We Should All Be More Like Girl Scouts

We Should All Be More Like Girl Scouts

The following is a personal message from Nancy Wright, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana…

As I watched the events unfold in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, I could hardly believe my eyes. Words are inadequate in describing the violence, racism and hatred that was broadcasted throughout the world. My condolences go out to those who were injured and the families of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates.

Throughout the weekend, I kept thinking to myself, how do I explain what happened to our girls, who are a shining example of kindness and compassion? How do we make sense of senseless tragedy?

And then it hit me—-it is during times like these that we must join together so that our actions and voices are louder than those who carry hate in their hearts. In fact, being a positive example of leadership is something Girl Scouts have been doing since our founding in 1912.

Take, for example, the interfaith event where Muslim and Christian Girl Scouts joined together for fun, fellowship and friendship. Gatherings like this truly embody the Girl Scout Law: “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”

Or more recently, there are the young girls who have been placing “kindness rocks” around our camps and communities. The rocks, which include brief motivational messages, are intended to inspire others to complete random acts of kindness.

As Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens once noted, “we should all be more like Girl Scouts.”

Our girls get it. Indeed, they are teaching the world to be kinder, more compassionate and more understanding through their words and actions.

Because as Nelson Mandela said: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

What is one action you’ll take to spread love and kindness this week? How will you take the lead like a Girl Scout? Let us know in the comments.

Girl Scout Who Petitioned Hasbro Speaks Out

Girl Scout Who Petitioned Hasbro Speaks Out

Hi, my name is Annie Rose. I’m writing this to tell a story. It’s true, and it happened to me. But it’s not really about me.

It’s actually about how little people can do big things, and about how everyone can have a voice, but only if they aren’t afraid to speak up. I’m going to tell this story to show that that’s all true, and that you can do anything if you believe in yourself. Never give up!

One normal day- or, at least it was- I learned that the main character, Rey, had been left out of the new Star Wars Monopoly. That made me so MAD! I am a firm believer in equal rights, and leaving Rey out of a known and popular game was literally screaming out “FEMALE CHARACTERS DO NOT MATTER!” Which is so not true!

And, even though most children don’t know it, the toys they play with influence their thoughts. So, we need kids to see a female character, not one that’s popular because of her looks, but because of who she is. Kids hear too often that women are objects, judged solely by their looks. They need to hear that women are just as important as men.

So I wanted to do something about it. I mean, there was no doubt about it! So I picked up my markers and paper, to write a passionate five-color letter about female rights. It was kind of scary, wondering what people would say or do, but I knew I was doing the right thing. That kind of took away my fear. Then my mom tweeted it so everyone could see it.

But things didn’t happen immediately. That’s just not how the world works. After a little while, Hasbro, the toy company that made the Star Wars Monopoly game, responded. It took 18 months to get Rey added. But now, we play the game with Rey (probably the most popular game piece).

I want other little girls- and boys- to see that even at 8 years old, like I was when I wrote the letter, you can make a difference. All you have to do is try. Try, even if it is scary.

And, all of you little kids who hear or read this, never give up. You can do anything. I believe in every single one of you. If you see something that you think is wrong, stand up. And every one else will stand behind you.

Lastly, I want to thank anyone and everyone who stood with me throughout this. Maybe just by acknowledging the tweet, maybe by writing back. Maybe I don’t know their names, maybe they are close friends I’ve known my whole life. But I just want to thank them all for standing with me through something meaningful to me.

Thank you.

Thank you all for reading this,

annierose

Annie Rose (age 10 now)

Girl Scouts Celebrate Friendship Center

Girl Scouts Celebrate Friendship Center

Make new friends and keep the old is not just a classic Girl Scout song, it’s also the idea behind Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s Friendship Center.

Located in Country Club Hills, Illinois, the Friendship Center opened in September 1991 much to the delight of the community, especially then Mayor Dwight D. Welch who thanked Girl Scouts for selecting the city as the site for the program center.

“Girl Scouts are the spirit of America,” he told the Southtown Economist at the groundbreaking in September 1990. “Someday these young ladies will be standing behind the podium.”

According to the same article, the center was designed to “give area Girl Scouts a place to pursue activities and hold programs on topics such as drug prevention, literacy, family crisis matters and disability awareness.”

Mary Rose Main at F.C. Reception
Mary Rose Main, National Executive Director of Girl Scouts of the USA, visits the Friendship Center on April 14, 1992

“In retrospect, we were way ahead of our time,” said Karen Schillings, a GSGCNWI council historian and former board member. “It was the first facility of its kind in the country. I remember the CEO from Girl Scouts of the USA came to visit within six months after it opened because she wanted to see what we had built. It was an awesome time.”

Today, the 32-acre facility boasts walking trails, as well as four individual suites containing kitchenettes, sleeping areas and restroom facilities, in addition to a large assembly hall and attached kitchen for day events.

2015 GirlSpace Holiday Party 082
Girl Scouts dance on stage at the first GirlSpace holiday party in 2016

But after more than 25 years of serving thousands of Girl Scouts and the community, the beloved Friendship Center is in need of some upgrades, including a new security system, roof and windows.

“It really has been the heart of the South Suburbs,” said Schillings. “I know some troops meet there and we host different events for a large number of girls and the staff has meetings there as well. It’s really an important facility not just for Girl Scouts, but for the community around it.”

To learn more and donate to the Friendship Center, click here.

Local Girl Scouts Launch Successful Music Career

Local Girl Scouts Launch Successful Music Career

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.

After being bullied at school two years ago, then 13-year-old twins Carly and Martina launched a music career with the goal of empowering and inspiring young women like them.

“I came home one day after being bullied and decided I could continue to feel this way and be upset, or I could do something to make myself feel better,” said Carly. “We loved writing songs and decided to write ‘Make Me Happy’ because you’re ultimately the gatekeeper of what makes you happy.”

The song, which landed the Chicagoland singer-songwriters a record deal, was also the basis of break-out sessions about anti-bullying and self-esteem Carly and Martina, who are now 15, hosted at a middle school in late 2015.

In addition to music, the sisters’ Girl Scout troop served as a safe space for them to be themselves.

“It was a place where we knew we didn’t have to worry,” said Martina. “We knew our friends would be there and we wouldn’t be judged. Girl Scouts was a nice mental break.”

Their mom, Rose Marie Spiro, agreed.

“Girl Scouts provides a place where girls don’t have to worry about all the other stuff that’s going on in the world,” she said. “For their Silver Award project, they created exercise videos for senior citizens. It’s all about giving back to the community and a place where they could learn to be together, where they can be supportive and do things not only for themselves, but for others as well.”

Carly and Martina, who have been taking piano lessons since they were 4, are also passionate about using social media platforms to engage with their fans and followers in a positive way.

carlyandmartina-tunecoreimage

“We’re very active on social media because we want to show that we’re real people, not just music artists,” said Carly. “We reply to every single comment on every single photo. For example, we’re talking to this one girl on Snapchat who gets bullied because she doesn’t wear makeup. We want to create a space to uplift others.”

Earlier this year, Carly and Martina spoke at the TEDxIIT2017 event in Chicago about how their debut single, “Make Me Happy,” inspired them to launch a music career built on positivity.

As for aspiring artists, Carly and Martina’s advice is to start now doing what you love.

“Find whatever industry makes you happy and pursue that nonstop,” they said. “And take lessons, don’t ever stop learning. On days when you ask yourself ‘why am I doing this?’ just keep at it. Don’t quit.”

And most importantly, believe in yourself.

“You have to love yourself enough not to let others control your happiness,” they said. “Living your dream is really important.”

Catch Carly and Martina live in concert May 31 at the John and Nancy Hughes Theater in the Gordon Community Center in Lake Forest, IL. To learn more about Carly and Martina, visit their website.

Lifelong Girl Scout Leaves Lasting Legacy 

Lifelong Girl Scout Leaves Lasting Legacy 

Those who knew her, loved her. Those who didn’t, wish they had.

When Brandy Gallagher, a lifetime Girl Scout and Glendale Heights resident, passed away unexpectedly earlier this year, she left a void in the lives and hearts she touched.

Brandy Gallagher Brownie
Brandy (center) as a Girl Scout Brownie

 

A community relations advisor at A Place for Mom, Brandy dedicated her life to caring for others.

“I think that she genuinely wanted to make people happy, bring people joy and laughter,” said Brandy’s college roommate, Aviva Nathan. “She got a lot of happiness out of making other people happy. She has a wonderful legacy teaching people how to express their love for others, and making the world a brighter place filled with laughter and joy.”

Indeed, the world is a much better place because Brandy was in it and it’s her parents’ desire to ensure her legacy lives forever.

FB_IMG_1487131864482
Brandy sits by the fire at summer camp

“Years ago, we had a discussion about what we’d do if we ever won the lottery and she said she would give to Girl Scouts,” Brandy’s mother, Molly Gallagher, explained. “She was always concerned about others.”

In lieu of flowers, Brandy’s family asked loved ones to donate to Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. To date, more than $3,000 has been donated to help send girls to summer camp.

FB_IMG_1487131929528
Brandy baking cookies

“Brandy loved her days as a Girl Scout and as an aide and assistant director at Von Oven [Scout Reservation] and Camp Greene Wood,” Molly, a lifetime Girl Scout member with more than 25 years of volunteer service, said. “As a high school graduation present, I gave her a lifetime membership. It obviously has paid off big time.”

Outside of Girl Scouts, Brandy also enjoyed running, reading, crafting and theatre. And she showed off her creative side by making fun crafts for work and baking cookies for colleagues.

Brandy Gallagher and friends
Brandy (bottom right) and friends at a national Girl Scout convention

“I think that Brandy sought out opportunities to give and serve. She wanted others to be themselves, do what they love, and feel confident in doing so,” said Michelle Bezy Sands, a high school and college classmate. “When we recollected about Girl Scouts, we talked about how fun it was to try new things that as girls we weren’t always introduced to. It was also a safe place to be just ourselves. I like to think Brandy wanted that to be her legacy – to inspire others to be themselves, take risks, give of themselves and to do so unapologetically.”

To learn more about Girl Scouts and get involved, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org

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.”

Camp out Girl Scouts photo grid 2

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.”

FullSizeRender (1)

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.”

Girl Scouts (1)

“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.