Leaving a Legacy for an Inspirational Leader

The Lela Mae Girl Scout Adventure Fund!

Girl Scout leaders are inspirations for the girls in their troops and create a lifetime of memories. For Karen Ebert, and all the girls in her troop, that inspirational leader was Lela Mae Knipp. Not only was Lela Mae a fantastic troop leader who pushed the girls to be the very best versions of themselves, she stayed involved in Girl Scouting for more than 60 years! Karen was a Girl Scout in the early 1960s, a time when women were not always encouraged to dream big about their careers – but Lela Mae gave them that confidence through Girl Scouting! This lasting legacy of service and supporting generations of girls inspired Karen to do something incredible – invest in the future of girls in Lela Mae’s name.

For Karen Ebert, creating a fund for Girl Scouts that will leave a legacy was the best way to honor Lela Mae. “I believe leaving a legacy is important. As a Girl Scout alum, I wanted to give back to the organization that meant so much to me,” Karen says. To honor Lela Mae’s 60 years of volunteer service, Karen set-up the Lela Mae Girl Scout Adventure Fund in 2018 at the West Region Volunteer Celebration. This fund will provide financial support to girls in Westmoreland and throughout Pottawatomie and Wabaunsee Counties so they experience incredible adventures in Girl Scouting.

As a girl, Karen remembers Lela Mae’s generosity and the courage she instilled in her. “To Lela Mae, every girl was unique and special,” Karen said. One memory Karen has of this generosity happened when she was selling cookies to raise money for camp. “I took my money from my cookie sales to Lela Mae, and she said to me ‘oh you are so close, but you are short $14.’ My heart sank and I know she saw that. Later that night, she called to say she ‘miscounted’ and I had just enough to go to camp. I will always think she had something to do with me having ‘just enough,’” Karen said.

With all these amazing memories and life skills that Karen learned from Girl Scouting, she wanted to make sure today’s girls have access to the same opportunities she did. “If people look back at the experience they have in Girl Scouting, I think they would want every girl to have that experience. As adults, I hope we all want to give to the future,” Karen said. Thank you, Karen, for investing and honoring Lela Mae!


Karen Ebert, Lela Mae Knipp and family members, Sonja Stanley, Bonnie Taylor and Melissa Phipps as they presented Girl Scouts with the check to establish the fund.

In March 2019, Lela Mae celebrated her 95th birthday, and Karen Ebert and the Knipp family created a shower of gifts to help local Girl Scouts by donating to the fund, and you can still make a gift as well! A gift of any size to the Lela Mae Girl Scout Adventure Fund in honor of her birthday can be made by via www.gsksmo.org/donate. Thank you to Karen Ebert for establishing this fund to honor an amazing Girl Scout!

Double the Gold, Double the Impact

Spotlight on 2019 Gold Award Girl Scout Twins Claire & Grace Genis

Reaching for Gold is the ultimate goal for every young Girl Scout. However, achieving the Gold Award is much more difficult than one might expect. Gold Award Girl Scouts must take all they have learned from their time as a Girl Scout and develop a project that will create sustainable lasting change in their community.

 To earn a Gold Award, Girl Scouts epitomize what it means to be a G.I.R.L., by being a go-getter, an innovator, a risk-taker and a leader. These are the reasons the Gold Award is the most prestigious award for Girls in the world! Grace and Claire Genis are two Girl Scouts in the 2019 Gold Award class who have a special sisterhood beyond the Girl Scout community. They are twins!

When asked to describe their sister in three words, Claire describes Grace as “intelligent, hardworking and kind.” Grace describes Claire as “bubbly, creative and happy”. Since joining Girl Scouts in kindergarten, Grace and Claire have gone on to earn all three of the Highest Awards in Girl Scouting, the Bronze, Silver and Gold Award.

The girls still look back at the beginning of their Girl Scout journey fondly, recalling a visit to the fire station as Daisies. “The firefighters talked to us and we got a tour […] I just thought it was super cool,” Grace said. “I really liked the camp outs when we learned about astronomy and the telescopes,” Claire said.

The idea of two girls Going for Gold in one household seemed impossible but these Go-Getter Girl Scouts and their family worked together to help their local community. Claire and Grace have grown up inspired by their mother who followed her heart and works with special needs students. Her suggestions helped the girls use their own passions to form strong and innovative project plans.

Grace’s project, titled Operation Explore the World, addressed the lack of materials in her community for visually impaired students. Grace is visually impaired and built four light boxes, which are used to develop awareness of light, color and objects for students also challenged with a visual impairment. As a student who has faced the same obstacles, Grace knows the power this project will have on young kids who are just beginning their educational journey.

Claire’s project, titled Music for Everyone, addressed the lack of clubs and activities offered to special needs students in her high school. Claire developed a music club for these students and received 12 donated instruments; a total value of over $10,000 dollars. A majority of the instrument donations were supplied by Band of Angels, an organization that collects donated instruments and distributes them to children in need.

Claire and Grace implemented their leadership skills by getting their community members involved with their projects. Grace successfully recruited high school students and family members to help build lightboxes that are sturdy and will last for years. Claire recruited and organized students at her high school to teach music to special needs students each week. “Once I told [other band students] about my project, they immediately jumped in and said, ‘Hey I want to help!’” said Claire. She also inspired students to become leaders themselves and continue the music club next year after Claire graduates from high school.

By stepping out of their comfort zone and being risk-takers, the girls were able to meet people from all different walks of life. “I have made connections and relationships with people I may not have known if not for Girl Scouts” Grace said. Girl Scouts has given the Genis sisters friendships and a life-long sisterhood. “I am so humbled that I could be part of this organization from such a young age.”

After Claire and Grace graduate high school in May they plan to attend college together in the fall at Johnson County Community College. Claire plans to pursue her passion of playing music and Grace will pursue a career in nursing. The twins hope Girl Scouts who plan to Go for Gold will find a project they are truly inspired and passionate about. Claire says, “The amount of work you put into it WILL pay off! Keep [Girl] Scouting!”

Learn about all 47 of our 2019 Gold Award Girl Scouts and what they did to make our world a better place at gsksmo.org/inspire