy and school supply drive with the packaged donations being shipped overseas to military personnel so that they could give the donations to children in the surrounding area in order to promote goodwill between the community and our soldiers.

Additionally, I created a permanent “mailbox to the troops” so that much deserved, handwritten letters of appreciation can always reach our soldiers. By educating the community and encouraging participants to donate a toy or a book, I desired to spread the concept of being compassionate to the next generation and convey to the community that they have the power to make a difference in the world by spreading joy and world peace one toy at a time.

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With such a passion for culture and exploration burning inside, it seems only logical that I would travel abroad and at age 19, I embraced my first opportunity to do so. Through my university, I was able to spend two months studying at the Center For International Learning in Muscat, Oman. During my summer abroad in the Sultanate of Oman, I was able to see the world’s second largest chandelier, walked the worn streets of a nearly 500-year-old city and spend one crazy day exploring London, England.

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From making Diwali candles as a Girl Scout Junior to studying abroad in Oman, the passion for culture and exploration that I discovered and fostered through Girl Scouts continues to shape my life and take me on spectacular journeysNow, as a permanent Girl Scout at heart and world traveler, I hope to educate and inspire others to embrace life with open arms and a compassionate heart.

Megan Ramirez is a recent Gold Award honoree and rising sophomore at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky.

Local Foundation Awards College Scholarships to Gold Award Girl Scouts

Local Foundation Awards College Scholarships to Gold Award Girl Scouts

Four Gold Award honorees from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana have received college scholarships from the Corinne Jeannine Schillings Foundation in Frankfort, Illinois.

Alexandria Basset of Glen Ellyn, Illinois; Jaina Chu of Hoffman Estates, Illinois; Shannon Layng of Riverside, Illinois; and Jessica Zarik of Crown Point, Indiana were among 12 students who were awarded scholarships to study a foreign language. Six students were also selected to receive scholarships to study abroad.

The Corinne Jeannine Schillings Foundation was established to honor the memory of Corinne Jeannine Schillings, a former Girl Scout who was an avid traveler and believed strongly in higher education for all women. Corinne lost her life in the Baltimore Water Taxi accident in 2004.

“My husband, Denny, and I are extremely proud of how the scholarship recipients represent Girl Scouting and also Corinne’s legacy,” said Corinne’s mom, Karen M. Schillings, who is co-founder of the foundation and a longtime Girl Scout volunteer and historian. “Corinne was such a giving person, and I feel that the girls we ultimately choose have that same sort of characteristic. They’re able to give of themselves and really that’s what Girl Scouts teaches our girls.”

Bassett is attending North Central College where she is majoring in German/secondary education and minoring in English. Chu is attending Brandeis University where she is majoring in biology/Hispanic studies and minoring in health: science, society and policy. Layng is attending University of Chicago where she’s majoring in biological sciences and minoring in Latin/classics. Zarik is attending Aquinas College where she’s majoring in community leadership and minoring in Spanish.

Their submissions were among 115 applications from 24 states and were selected based on a rigorous rubric that included their transcript, a recommendation from a Girl Scout volunteer or staff member and a personal essay.

“It’s such a difficult decision selecting the girls because they’ve accomplished so much already,” said Schillings. “Every time we award a scholarship, it’s really heartwarming to see the girls write back and share how much it means to them. They’re carrying on Corinne’s legacy, sharing their aspirations and how they’re going to change the world.”

Since 2005, the foundation has awarded scholarships to more than 200 Girl Scouts who’ve obtained their Silver and/or Gold Award, which are the highest awards a Girl Scout can earn. To learn more about the foundation and the scholarship requirements, visit www.cjsfoundation.org.

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.