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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.