Girl Scouts is the Ultimate Training Course for Life

Girl Scouts is the Ultimate Training Course for Life

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When Mary Ann Tuft was in high school back in the late 1940s, her teacher invited all the girls in the class to be in an exclusive sorority – everyone except for Mary Ann that is. She was not invited because she was Jewish. Although that may have been very deflating for some girls, Mary Ann had her Girl Scouts troop that accepted her no matter what.

Because Girl Scouts was so impactful on Mary Ann’s life, she decided to be one of the founding members of the Juliette Gordon Low Society – Girl Scouts Planned Giving Society. Mary Ann, who currently lives in Chicago, is happy to give back to an organization that has given her so much.

Mary Ann fondly recalls her troop leader and experiences as a Girl Scout. She says she felt a sense of belonging and her experience helped build her confidence as a young girl. She went camping across the country where she developed the love of the outdoors.

Learning how to collaborate and work as a team were key components of camping, she explains. They shared common goals and worked together to accomplish them. “There was a focus on others,” says Mary Ann. “We helped each other, it was never just about oneself.”

Mary Ann Tuft

Today, hanging in her kitchen, is a Girl Scout certificate from 1947 for a cooking class she completed. At age 83, she laughs at this because now she is the first one to call a caterer.

One Girl Scout opportunity led to the next Girl Scout opportunity for Mary Ann. After graduating from college, she started teaching the third grade and served as a volunteer Girl Scout leader. One of her favorite memories was taking the girls to Colorado Springs to go camping like she did when she was a Girl Scout.

Then Girl Scouts of the USA asked Mary Ann to be a representative to Girl Scouts in Israel. She lived in Israel for six months and never stayed in a hotel. She lived with many different families and learned a new culture and way of life. “Girl Scouts had always been ahead of the times,” says Mary Ann. “Girl Scouts has always accepting of other cultures.”

When she returned from Israel, she served as a national trainer for the Girl Scouts. Her leadership courses were even better than her college courses. With troop leaders, she shared her love and enthusiasm for Girl Scouts. Then those troop leaders passed on that love of scouting to future generations of girls.

“Girl Scouts is the ultimate training course for life,” says Mary Ann. After leaving Girl Scouts of the USA, she went on to be the Executive Director of the Radiological Society of North America in Oak Brook, Illinois. And then went on to start her own business, Tuft and Associates.

She says, “None of this would have happened without Girl Scouts.” She has owned her own business for 30 years and is still working today. “Any success I have had,” she says, “is because I had Girl Scouts as my foundation.”

To learn more about the Juliette Gordon Low Society, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

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Girl Scouts Visit Our Cabaña in Mexico

Girl Scouts Visit Our Cabaña in Mexico

Ever wonder what it’s like to travel with Girl Scouts? In this guest blog post, members of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana share their experience at Nuestra Cabaña in Mexico…

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Day One

Greetings from Mexico! This is Gillion (Joliet, IL) and Leianna (Chicago, IL) writing to you all. Today, we went to Plaza De Las Tres Cultras and we learned about the history of the Mexican government and why it is important to the Mexican culture.

When we went to Teotihuacan we learned that it is the “City of Gods” and there is a plant that gave the Aztecs the basic needs (paper, soap, needle and thread). We also learned that they made their blankets and sweaters out of the cactus fibers. We then went to the Teotihuacan (pyramids). The majority of the girls walked up and down the pyramids, and let us tell you; the view was beautiful. There were shops throughout the pyramids (technically called temples) that sold bracelets, shirts, shoes, etc.

Then we went for lunch at a buffet where a mariachi band played for us. Our tour guide Marco sang a song for us and he had a beautiful voice. After lunch we went to the Nueva Basilica de Guadalupe (the Shrine of the Virgin Mary). We visited the old and new shrine then walked into the chapel. When we were just about to leave the shrine, it was pouring rain. When it calmed down, only by 10 percent, we ran to our cars to head for dinner. We had a ton of fun at dinner. Last, but not least, we got churros to end our night. Overall, our day was very long, but it was all worth it in the end.

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Day Two

Greeting from Ticalli! This is your amigas Nina and Taryn. We had a jam packed day full of fun. To start our day we went to Xochimilco and rode on a boat through the last Aztec canal in Ciudad de Mexico. Xochimilco is known for its floating gardens and is a colorful burst of Mexican culture. While on the boat we enjoyed elote, quesadillas, and many vendors showing off their trade. We used our new-found bartering skill, courtesy of Jan, to get the best deal!

Afterwards, we travelled to Coyoacan where we enjoyed a lunch of tostadas and aqua de fruta. From there we walked to Casa Azul, the home of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, and her husband Diego Rivera. While we were there, we learned more about the difficult and painful life that Frida endured and how it inspired many of her famous works. Inside the house there is not only many beautiful works of art, but also articles of her clothing and other remnants of her life.

On our way to the restaurant, we stopped to take pictures at “Alas de la Ciudad,” “The Wings of the City.” When we arrived to the restaurant, we saw the locked doors and the vacant restaurant, so we made other plans. The brave Jodi Lynn and Ashley ventured through the thunderstorm to get us our delicious pizza. Although the day was filled with twists and turns, it ended with lots of laughter, smiles, and beautiful memories.

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Day Three

This is Jordan (Green Bay, WI) and Gillion again writing to you from Our Cabaña in Cuernavaca, Mexico! Today we woke up and ate breakfast at Ticalli, like usual and then went to Zocalo, a large town square in Mexico CIty. There is the Palacio Nacional, the Gran Hotel, and the Metropolitan Cathedral. Then, walked to a restaurant near by to eat lunch. After lunch, we drove near Central Alameda Park and the Fine Art Museum to get back to Ticalli in time to get picked up to head to Our Cabaña. When we arrived, we got a tour of the World Center and ate dinner. After dinner we played games with all 60 girls staying with us to get to know them. It was a day filled with fun activities and meeting many new people.

Our Cabana

Day Four

This is Jenna (Wisconsin) and Jaelyn (Virginia) coming to you live from Our Cabaña. Today we woke up and had breakfast. We then participated in team building activities where we met girls from all around the world. At lunch we got to try the best chocolate flan cake ever. We then played a real life version of chutes and ladders. We were split up into groups and went to different stations; some of the stations were Our Cabaña trivia, Mexican food, camping tips, Day of the Dead (face painting), and water activities. Some of the girls also worked on a challenge to earn a limited edition patch for the 60th anniversary of Our Cabaña. After dinner we had a campfire and sung campfire songs.

Day Five

Hola! This is Kate (Lewisvile, NC) reporting on the activities of this past day. Today, the entire camp ran activity stations for the kids of a local orphanage, boys and girls ages 3-12. Our table held the materials to design your own paper plate sun catcher, complete with sequins, colored cellophane bits, and stickers. LOTS of stickers. Later into the day, the majority of us split off with one child to have fun hula-hooping, eating popsicles, and dancing our hearts out.

After we said “Adios,” our group set off in shifts to a nearby mall, only 25 minutes away by walking. We didn’t find much, but our leaders did find a McDonald’s – a MEXICAN McDonald’s. We wrapped up the evening with games that the whole center played, Jenga, Head’s Up, a clapping concentration game, and a round of Bang where the leaders (Mrs. Machota) were especially trigger-happy. As I am writing this, Nieve, the camp cat, has claimed Ms. Christensen’s lap for herself, and is working on a campaign for her laptop bag. We will continue the war front updates tomorrow. Cheers!

Mexico waterfalls

Day Six

This is Caroline (Boston) and Sierra (Iowa) writing to you from Our Cabaña. After a rushed breakfast, we headed out on an adventure with our group, girls from Pennsylvania, and girls from an island in the Caribbean. We took a bus and a truck to Mil Cascadas (the site of the waterfalls) then hiked the rest of the way. There were seven waterfalls of varying heights that could be attempted.

Every girl hiked and most jumped at least one. The tallest was 10 meters and the shortest was 2 meters. The instructors were helpful with getting our equipment (helmets and life jackets), steadying us along the way, and guiding us once we were in the water. No one hit a rock, but there was at least one accidental belly flop. Following the jumping, we had lunch by the water then hiked back. We saw lots of donkeys, horses, and cows on our journey. Some locals were even waterfall jumping too. Lots of girls took advantage of the ride back by taking naps.

Day Seven

Writing to you is Sophia (California) and Zuri (Pennsylvania) live and in stereo. This morning, we had a buffet-style breakfast. Then at 10 a.m., we boarded a tour bus to drive to a cathedral in downtown Cuernavaca where we learned the history of the location and Hernan Cortez.

Then, we had free time to go shopping at the local craft market where girls bought authentic Mexican items such as hammocks, dresses, and handmade bags. We arrived at Our Cabaña at 1:30 p.m. where we had a delicious lunch which was followed by a fun-filled pool party. Later this evening, we had a traditional dinner and a Nuestra Cabaña scavenger hunt. Now we are off to bed awaiting the 60th Anniversary party tomorrow.

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Day Eight

Hola, it’s Taryn and Sierra writing to you about yesterday. The morning started off with an optional trip to the local pyramids called Teopanzolco. Girls could walk there or have a free morning. After returning, we came back for lunch. The 60th anniversary party was in the afternoon. Girls got dressed up in party clothes.

There were super fun arcade games, a cute photo booth with costumes and props, a piñata filled with traditional Mexican candy, Spanish, American, British, and Brazilian music, and lots of high energy dancing. During dinner there was even a mariachi band. They brought in caterers for dinner with traditional Mexican food- tacos, elotes, quesadillas, etc. To end the party, girls jumped fully clothed into the swimming pool.

Day Nine

This is Leianna (Chicago) and Celina (Missouri) writing to you all about our day. Today we worked on our scrapbook page for the Cabaña’s scrapbook. The book is basically full of all the Girl Scouts and Girl Guides that have visited the Cabaña. Then we planned out our international night swaps. We practiced our song and a brief sentence about each of our swaps. Then we had free time to do what we wanted like swim or go to the craft house.

The Cabaña had set up two programs for us to choose from. One was about self-confidence and the other was about types of violence. The classes they set up for us was to learn different views of what goes on in today’s society. When dinner time came the leaders left for dinner. The Girl Scouts stayed at the Cabaña to eat dinner and play capture the flag with the volunteers. All the girls are really enjoying themselves and don’t want to leave just yet.

If you’d like to learn more about our council’s travel opportunities, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

Join Girl Scouts at G.I.R.L. 2017!

Join Girl Scouts at G.I.R.L. 2017!

You’re invited to the largest gathering of girls and women in the world—G.I.R.L. 2017!

What an exciting time to be a G.I.R.L.! This October, join us for the 54th National Council Session, a one-of-a-kind event for every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ who wants to stand up, take charge and make the world a better place. You don’t need to be an official delegate to attend. Whether you’re an alumna, volunteer, staff, or just a big believer in all the amazing things Girl Scouts do, you’re invited to G.I.R.L. 2017!

We’re so looking forward to welcoming you to Columbus, Ohio, October 3–8, 2017. You won’t want to miss out on the events, incredible speakers and entertainers, influencers, leaders and policy makers from across the country and around the world who are joining us to celebrate and advocate on behalf of girls and women.

This is an extraordinary opportunity not to be missed. So don’t wait! This is your year to reunite with friends, deepen and share your knowledge of Girl Scouts, and help invigorate a global movement of girls, women and men around the theme, “Experience the Power of a G.I.R.L.”

Don’t delay! Learn more at www.girlscouts.org/girl2017.

Convention Video-Final from GirlScoutsUSA on Vimeo.

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.”

Do you have a good idea for our blog? We’d love to hear from you! Submit your stories here for a chance to be featured.

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.”

Do you have a good idea for our blog? We’d love to hear from you! Submit your stories here for a chance to be featured.