Song and Sisterhood Abound at Easterseals Academy Girl Scout Troop

Song and Sisterhood Abound at Easterseals Academy Girl Scout Troop

More than 100 years ago in Savannah, Georgia, Juliette Gordon Low founded Girl Scouts on the belief that girls can change the world.

Today, that principle is alive and well at Girl Scout Troop 25226’s monthly meetings at Easterseals Academy, which serves people and families with disabilities in the Chicagoland and Rockford region.

“Autism disproportionally affects boys, which means there’s already a small population of girls here,” said Jamie Fagerburg, an occupational therapist at Easterseals. “Girl Scouts is a great way to bring the girls together.”

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Every meeting, the students start by reciting the traditional Girl Scout Promise and Law.

“On my honor, I will try…”

Afterward, the girls practice the official Girl Scout handshake and receive their sashes so they can continue earning petals, which are the special Daisy version of badges earned by older Girl Scouts.

“We created this structure and stick to it so the meetings are predictable for the girls,” explained troop leader Carrie Browne. “They really enjoy a lot of those rituals. When we call everyone’s name to get their sash, they cheer for each other.”

During their February meeting, the girls earned their clover petal for using resources wisely. After watching a brief video about recycling, they decorated pots and planted seeds for a vegetable garden.

“There’s a particular who typically has a difficult time in groups, but in Girl Scouts, she’s the happiest you’ll ever see her,” said Libby Puckett, a speech language pathologist at Easterseals. “She’s clapping and smiling, she’s beside herself with happiness. So it’s great to see how Girl Scouts affects her overall demeanor.”

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The troop started meeting a little more than a year ago and, since then, the girls have sold Girl Scout Cookies, participated in a campout and visited the Lincoln Park Zoo, just to name a few activities.

“One of the reasons our troop has been so successful is because of the staff participation,” said Browne. “They’re really invested in it and they enjoy it as much as the girls.”

And the girls appreciate the sisterhood and solidarity Girl Scouts offers them. At the end of the meeting, everyone joins hands in a Friendship Circle and sings the chorus from Rihanna’s hit song “Umbrella.”

“When the sun shine, we shine together/ Told you I’ll be here forever/ Said I’ll always be your friend/ Took an oath, I’mma stick it out until the end.”

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“Girl Scouts really provides the closest thing to what their peers are typically doing,” said Fagerburg. “It gives them opportunities for social exchanges in an environment with girls with similar disabilities. They’re in it together.”

To learn more about Easterseals, click here. To join Girl Scouts or become a volunteer, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

United Way of Will County Celebrates 80 Years of Service to the Community

United Way of Will County Celebrates 80 Years of Service to the Community

United Way of Will County recently reached a major milestone.

On February 1, 2017, the organization celebrated 80 years of service to the community. Today, United Way of Will County funds more than 100 programs provided by 46 not-for-profit organizations that serve the residents of Will County, including Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

In fact, Girl Scouts was one of the original partner agencies going back to 1937.

“We recognize and support the United Way’s mission of uniting communities and resources to empower people and creative positive, sustainable change,” said Nancy Wright, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. “We’re proud to be one of the partner agencies that receives funding from United Way to change lives.”

To date, United Way has helped impact thousands of girls since the first Will Country troop was formed in 1922 at Farragut School in Joliet with approximately 50 girls. Last year, Will County had 6,282 Girl Scouts and 2,903 adult volunteers.

“We believe in what Girl Scouts is about, the services they provide to young women and how they’re empowering them for the future,” says Michael Hennessy, CEO of United Way of Will County. “It really makes a difference. We’re proud of the mission and we’re really grateful for the support.”

To learn more about United Way of Will County, visit uwwill.org and to get involved in Girl Scouting, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

 

Why I’m Giving Back to Girl Scouts

Why I’m Giving Back to Girl Scouts

All of my friends were doing it. Admittedly, that isn’t a great reason for choosing something you would spend the next decade or so doing, but it is the reason I joined Girl Scouts as a kindergartner. That, and I really wanted to do all of the craft projects.

While the allure of plaster of paris and friendship bracelets was enough to get me involved, it was the different badges that kept me interested. Each badge opened up something completely new to me. Learning canoeing and archery at summer camps. Participating in World Thinking Day. Attending a ballet for the first time. Running a cookie booth at our town’s annual holiday parade. Restoration projects at the Dunes.

Being a Girl Scout allowed me to have so many different experiences, some that I may have never tried on my own. Each badge and project we pursued was our choice. Each of us had a voice and our opinions mattered. Our troop leaders guided us and facilitated the projects, all while making us feel like the ones leading.

On #GivingTuesday, my inbox was filled with appeals from worthy causes, but the Girl Scouts email stuck out to me. I hadn’t thought about my time as a Girl Scout for a while (beyond my annual cookie order). Reading the email, I was reminded of what I loved about Girl Scouts: friendship, opportunity, empowerment. Girl Scouts has helped so many girls become leaders in our world today, including myself. Though my donation was not large, I know it is still meaningful. Even a small donation can have a huge impact on a girl’s life.

And that is why I’m giving back to Girl Scouts. So other girls can explore the world. So they can discover something new about themselves. So they can feel free to be curious. So they can become the leaders they are meant to be. And because of how much Girl Scouts gave me.

Hayley Trezzo is a Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana alumnae and Gold Award recipient.

To join or become a volunteer, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

Lifelong Girl Scout Recognized as Woman of Distinction

Lifelong Girl Scout Recognized as Woman of Distinction

For Nancy Fink, Girl Scouts is a way of life and her commitment to community service recently earned her a coveted spot as one of Lake County Journal‘s Women of Distinction.

“I was totally embarrassed,” she said of the honor. “I didn’t tell anyone at work, I just told my colleagues I was going to a luncheon. I don’t volunteer for the recognition. It feels better to do it than it does not to do it. To me, it’s embarrassing to be recognized for something I love to do.”

The Navy commander has been involved with Girl Scouts since she was a young girl growing up in Arizona.

“Girl Scouts was a means to independence and confidence,” said Fink. “We did a lot of canoeing, motorboating and water skiing. It gave you the courage to try new things because you’d already demonstrated what you could accomplish.”

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And Fink certainly accomplished quite a bit. In high school, she achieved her First-Class Award, which is the equivalent of today’s Gold Award and is the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn.

After high school, Fink attended Notre Dame to study math and later began teaching math and nuclear reactor theory with the Navy after college. And in 1991 she became an officer.

“It takes a lot of confidence in your character and your ability to compete in a group where you’re not in the norm,” she said. “I’m confident I got that ability to hold my own from being a Girl Scout.”

Today, she is the executive officer of Navy Recruiting District Chicago and lives in Libertyville with her family, including a daughter who’s a Girl Scout and three sons who are all Boy Scouts or Eagle Scouts.

In addition to being a Girl Scout volunteer and running her daughter’s troop, Fink also teaches religious education classes for first graders at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Parish.

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“Sometimes my older boys help in the classroom,” she said. “For my kids to hear me say out loud what I believe and how my faith impacts my life, it just makes them understand more about where I come from.”

Although Fink plans on retiring this year, she doesn’t have any plans to slow down as she becomes more involved as one of the service unit managers for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

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“Volunteering with Girl Scouts is an opportunity to give girls memories that really last a lifetime,” she said. “I don’t know what else you can do that takes an hour or two a month that can really stick with a young lady all the way into her adulthood like the experience you can give them through Girl Scouting. It’s good bang for your buck.”

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Girl Scouts Make Tote Bags to Help Lift Spirits of Patients Battling Cancer

Girl Scouts Make Tote Bags to Help Lift Spirits of Patients Battling Cancer

In the worst stages of her cancer treatment, what got Jessica Brubaker through were the messages of support, she said.

Brubaker now wants to assist others battling the disease. To help other chemotherapy patients, Brubaker has teamed up some Girl Scouts in Lemont Friday to assemble tote bags and write letters of support.

“We are making bags for cancer patients so they can feel better and they can lift their spirits,” said Lauren Tracy, 10, a Girl Scout at Saints Cyril and Methodius School in Lemont.

About 20 girls in the school’s kindergarten Daisy troop and fourth grade Junior Troop assembled 21 tote bags in conjunction with the #bettereveryday chemo care tote program, which Brubaker started last year with items to help “brighten the spirit of those going through treatment and bring a smile their way,” said troop leader Megan Plahm.

Using troop funds, donations from friends and family, as well as providing some of the supplies themselves, the girls filled the bags with items that would benefit chemo patients, Plahm said. According to a #bettereveryday flier, more than 150 chemo care totes have been gifted, filled with items such as reusable water bottles, Working Hands hand cream for chemo rash, Biotene mouthwash for mouth sores caused by chemo, adult coloring books, colored pencils and crayons to pass the time during treatment.

Bags also had Lifesaver candies to help offset the taste of saline during the cancer treatments, the flier said.

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As Brubaker, who is from Western Springs, prepared to meet the girls, she told the Daily Southtown about her battle with breast cancer. A mother of three small children, she underwent a double mastectomy and is nearly finished with her treatment, she said.

“After my first chemotherapy, I got very, very sick,” she said. “You’ve got to knock yourself down to build yourself back up.”

Fighting back tears, she recalled a conversation with her husband who reminded her that the only time she said she might not make it through was when she was on the bathroom floor vomiting in the toilet.

“When you’re knocked back down, it’s hard to know you will get back up,” she told the Southtown. “What helped me get back up” was knowing people cared.

In every bag she sends, she writes a personal note, and so did the Girl Scouts.

To read the full story, visit Daily Southtown. And to learn about other Girl Scout service projects, visit Girls Give Back.

Local Girl Scout Donates Unicorns to Kids with Cancer

Local Girl Scout Donates Unicorns to Kids with Cancer

After visiting her grandfather in the hospital, Galilea Gonzalez of Des Plaines, Illinois decided she wanted to help children who were in the hospital as well.

“Unicorns are my favorite and they’re special because they can help other kids,” said the 7-year-old Girl Scout Daisy.

Galilea mentioned the idea to her mother, Carmina Gonzalez, and together they came up with an idea to raise money for stuffed unicorns.

“We went to [Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s] program kickoff event at Allstate Arena and there was a sponsor making bath salts inside a Ziploc bag,” explained Carmina. “It was very simple and she loved it, so she said she would make them and sell them and use the money she made to buy the unicorns.”

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Galilea in the process of making bath salts.

Many bath salts bags later, Galilea was able to purchase more than 100 unicorns, which were distributed to local children with cancer. As a result of her hard work and empathy, Galilea received the “Lead Like Elena” award and was featured on the Disney Channel. The award is inspired by the leadership and bravery of Disney’s newest heroine, Elena of Avalor.

“I was excited,” Galilea said of her brief appearance on the Disney Channel.
For the Gonzalez family, Girl Scouting is a family tradition.

“I was a Girl Scout when I was living in California and I learned so many different things. We did a lot of camping and outdoor activities,” said Carmina, who’s also Galilea’s troop leader. “I come from a first-generation family and I learned a lot from my leaders. It was enriching for me and empowering and I want Galilea to feel empowered as a girl.”

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Galilea sold bath salts to buy unicorns for children in need.

Meanwhile, Galilea is having a ton of fun in her second year as a Girl Scout Daisy making friends and collecting fun patches.

“It’s fun and I want to do it every day,” she said. “I want to do it right now.”

And Carmina shares her daughter’s enthusiasm.

“I enjoy being a Girl Scout leader,” she said. “You’re teaching them, but they’re teaching you, too.”

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Girl Scouts Celebrate 100th Anniversary of the First Known Sale of Cookies By Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts Celebrate 100th Anniversary of the First Known Sale of Cookies By Girl Scouts

A century ago, a group of innovative girls started what would become a national tradition: Girl Scout Cookies.

This year, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first known sale of cookies by Girl Scouts with the debut of the new Girl Scout S’mores™ Cookies. The s’mores-inspired crunchy graham sandwich cookie with creamy chocolate and marshmallowy filling will join Girl Scout Cookie classics such as Thin Mints®, Samoas®, and Trefoils®.

Local Girl Scouts began taking orders for Girl Scout Cookies from family and friends earlier this month. Meanwhile, cookie lovers can find their favorite varieties at booth sales near public places throughout the area beginning Feb. 17 until March 26. Cookies sold by GSGCNWI are $5 per box.

“When you buy Girl Scout Cookies, you help power unique opportunities for Girl Scouts to take the lead in powerful, everyday ways,” said Nancy Wright, CEO of GSGCNWI. “We are excited to introduce the new Girl Scout S’mores™ Cookies and give customers a delicious way to help our girls learn important life skills, such as goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.”

The first known sale of cookies by Girl Scouts occurred in 1917, when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria as a service project. Since then, the Girl Scout Cookie Program has evolved into the largest entrepreneurial training program for girls in the world.

Girl Scout Cookies not only help Girl Scouts earn money for fun, educational activities and community projects, but also play a huge role in transforming girls into G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)™ as they learn essential life skills that will stay with them forever.

“The most important skill that I have learned is how to communicate with strangers,” said Nina Grotto, a 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador and one of GSGCNWI’s top cookie sellers. “As a kid, I was always really shy and I wouldn’t talk to anyone, but selling Girl Scout Cookies helped me to talk to people that I don’t know … I learned that being creative is always better than staying inside the box. It’s when you do something different from everyone else and tackle an issue in a new way that you succeed.”

Every penny of net proceeds earned from the sale of Girl Scout Cookies is reinvested locally into exceptional programming and activities for girls. At the troop level, girls manage the decision-making process for how to spend their troop cookie money and often reinvest it in their neighborhoods through service projects and learning experiences, including travel. Customers who purchase Girl Scout Cookies are not only getting a tasty treat—they are also investing in their communities and girls.

“With the money that my troop earns through cookie sales, I can pay for travel opportunities, programs and camps,” Nina said. “It also allows me to give back to my community because I also use the money toward community service projects.”

For more information about Girl Scout Cookies, including the official Girl Scout Cookie Finder app, please visit girlscoutcookies.org.