Take Action – Change the World – Inspire Others

Wrapping Up 2018 Inspire a Girl

What a truly inspiring day we had on April 14 at the Overland Park Convention Center! Girl Scouts, volunteers, alums and supporters joined us to celebrate our 60 Gold Award Girl Scouts!

These young women have made an extraordinary impact on their communities through the Gold Award. Each Girl Scout completed a Take Action project with a minimum of 80 hours in planning and implementation. They have created lasting change through sustainable projects and their impact will be felt for years to come.  Their Take Action projects included STEM kits for Children’s Mercy, education workshops on local political issues and reading programs for the underserved, just to name a few. Read about all of their projects here!

We kicked off the day with a special breakfast for Gold Award Girl Scouts and program investors, hosted by GSKSMO CEO Joy Wheeler. Girls were joined by our very special guest, creator of Willow Tree and artist/maker, Susan Lordi! Each Gold Award Girl Scout received her new Willow Tree piece, “Butterfly,” to remind them that they are the ultimate Butterfly – resilient, determined, courageous and beautiful, courtesy of DEMDACO!

To encourage Girl Scouts to “Shine Bright like a G.I.R.L.”, they visited a combination of Community Partner and GSKSMO Program booths, to collect a Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker and Leader sticker for their card! Activities included digitally connected instruments made from everyday objects with Google Fiber, Play60 games with the Kansas City Chiefs, building towers with Kansas Children’s Discovery Center and painting kindness rocks with Treehouse Art Studio, just to name a few!

Upstairs Girl Scouts visited Bronze and Silver Award Girl Scouts, collecting their respective starburst sticker!  They completed their activity card by visiting with at least four Gold Award Girl Scouts and earned their Inspire a Girl patch!

Our very special guest, Gold Award Alum, Miss Teen USA and keynote for the Gold Award Ceremony, Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff joined in on the G.I.R.L expo fun and did a special photo op with Girl Scouts before heading into the ballroom to celebrate the stars of the day, our Gold Award Girl Scouts.

This extraordinary day culminated with our Gold Award Ceremony where the Gold Award Girl Scouts officially received their Gold Award Pin and the Beth Winters Memorial Scholarship was presented to Isabella Barnes, Emily Musembi and Chloe Rothery.

The ceremony was keynoted by Sophia, who shared her story of “Shining Bright like a G.I.R.L.” Her message was powerful and she encouraged girls to hold onto their Girl Scout roots and use them as a platform and springboard to continue creating change within their communities, wherever they may go.

Left: Beth Winters Memorial Scholarship Recipients, Emily Musembi, Isabella Barnes and Chloe Rothery. Center: Gold Award Girl Scout MaKynzee Gaddy with her Pinners. Right: Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff delivering the keynote.

As Dr. Seuss so greatly said, “Congratulations, today is your day. You’re off to great places! You’re off and away!”

See all the photos from the day, the Gold Award Take Action Project video and Sophia’s Keynote on our webpage.

We want to hear how you were inspired at Inspire a Girl, so leave us a comment below!

A SmART Gold Award Girl Scout

Inspiring today youth is one of the best ways to make a lasting impact on the world. When Girl Scout Grace Brunner decided to answer the call to Take Action, she wanted it to be with a project that connects underserved children with arts education. Working with Avenue of Life in Kansas City, KS, Grace established Camp SmART for underserved children to help them develop art and critical thinking skills through arts education.

This project grew out of a love for arts education and a passion for helping other kids get the same experiences she got as a kid. “Even though I’m not pursuing a career in arts education, I learned a lot as a kid from it and I’ve been involved with arts organizations,” Grace said. By providing arts programs to kids in areas with limited funding means Grace is putting the power of education in the hands of kids who may otherwise not have access to it. That’s the power of the Gold Award – a Girl Scout learning to lead while improving her community!

 

Grace with students at Camp SmART!

“I had some of the best art teachers in the world and I can’t imagine getting to where I am now without those teachers and opportunities,” Grace said. After doing research on the improvements students have in academic testing when exposed to art, Grace felt exposing young students to the arts would help them across the board in their educational pursuits. By improving their connection with the arts, it could have a positive impact on their information processing and critical thinking skills.

For her arts camp, Grace had students come daily over winter break and take art classes at Avenue of Life. The students did painting and other artistic activities while surrounded by encouraging instructors. Thanks to her project, students had a fun, art-filled winter break!

Not only did the camp fill a need for students in KCK, it gave Grace a better understanding of the needs of students in underserved communities. “It was a new experience for me because, growing up in Blue Valley, I had so many educational opportunities available to me. When we did this camp, I saw the students were from districts that are underfunded, some were homeless and were coming to camp while their parents went to food kitchens. It was a very different experience than what I grew up with,” Grace said.

 

Grace Brunner as a young Girl Scout through Ambassador!

Earning the Gold Award has been the pinnacle of Grace’s amazing Girl Scout journey. Starting as a Kindergartener, she got to experience field trips, working with a group and building a support system that all came together through working on her Gold Award project. “I love Girl Scouts because we have so many opportunities [… such as] leadership experiences, outdoor opportunities, the chance to be entrepreneurs.  It’s just so much programming that people don’t even realize,” Grace said.

“Through the Gold Award, I found an inner leadership and strength I didn’t know was there,” Grace said. With all her incredible work on her Gold Award under her belt and years of Girl Scouting to prepare her, Grace is now excelling at the University of Kansas, volunteering as Director of Hospital and Family Relations for KU Dance Marathon, a charity by students at KU. She’s also serving as an intern for Kansas House Representative Koesten! Talk about a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™

We couldn’t be more proud of Grace or her incredible work through Girl Scouts to serve her community! You can meet Grace and our awesome 2018 Gold Award Girl Scout class at Inspire a Girl on Saturday, April 14th!

Stepping into Leadership

A Spotlight on Gold Award Girl Scout Abby Bidwell

This year we are truly honored to celebrate 60 Gold Award Girl Scouts during the biggest party of the year, Inspire a Girl! These girls have completed outstanding projects addressing needs in their communities. As these girls worked to go Gold, they put in countless hours to execute a plan and conduct research to leave their mark as a Girl Scout.

Girl Scout Ambassador Abby Bidwell understood what it would take to achieve the Gold Award, after earning both the Bronze and Silver Awards she was not afraid to take on the challenge.

When Abby discovered a student council program was not offered to the students at Tiffany Ridge Elementary, she instantly wanted to come up with something that would encourage 5th graders to begin stepping into leadership roles preparing them for middle school. She decided the best way to tackle the issue was to create the Emerging Leaders club.

Not only would the club help students learn the importance of being leaders in their community but as the club’s creator and ambassador, Abby would help students develop skills in public speaking and team work while they improved work ethic. Emerging Leaders students were able to work closely together to plan spirit assemblies for Tiffany Ridge Elementary. Abby led as a risk-taking Girl Scout by helping her students create a huge change in the school community, implementing student-led assemblies at the elementary level.

The impact of the first assembly was reported to Abby following a conversation she had with one of the teachers, “the next day, a second grader told their teacher he wanted to try really hard to have perfect attendance so his name can be called at the next assembly,” Abby said.

Abby did not anticipate the impact Emerging Leaders would have on the younger student or herself. She stated, “I’m inspiring 5th graders, while they are inspiring everyone else.” Later in her project she decided to create an Emerging Leaders manual providing the parent letter, an application and t-shirt permission slips along with every meeting agenda. With the hopes of encouraging other people to sponsor Emerging Leaders in different schools, Abby provided all 10 elementary schools in Park Hill High School District with a manual.

Assembly at Tiffany Ridge Elementary School

“I hope to see more students interested in leadership and more teachers and parents supporting student leadership in the future,” she said.

To share their story, Emerging Leaders had the opportunity to sit down with Channel 18 news for an interview. In the interview, members of Emerging Leaders expressed what they learned throughout the year and how they felt their skills would impact them in the future.

“Emerging Leaders has helped me become who I want to be and who I strive to be every day, and to be the leader I want to be when I grow up.” Lydia Keller shared. By educating students and parents about the importance of student leadership, the students of Emerging Leaders plan to apply to be a part of their middle and high school Student Council.

With the help of Tiffany Ridge’s principal, Mr. Fitzmorris, Abby has put 110 hours into her Gold Award project and will continue to work with the kids of Emerging Leaders to influence more guidance among the younger generation.

“I told my 5th graders that this is a place where they are the leaders and here, they don’t have to wait for a teacher or parent to tell them what to do. They get to decide.”

As Abby worked through her Gold Award project she had the chance to experience what it would be like to be a teacher. Getting the experience to email parents, work with the students and be their teacher for a few hours out of the week, Abby discovered her passion for teaching and established her desired career path. She plans to be a secondary education teacher and is considering the Peace Corps to impact students internationally through her teaching.

“Being a leader is fun, but having our voice heard and being part of making something happen is amazing!”

Congratulations on earning your Gold Award, Abby! We’re excited to celebrate you and the 59 other Gold Award Girl Scouts at Inspire a Girl on April 14!

Student. Volunteer. Go-Getter.

Spotlight on Lifetime Member and Gold Award Girl Scout, Sara Huelskamp

Leading by example and taking a chance, Gold Award Girl Scout Alum Sara Huelskamp has shown her desire to help others and influence the girls around her.

Sara’s Girl Scout journey didn’t stop after she received her Bronze, Silver and Gold Award in the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles Council. As a sophomore at Kansas State University studying construction engineering, Sara was called back to her passion when she found out her neighbor’s troop was losing their troop leader and disbanding. Like any good Girl Scout, Sara stepped up and reorganized Troop 2081 in Manhattan, Kansas. “I didn’t want them to not have a troop, I knew what Girl Scouts did for me and I didn’t want them to miss out on that,” Sara said.

Left: Sara’s troop in front of the mural they painted for their Bronze Award. Center: Sara and her troop at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace. Right: Sara carrying a banner in the Rose Parade, which only Gold Award Girl Scouts and Eagle Scouts have the honor.

As a Girl Scout Junior, Sara’s troop worked with a local youth shelter to do renovation projects and paint an inspirational mural inside the cottage to earn their Bronze Award. Through that one project, Sara’s troop built a long-lasting relationship with the shelter.

“The troop worked clean up days, raked leaves, would help at events, meals, fairs and festivals. It was one of those places we were just at all the time,” Sara said.

When it came time to do her Silver and Gold Award projects, she had a cause she was passionate about and a long list of projects she knew would have a sustainable and lasting impact. “Girl Scout highest awards give you a sense of accomplishment. You get to know more about yourself and your community,” Sara said.

Through the Girl Scout experiences Sara facilitates, she’s helping girls identify their strengths and teaching them that they shouldn’t be afraid to accomplish anything, in hopes of encouraging them to earn their Gold Award.

“Girls who earn their Gold Award have a desire to help others,” she said. “It’s not a selfish goal to have.”

Sara with Girl Scouts from Troop 2081 at various events.

Next month, Sara will be graduating from K-State and is moving back to Los Angeles where she plans to find a full time job and continue volunteering with Girl Scouts. She has been working with and training parents to keep the Girl Scout Brownie troop going when she moves back home.

“There are a couple girls in my troop who are already talking about what they want to do for their Gold Award!”

Thanks for leading like a Girl Scout, Sara and inspiring more girls to #gogold! We wish you the best as you pursue your dreams!

A Sisterhood that Defies All Boundaries

Spotlight on Gold Award Girl Scout, Faith Endsley

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the most prestigious award in the world for girls, the most difficult to earn and it’s only attainable by Girl Scouts. The Gold Award requires a Girl Scout to identify an issue that is important to her and her community. She researches, plans, presents and takes action, spending no less than 80 hours on a project that will be sustainable within her community.

When Girl Scout Ambassador Faith Endsley started thinking about going Gold, she knew exactly what she wanted to do to improve the community that she is a part of.

Faith is a member of Girls Night Out (GNO), a social skills and self-care program for adolescent girls with autism and other developmental disabilities through the University of Kansas Medical System. Through GNO, girls who have autism are paired up with a mentor, a girl who does not have autism for one year. Throughout that year they get together for monthly activities like movie outings, shopping events, spa nights and holiday parties, just to name a few. However, when that year is over the mentors and participants are considered alumni and the program is just over for those girls. There weren’t next steps or resources for those girls who had spent a year making friends, interpreting social cues, learning personal hygiene, working on their eye contact and other things that those with autism struggle with.

That wasn’t something that set well with Faith who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. So, for her Gold Award project, she put together a plan to expand the GNO program far beyond that first year.

“I’ve learned things like self-care skills, how to dress and social skills [because of GNO],” Faith said.

Faith worked closely with the founder of the program and her community advisor, Dr. Jamison to put together multiple resources for GNO program alumni. One of the resources was an application for girls to complete that would better match them with others of similar interests.

“It’s hard sometimes for girls with autism to make friends,” Faith said.

This application will allow girls to be matched with other girls based on shared interests, removing the sometimes awkward step of finding common ground when trying to make a new friend with autism.

The second part of her project was to create a catalog of activities that girls could reference when planning activities. Faith spent hours researching and compiling a wide variety of activities being sure to include time of year, location, cost and other details that are important in selecting activities to do with friends.

“I want to see girls connecting, making and keeping friends because they’re doing things together that they’re both interested in [through Girls Night Out],” she said.

Lastly, she put together a presentation for Dr. Jamison to be able to use to tell the GNO story. She will be used at conferences to encourage her colleagues across the country to start similar programs and be shared with potential donors to garner additional support for the program.

At this point, Faith has put more than 160 hours into her Gold Award project and still working with Dr. Jamison to get everything hosted online and distributed to the alumni.

Girls Night Out Participants

Community service is something that Faith is passionate about and Faith’s mom, Christie Endsley credits the structure of her Girl Scout meetings these past eight years for fostering this passion within Faith. Each month the troop would have one meeting of a fun activity, a meeting that involved a badge lesson and a meeting that would be community service.

Just this week, Faith made and donated 14 pet blankets to KC Pet Project and she regularly folds origami and fills it with candy, delivering to police and fire stations and emergency rooms on all the major holidays.

“It makes me feel good to help others,” Faith said.

In addition to the Gold Award, Faith has also earned the Girl Scout Silver and Bronze Awards. Her community service has earned her the Bronze Presidential Medal of Service and the Gold Presidential Medal of Service – skipping right over the Silver!

Faith will graduate from Staley High School in May with a 3.88 GPA and all the honors mentioned above.

“I want to be a medical laboratory technologist,” Faith proudly said.

Right now she’s looking at two options following graduation. She’s applied to Project Search at Children’s Mercy Hospital, a program that allows students to experience what a career in the medical field is like before deciding to pursue that education path. Her second option is to attend Maple Woods Community College where she’s earned herself two years of free tuition through the A+ program because of her outstanding academic performance.

Faith as Brownie, Junior and Ambassador!

“[When she was diagnosed with autism] the doctors said she wouldn’t have a sense of humor. Anyone who knows her knows how funny she is! They weren’t sure she would talk or be social. They didn’t think she would have any empathy. It was very gloomy diagnosis,” Christie Endsley explained. “Here she is doing community service like crazy! She’s excelled past all expectations, medically and personally.”

“I plan to be a lifetime Girl Scout member and remain active with Girl Scouts. I will participate in GNO Connections as a founder, member, coordinator and supporter. It’s good to have positive girl groups to belong to. It gives me a sisterhood I do not get anywhere else.”

Join us on April 14 at Inspire a Girl where we will celebrate Faith and our 59 other Gold Award Girl Scouts. If you stop by Faith’s display, she might just have a special treat for you…

For the Love of Girl Scouts

A Profile of Giving Back: Henderson Engineers

It takes a community to raise Girl Scouts and our friends at Henderson Engineers are doing their part to build a better future for girls! This amazing partnership began with a cookie recognition event where a Girl Scout dad saw camp needs and realized what a strong partnership Henderson Engineers could have with GSKSMO. Because of that partnership, Henderson has not only given financially to support the Outreach Program, but they’ve volunteered to make necessary repairs and updates to Camp Prairie Schooner!

Girl Scout dad, Jason Wollom took his Daisy daughter, Lily, to participate in an outdoor art program she received as part of Cookie Program. Because of her hard work, Lily had earned the event as a recognition for selling Girl Scout Cookies. While the Girl Scouts took the art class, parents were invited to take a quick tour of Camp Prairie Schooner with our Philanthropy department. Jason Wollom decided to go on the tour and immediately saw an opportunity.

During the visit, Jason was inspired by the incredible opportunities that camp provides and connected GSKSMO’s Melissa Ford with the Henderson Foundation, the philanthropic organization supported by Henderson Engineers. Since then, the Henderson Foundation has made amazing financial gifts to support girls in the Outreach Program and decided to involve their staff in a volunteer work day at camp!

Their support of the Outreach Program is part of Henderson’s focus on education and supporting girls in the urban core. By providing opportunities to these Girl Scouts, Henderson is not only helping the girls, but also the community, because of the projects these Girl Scouts are able to complete. It’s a powerful ripple effect all thanks to supporting girls!

Henderson Engineers volunteers work on the basement and kitchen of Neal Lodge, 2017

In 2017, the Henderson Engineers’ team came out to Camp Prairie Schooner and did some major updates to the property! They renovated the basement of Neal Lodge, including hanging drywall and various other updates. The team deep cleaned the kitchen at Neal Lodge before Zombie Camp, making sure it was ready for all the awesome girls that would come to camp that weekend. Finally, they helped demolish a permatent site! Talk about some seriously awesome work. Their combination of giving through financial support and volunteerism truly makes this partnership special.

Henderson Engineers volunteers demolishing the permatent site, 2017.

Thank you to Henderson Engineers for their on-going support of Girl Scouts! They’re joining us in 2018 for another volunteer day and we can’t wait to see what changes they’re able to make at camp. Without volunteers and community supporters like this, Girl Scouts could not provide the vital programming it does. Thank you!

If your organization is interested in helping changes the lives of girls, please contact our VP of Philanthropy, Vanessa Van Goethem-Piela.

The Power of Being a Girl Scout Lasts a Lifetime

Meet GSKSMO Alum Katherine Anderson

Leadership, teamwork and confidence to try, all things a Girl Scout learns along her leadership journey. Meet Katherine Anderson, a Girl Scout alum and proud member of a cool group of women who work in a STEM field. Katherine is a Subcontractor Manager for Black & Veatch and has developed a real passion for inspiring girls to get hands-on with STEM. Thanks to her Girl Scouting experience, Katherine developed the confidence in herself to try new things and thrive as team manager to accomplish tasks from personal home improvement to $100 million power plant projects.

Being a Girl Scout was a family affair for Katherine. Her grandmother was troop leader for her mother and aunt, and Katherine’s mom because her troop leader. Growing up in Lawrence, KS, there was no shortage of volunteer opportunities for Katherine’s troop, Troop 691. They made improvements to local parks, volunteered for a variety of organizations and had their own adventures. “I did everything to camping, to learning to roast a turkey in the snow, to how to reroute pipes under our kitchen sink. Most of us knew how to reroute plumbing before we could spell ‘hot’ and ‘cold!’” Katherine said.

 

Katherine and her troop in Lawrence as a Brownie Girl Scout.

Most importantly, Katherine learned teamwork from Girl Scouts. “My troop leader – who happened to be my mom – taught us that the success of a manager is measured by the success of their team. That has become a driving force behind how I now manage my team at Black & Veatch,” Katherine said. She feels that her early troop experiences, working in a team to complete tasks, gave her the opportunity to use her voice in a group of strong, independent personalities. “Girl Scouts was a safe space where you learn to speak up and you have this team of people working with you to tackle projects. We learned that we have a voice,” Katherine said.

Today, Katherine leads subcontract teams that have to work together to create massive power plants, working with any type of energy you can imagine! She credits many of her day to day skills to Girl Scouts because of those early experiences working in a troop to complete a project. They worked on a wide variety of tasks, which has given her the confidence to try new things, even if they fail.

As an alum, she continues to represent Girl Scouts through speaking opportunities with Black & Veatch at their “Thinking Outside the Box” event with GSKSMO. Proudly displaying her troop flag, she presents the power of the lessons she learned in Girl Scouting to today’s generation of amazing G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)TM. “There’s a lot I learned that I didn’t even realize at the time. As a kid, I was just hanging out and doing projects, I didn’t realize I was learning to be a manager and other life skills I still use every day,” Katherine said.

Girl Scouts at “Christmas in October” 2017.

Katherine even integrated Girl Scouts into Black & Veatch’s “Christmas in October” service event where they make needed additions or renovations to homes from those in need. Reaching out to local Girl Scout troops, she let the girls act as project managers for the day and try all types of jobs they could do in a career in construction. It was an amazing experience for the girls and let the engineers and contractors work faster!

Thank you, Katherine, for your continued dedication to Girl Scouting and for inspiring the next generation of STEM leaders! If you have an alum story you’d like to share, post in the comments below!

Giving Back for Tomorrow’s Leaders

Spotlighting Daisy’s Circle Founding Member Beth Kealey

Sharing some serious Girl Scout love through giving back! Meet Beth Kealey, a Girl Scout mom, alum, Daisy’s Circle member, Philanthropy award winner, troop leader and Gold Award advisor! Not only has Beth supported Girl Scouts as a donor, she’s been there for her daughters as a troop leader and is an advocate for ensuring these incredible programs her daughters experienced are available for the Girl Scouts of tomorrow. After following Girl Scouts through different states, 3 daughters, 3 troops and the Gold Award in 2016 with her youngest daughter, Stephanie, it’s no wonder this awesome Girl Scout mom is also a Daisy’s Circle Philanthropist award winner!

Beth, Stephanie and her Gold Award Advisor, Linda Weerts at the 2016 Inspire a Girl Ceremony

All three of Beth’s daughters have loved Girl Scouting! Christina, the oldest, was lucky enough to have Beth as her leader when she started as a Daisy, and Jennifer, the middle child, had Beth as her troop’s co-leader. Stephanie started in Girl Scouts and even though she became inactive after earning her Silver Award, she and a friend decided they wanted to go for Gold and she re-registered to get that ultimate Girl Scouting honor.

Beth watched Stephanie SHINE through her experience with the Gold Award where she created a slam poetry program to give teens a place to feel loved and accepted. The company that hosted the slam poetry nights told her she had to get 15 to show up for the event….in true Girl Scout fashion, Stephanie got 95 to attend. They all knew they had something really important happening in this space and because of it, Stephanie earned her Gold Award and walked across the stage in 2016 with pride.

Images from Stephanie’s Gold Award project – Slam Poetry; Stephanie hugging her mom, Beth, after receiving her Gold Award pin in 2016.

“Stephanie was so proud of earning her Gold Award. It was all about her being able to say ‘I did this!’ and be really proud of that accomplishment,” said Beth. More than just pride, there was a maturity and growth that Stephanie now had. That’s especially evident when you watch her “Man Enough to be a Girl Scout” vide with Bob Regnier! Of course, Beth couldn’t be more proud of what her daughter became. “After earning the Gold, you could see a difference in the way she presented herself. There was a maturity there,” Beth said.

As the parent of a Gold Award Girl Scout, Beth saw growth in her daughter and a sense of pride she hadn’t seen before. “What you see as the parent of a Gold Award recipient is that they have much more poise, grace and just the way they present themselves after going through the experience of earning the Gold,” Beth said. That’s one of the reasons she’s continued to give as a member of Daisy’s Circle, even though all three of her daughters are no proud alumna.

 

Stephanie and Beth at the 2016 Gold Award ceremony; Right: Beth with GSKSMO CEO, Joy Wheeler upon receiving the 2016 Daisy’s Circle Philanthropy Award for the Central Region.

 

“Giving is just a cultural thing for me. If we want the experiences my daughters received for future Girl Scouts, we have to keep giving. You need that grassroots foundation of support to keep these programs,” Beth said. It’s important to her that she supports the same opportunities for the Girl Scouts of tomorrow that her daughters received. Because of her giving, advocacy and volunteerism, it’s no wonder Beth received the “Daisy’s Circle Appreciation” award for the Central Region in 2016 too!

Beth Kealey is a beautiful example of a strong Girl Scout supporter who continues to create a future for the Girl Scouts of tomorrow! This amazing volunteer is definitely what we would call Girl Scout Strong!! Thank you, Beth, for your leadership and continued support of Girl Scouting!

Soaring Together – Sisters in Business, Susan & Karen Lordi

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

The Lordi sisters behind the inspirational brand of figurative sculptures, Willow Tree, are Girl Scout Alums who found the best co-workers are family. Susan (“Sue”) and Karen Lordi have been working on projects as a team since childhood, and that sisterly teamwork has transformed into a powerful duo that’s flying high in the world of consumer art. Together, they’ve created a brand that defied artistic styles of the time, combining Sue’s art with Karen’s words.

For the Lordi family, it’s no surprise that Karen and Sue work together today because their childhood was filled with partnerships that complemented the skills of each girl. A joyful Karen found herself the willing assistant for big sister Sue’s big ideas. “Sue was always coming up with creative projects, and she wanted someone to do them with. As her younger sister, I’d do anything she said!” said Karen. From the mini summer camp they organized in their neighborhood, charging $.10/child for the day, to building Sue’s high school float (where Karen did more work than the high schoolers), the two made a great team.

During their childhood adventures, they hatched a plan to create a puppet show that mirrored their working lives today. Sue painted beautiful backdrops, sewed costumes and sculpted the papier-mâché puppets while Karen wrote the script. They both performed the show in a little puppet theater their father built and soon got requests to come perform for birthday parties in the neighborhood. This  artist/writer partnership still exists today, with their creation of the international brand, Willow Tree.

“We’ve always had this artist and writer relationship,” Karen said. “A few years ago, we realized, ‘gosh, we’re doing the same things now!’ I’m sculpting the figures, and she’s doing the writing!” Sue said.

During their childhood, both girls experienced the power of Girl Scouting. Their mother was a troop co-leader and the girls fondly reflect on memories of the play she put on with each of their troops. The play was a great way to incorporate visual art and performance art. Engaging in the costume design and scenery painting fulfilled some of Sue and Karen’s artistic desires.

As adults, Sue and Karen found themselves in the roles of co-leader and troop leader for many years. Sue encouraged her Girl Scouts, which included her daughter Sara, with innovative outdoor art projects. Karen led two troops for her daughters, Diana and Julia, for 10 years, focusing on a lot of challenging outdoor experiences. With such a love of the outdoors, it’s no wonder that the Willow Tree team does hiking retreats each year as a team builder!

Today, Sue and Karen continue their strong sisterly bond, sculpting Willow Tree figures and writing the titles and sentiments that accompany each piece. Creating Willow Tree pieces that inspire the consumer has become a passionate life’s work for both women. By standing together, believing in the original creative rationale they presented when forming the brand, they’ve been able to maintain an incredible standard of quality in Willow Tree for nearly two decades. Talk about some serious G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)TM working together!

“[Our job] is just fun. It’s not just about making money, there are a lot of places you can make money, but there aren’t many places you can have this much fun at work,” Sue said.

As Sue and Karen worked on the piece “Butterfly” that is flying into our Inspire a Girl celebration, they reflected on their own “butterfly stories” and the times they’ve overcome personal challenges. For Sue, she feels transformation happens “any time you have inner healing.” For Karen, one of her butterfly stories was learning to manage business and family. “Over the years, we’ve had to learn when to be sisters and when to work together on business. Sometimes it’s nice to just be sisters and go shopping together,” Karen said.

Every day, these sisters work together, and what they produce is a testament to their connection and creativity. You can see and feel their passion for what they do every time you give the gift of Willow Tree, and it starts from the dynamic duo of Susan and Karen Lordi—plus an amazing and dedicated team at DEMDACO!

We invite YOU to share your Butterfly Story TODAY and enter to win some AMAZING prizes – including your very own piece of Willow Tree! Girl Scouts are invited to submit their “Butterfly” story by March 12th and our friends at Willow Tree and DEMDACO will select the winning entries – including Sue and Karen! Each Girl Scout in the troop and her leader(s) will receive her/his own “Butterfly” sculpture AND complimentary entry to April 14th’s Inspire a Girl! We will also feature the winning stories at Inspire a Girl and get a special photo opportunity.

A special thanks to DEMDACO for their incredibly generous donation of the “Butterfly” sculptures, and to Susan and Karen Lordi for their involvement in this contest.

Travel Like a Girl Scout – Cookie Construction Build Day 2018

7 teams, 30 female design professionals, 105 Girl Scouts, 7,000 Girl Scout Cookie boxes and 5 hours to build 7 seven structures out of said Cookie boxes was Cookie Construction Build Day, 2018!

After six months of planning, practicing and prepping, the Cookie Construction Teams descended upon Crown Center on March 3 for Build Day. The theme this year was “Travel Like a Girl Scout” and each team was given an 8×8 space to build their structures. After five hours of build time, a panel of jurors evaluated each structure on creativity in design, structural design, use of colors/labels, craftsmanship and adherence to rules & regulations. After deliberation, one structure was presented the with the Juror’s Choice Award. Our Juror’s said that this was the closest completion in the four years of Cookie Construction!

Pop-Up Adventures – Cookie Monsters

This build is a story of a Girl Scout’s journey through the vast world. Through the pages of this pop-up book she travels the globe. She scales the Great Wall of China, climbs the Eiffel Tower, and explores the Pyramids of Giza. Traveling all over the world, she discovers her own adventurous spirit and a love for learning and exploration. All starting with a book and her moral compass. What will she discover next by traveling the world?

 

Around the World with the Cookie Queens – Cookie Queens

Traveling around the world! What might a Girl Scout see? We have builds from lonely islands to big cities. Our display shows many old and modern technologies from, you guessed it, around the world! The Coliseum, which was built between 70-80 ACE, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which was built between 1173-1372 ACE, the Pyramids of Giza, which were built between 2580-2560 BCE, and the Easter Isle Statues, which were constructed between 700-1100 ACE. Our modes of transportation include two types of boats, taxis, and an airplane. We chose these because they are from three different eras and mediums. We practiced teamwork, perseverance, and gained experience as young architects through this design/build process. Overall, this design was challenging, but the Cookie Queens powered through and came up with something truly amazing!

 

Girls Connect the World – North Packers

Our design includes four destinations, Savannah, Georgia, Mexico, England, and South Africa. We picked these locations because we wanted to show amazing girls from around the world. We travel throughout these destinations enjoying the different landscapes and buildings as we go. We start in the United States, traveling by ferry to the home of Juliette Low, founder of Girl Scouts. Our next stop is Mexico. Traveling by car now, we meet the Girl Scouts of Mexico at the Cabaña. We move on to South Africa. Traveling by train, we find The Slab, which is a frequently used meeting spot for Girl Scouts. Last on our trip, we stop in England at the Pax Lodge, a world center for Girl Scouts. We made it here by double-decker bus. The flags of the Pax Lodge inspired the use of flags in the project to represent the countries and the Girl Scouts. The globe represents the connection of the girls across these countries.

 

Time Travel: Girl Scouts Past, Present and Future – The Rainbow Time Keepers

The build will center around a large rainbow. The girls imagine the rainbow as a bridge that spans across time. There will be three to five nodes along the rainbow that represent Girl Scouts growing from Daisies to Cadets. Each node will have an emblem that symbolizes their path. The ground plane will be a field of grass with a meandering river.

 

Traveling to Landmarks Through Time – The Scouts

Our group, The Scouts, came up with natural and manmade landmarks spanning over several centuries in time based on our theme “Traveling to Landmarks Through Time.” We are building methods of transportation to show how you would have traveled to each monument in the era the monuments were built. The landmarks we are planning on building are The Eiffel Tower, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben, The Great Pyramids, Kansas City’s own Shuttlecocks, The Boundary Waters, Mount Fuji, Mount Everest, The Redwood Forest, and The Niagara Falls.

 

Around the Universe in 80 Days – Space Nerds

Celebrating the advancements in history and those to come, “Around the Universe in 80 Days” takes you on an inspiring journey. Travel through ancient times at the pyramids, gaze and the gateway that inspired travel to the west, explore a new colony on Mars, and discover the fantastic world of Oz with our new Girl Scouts revelation rocket. You’ll see the faces of inspired girls traveling the universe in the window of the rocket, following the path paved for them by pioneers throughout history.

 

Seven Wonders of the World – Team Tired

We may be called ‘Team Tired’, but our excitement for learning is anything but! For the theme “Girl Scouts Travel”, we quickly developed the idea of showcasing Seven Wonders of the World—with a twist! We were drawn to places that inspire us: The Great Wall of China, The Eiffel Tower, The Colosseum, Big Ben, Machu Picchu, The Great Pyramids and Stonehenge. Throughout this process we learned the importance of teamwork, relying on the history of each of these places to demonstrate the need to work together to achieve a goal. Using the same kind of collaboration that created these structures, we worked together to create a vision for our design. The Seven Wonders of OUR World represent different cultures, overcoming challenges, and the commitment to do something wonderful—the same elements that create a strong community of Girl Scouts! By working towards a shared goal and supporting each other, we can create something we’re all proud of.

 

Ultimately, Cookie Monsters was presented with the Juror’s Choice Award.  The jurors loved the composition and the theme of the book and how they built the world to come out of it. They also gave them high marks on their use of detail, using words found on the boxes themselves to tell a story on the pages of the book.

Thank you to our Jurors, Laura Beth Cochran, Sonya Jury, Galen Lif, Andrew Pitts, Jean Stoverink and our event Emcee Amy Slattery!

This program wouldn’t be possible without the support and dedication of our 30+ female design professionals throughout the Kansas City, Topeka and St. Joseph areas. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, expertise and time with our Girl Scouts!

The awards aren’t done yet; you can still cast your ballot for People’s Choice Award! Visit Crown Center and see these impressive builds yourself and vote for your favorite structure through March 23!

The 2018 Cookie Construction Program is a partnership with AIA Kansas City and made possible with the support of Crown Center, Mark One Electric Co. and Summit Homes.

Want to see more? Check out photos from Build Day on our Facebook Page. Want to participate?! Cookie Construction is open to Cadettes, Seniors & Ambassadors and registration will open this summer!