A Golden Heart for Girl Scouts

Meet Girl Scout Alum Bernadette “Bernie” Murray

An alumna with a golden heart for Girl Scouts! Meet Bernadette “Bernie” Murray, a Highest Award Girl Scout Alumna, proud member of the Juliette Gordon Low Society AND Daisy’s Circle! Investing in the future of girls has become a passion for Bernie because of the impact the program had on her own life. Being a champion for women has been a lifelong goal – and it all started in a troop.

“I’m constantly working to building up women and to be a champion for women because we’re a minority in my line of work. But it’s something I’ve been doing my whole life and it started with Girl Scouts,” Bernie said, who currently works in cyber security – a male dominated industry.

Bernie entered the Girl Scout world as a Brownie and quickly found herself trying exciting things. She learned to drive a manual transmission car, did winter survival and travelled all over the world. In fact, she’s been to every World Center except India – what an impressive Girl Scout travel resume! Bernie even had a pen pal from one of her Destinations that she reconnected with on LinkedIn recently.

 

Bernie at National Center West in 1984.

Outdoor adventure became a passion as she entered her teen years and she served as a Counselor-In-Training and various other outdoor positions. She travelled to National Center West on a council sponsored trip called “Wyoming Trek.” To this day, she’s still an avid camper and credits a lot of that passion for the outdoors to Girl Scouts. She’s still in touch with girls from her Girl Scout camping days thanks to an outdoor program Facebook group!

“As a teen, Girl Scouts kept me on the straight and narrow. Without Girl Scouts, I would not be the same person I am today,” Bernie said.

This love of camping inspired her Gold Award project, which was creating a camp aid training program. “Girl Scout Cadettes and Seniors would go through this training to learn to work with troops who had leaders who didn’t have a strong background in the outdoors,” Bernie said. The program helped ensure that Girl Scouts got a great outdoor experience, even if their leader was learning alongside them! Today, leaders go through training at our council, but being a true Innovator, Bernie’s program was ahead of its time.

 

Bernie as a CIT at Camp Prairie Schooner

Fast forward several years and Bernie is still camping and finding Girl Scouts popping up in her life. At a work meeting she realized that the presenter was her Gold Award advisor! Those connections with other Girl Scouts and mentors have truly lasted a lifetime for this awesome Girl Scout.

Today, Bernie is a proud member of the Juliette Gordon Low Society, a special group of donors who have included Girl Scouts in their estate plans. Investing in girls was at the top of her list because of the impact the program had on her own life. “In Girl Scouts, I wasn’t told I couldn’t do something. I just did it. Because of that, I thrived. I want to make sure that the next generation continues to have those experiences without financial constraints,” Bernie said.

Thanks to donors like Bernie, Girl Scouts continues to be the top leadership organization for girls in the world. It’s because of dedicated alumna, donors and volunteers that we can build a bright future for girls!

Do you know a special alum like Bernie? Share the story with us using the comments below.

The Power of Finding Yourself

Spotlighting Girl Scout Alumna Mackenzie Williams

Outdoor experiences are at the heart of Girl Scouting and help girls discover themselves. From leadership to physical fitness, Girl Scouts learn to be independent, strong women, in part thanks to outdoor activities and camping adventures. Most importantly, girls learn to rely on themselves in the outdoors. For Girl Scout alumna, Mackenzie Williams, living a life of adventure in the outdoors has turned into an exciting career of travel and independence.

Mackenzie started Girl Scouts as a girl in the Olathe/Desoto, KS area, but found her particular troop wasn’t a right fit for her. “I wish my parents had enrolled me in Girl Scouts sooner and treated it like you would soccer, something you just do. I didn’t join Girl Scouts until I asked and looking back, I wish that it had been part of my life earlier,” Mackenzie said.

At the age of 19, Mackenzie started travelling the US by herself, filling a personal need to travel and be outdoors. While it made her parents nervous, the experience changed her life. “When you get way out of your comfort zone and put yourself in different situations you learn about yourself in unique and different ways that you wouldn’t experience any other way,” Mackenzie said. During these travels she found a passion for the outdoors and getting people to experience nature.

At 21, she was able to work as a wilderness ranger in California’s Sequoia National Forest. “I’m very passionate about women doing jobs that are considered ‘male jobs,’ like being a park ranger. I had a hiker say to me ‘wow, women can do this job?’ and I remember saying ‘yes, we sure can!’” Mackenzie said. She was one of the strongest hikers on her team, averaging a mile ahead of the group, all despite being only 5’ and one of only two women on the team. Talk about an awesome G.I.R.L!

Today, Mackenzie is back in Kansas finishing her degree in Psychology at the University of Kansas. She plans to return to nature in the summer and become a ranger again. Recently, Mackenzie reconnected with her troop leader Leslie who opened the door to the outdoors when she was a younger Girl Scout. The two decided to have Mackenzie come speak to the girls about solo travel, independence and being a woman in a male-centric career.

 

Mackenzie talking to Leslie’s troop about her experiences with solo travel and being a wilderness ranger in 2017.

“[In Girl Scouts] you are learning these skills, which at the time you have no idea how important those lessons will be when you are older. It’s those little things, those skills, that knowledge, that builds a foundation for girls,” Mackenzie said. That’s why she loves coming back and reconnecting with Girl Scouts to share her knowledge and inspire girls to learn about themselves through solo travel and trying new things.

We thank Mackenzie and all the amazing G.I.R.L.s who are out there showing the world that there’s not job a girl can’t do AND coming back to share that knowledge with Girl Scouts today. It takes a village to raise a Girl Scout and Mackenzie is being part of that support system, encouraging independence and adventure. Thank you, Mackenzie! And AWESOME troop leaders like Leslie change girls lives. We are so incredibly honored to support volunteers like Leslie! Thank you, Girl Scout volunteers for growing these  G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers and Leaders)!!

An ANGEL for Girl Scouts

For every Girl Scout, there are volunteers that make a difference in her life. Whether it’s a troop leader, parent volunteer or community member, these volunteers influence a girl’s future by showing her a big, bright world ahead of her. For Girl Scouts in Holden, KS, Angel Mallen certainly lives up to her name as an angel for girls. Coming from a low income background, Angel is able to connect to Girl Scouts with economic issues in a unique way…through a shared experience.

Growing up, Angel wanted to be a Girl Scout, but her single, working mother wasn’t able to provide the financial support to continue in the program. The cookie program became her biggest hurdle because they didn’t have a physical address or place to store cookies. When your address is more often your family truck rather than a home, it becomes difficult to sign-up for things like cookie sales.

It’s sad to imagine what an amazing Girl Scout Angel would have been had financial obstacles not prevented her from continuing. “I was one of those ‘Go-getter’ kids, so I loved badges,” said Angel. Fortunately, today’s Girl Scouts have more options than Angel did. At GSKSMO, we are constantly workings to ensure that no girl is turned away because of a family’s financial situation and we are innovating ways to build the Opportunity Fund for girls just like Angel.

Despite the setback, Angel became a business owner who sold her business and was able to retire at age 46! Talk about a SERIOUS go-getter! She now leads a multi-age troop for girls in her community, many of whom are low income girls, just like she was.

“I bring fresh vegetables and herbs to meetings because some of my girls have never seen these types of fresh foods.” said Angel. This innovative thinking comes from personal experience with the problems these girls face. She recently did a project to teach strength by having her troop use their voice and get a glow stick (representing their strength lighting the way in a dark room) until they lit up the room where all the lights were out except for a lamp that Angel had. She then turned down her own lamp, showing them that now they have the strength to light up a dark room and didn’t need her guidance when they learned to be strong. What an inspiring way to teach girls about working together to face their fears!

One of the other things Angel loves is helping girls sell cookies so they can have experiences like Girl Scout Day at the K. “When we got to do Day at the K last year, that was the first time most of my girls had seen a Royals game that wasn’t on a TV,” said Angel.

Thanks to Angel, more than 40 girls have a place to call home in Girl Scouts. Her troop has expanded from 15 Daisies to over 40 girls from Daisy through Junior Girl Scouts. Even with her early setback with Girl Scouts, she believes in the program because of its ability to empower. “Rather than being told you can’t do things because you’re a girl…you’re told you CAN do things BECAUSE you’re a girl,” said Angel.

In addition to the live skills and empowerment, Girl Scouts just provides a level playing field. “When you give to Girl Scouts, you’re giving girls the chance to fit in. Girl Scouts may be the only place where they have a vest like everyone else and get to do activities like everyone else…rather than being left out,” said Angel.

All year, volunteers like Angel are changing lives as troop leaders, service unit volunteers and parent helpers. Without your gifts of your time, your talent and your treasure, Girl Scouts couldn’t exist. As the year comes to a close we thank leaders, like Angel, who recognize their girls’ unique needs and work to provide them a solid support system.

If you’d like to provide a Girl Scout in need a uniform or invest in programming that directly impacts local girls, please consider an end of the year gift today. www.gsksmo.org/donate.

The Ultimate Go-Getter

A Gold Award Alumna Spotlight

Gold Award Girl Scouts are go-getters to the ultimate degree. Through the Gold Award, they spend over 100 hours solving a problem in a sustainable way that positively impacts their community. It’s no wonder that these Girl Scouts go on to achieve some pretty remarkable things! Meet Amanda Stanley, a Gold Award alumna who turned tremendous personal obstacles into a profession and life of positivity.

Amanda started Girl Scouts as a Junior in Wichita. As the first Girl Scout troop at the school, she got to help younger girls learn the ropes…Sometimes, quite literally! One of her favorite annual service projects was teaching Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies  to camp – how to tie knots, pitch a tent and cook over a campfire. It’s no wonder that this love of service translated into an awesome Gold Award project.

During high school, Amanda saw a need for a better way to organize volunteers at a living history museum she volunteered at. This was before digital databases were common (early 2000s), but looking forward, Amanda knew this would be a good solution to the problem. “My biggest challenge was all the places they had volunteer data. You’ve got paper data and data in excel sheets and word documents and jotted on pieces of paper and trying to put that into a usable system was difficult,” Amanda said.

Amanda and her troop at a camping event – one of her early service projects; Amanda as a Cowtown volunteer; Receiving her award for her Gold Award project.

Her project produced a usable database for the Old Cowtown Museum, allowing the organization to find volunteers with those unique “living history” skills, when they needed them. It’s not always easy to know who can play a blacksmith or teach kids to churn butter! But the database let them find those volunteers – all thanks to the work of a Girl Scout!

“What I love about the Gold Award, and why I think it’s important for girls now, is that it makes you look at a problem and see if you can come up with a solution. You then plan it out, work on time management and figure out how your project will create good,” Amanda said.

During high school she also got to participate in Girl Scout Destinations, including one to Washington D.C. focusing on art. “We went to art galleries, stayed with a Girl Scout family for a night, did art projects that I still have hanging on my wall. It was a great way to see the monuments and city,” said Amanda.

Amanda and her mother who served as troop leader; Amanda’s troop at a horse riding event.

Completing her Gold Award earned Amanda two scholarships and she attended Newman University in Wichita where she got a degree in Biology. From there she went to the KU Med, on her way to becoming an MD. After her first year of medical school she was diagnosed with cancer and, always the fighter, she had surgery, it went into remission and she returned to school. After her second year, the cancer came back, she had another surgery and decided to take a year off to focus on her recovery. During that year, she decided life was too short to not be in a career she completely loved…so she took the LSAT and enrolled in law school! Talk about a driven G.I.R.L.!

“I knew I wanted to leave all through my second year, but was too scared because I didn’t have a backup plan. Plus…no one drops out of medical school. But during my year off and almost dying…I realized life was far too short to go to work and hate your job every day,” Amanda said.

In 2014 Amanda graduated from KU Law and is now working for the League of Kansas Municipalities. She travels around Kansas, teaches classes to city officials and loves her job. She is also a lobbyist for local governments to the KS legislature, meaning she testifies in front of committees and really makes an impact on the Kansas government.

As a Girl Scout alumna, she sees the benefits of the program for today’s girls, just like it positively impacted her. Girl Scouting gave her the courage and more importantly, gave her people “in her corner” who were there to support her. “We are in a unique time in history where girls have come a long way, but there are still implicit biases, discrimination and stereotypes – like girls aren’t good at science – that Girl Scouts gives you the tools to combat. It teaches that a stereotype is just a stereotype and if you’re motivated, you can do whatever you want,” Amanda said.

We couldn’t be more proud of this incredible G.I.R.L.! She’s recently decided to become a volunteer at Girl Scout Day at the Capitol, helping girls learn more about the KS government she loves so much. Thank you, Amanda, for continuing to support girls and for being such a great example of a Girl Scout alumna!

Supporting G.I.R.L.s Lasts a Lifetime and Beyond

Spotlighting our Newest Juliette Gordon Low Society Member: Ally Spencer

Early October brought Girl Scouts, volunteers and advocates together from all over the country for the ultimate gathering of G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)TM – the 2017 Girl Scout Convention (G.I.R.L. 2017). Among these delegates voting on the future of Girl Scouting was Ally Spencer and her daughter, Alex, a Girl Scout Senior from Kansas City , Missouri. Serving as delegates allowed these two to spend time together and help shape the future of an organization they’re passionate about. How passionate? Ally serves as Northland Encampment Director, service unit volunteer, troop leader and new member of the Juliette Gordon Low Society! Talk about a family that LOVES Girl Scouting!

Ally Spencer is a proud Girl Scout alumna, but feels her true Girl Scout journey began when Alex was in kindergarten. As often happens, a Daisy troop was forming, but had no leader. Ally hesitantly raised her hand after seeing no other volunteers and it was a life changing moment that has shaped the last decade of her life with her daughter.

“I sent a long email to my membership manager about my first year because it was so magnificent. I talked a lot about my challenges (the membership manager thought I was quitting most of the email she told me later), and ended it saying ‘thank you for one of the best years of my life,’” Ally said. That first year has turned into a decade of service, with her little GS Daisies now strong, independent GS Seniors.

Ally and Troop 2089 at the Kansas City Lyric Opera community partner event (left), at a troop meeting (center) and Alex, her daughter, receiving her Silver Award (right).

One thing Ally particularly loves is the support a service unit can give to new leaders, which ledto her volunteering on a larger scale. “Walking into a service unit meeting is wonderful. Your first year, you don’t know what to say, you don’t know what you don’t know…but at a service unit meeting, you have 30-40 troop leaders there representing probably 100 years+ worth of experience…all there ready to help you,” Ally said.

She took on becoming director of the Northland Encampment, a big event for the Northland Girl Scouts that’s very successful. The 2016 Encampment was a rainy, muddy weekend, but she loved how the Girl Scouts splashed in the mud and found a way to turn the rain into joy.

Northland Encampment over the years.

As a mother, Ally has loved watching her daughter grow into a strong young woman through Girl Scouting. At Convention, Alex had some hard decisions to make when she voted on national issues. After one particularly divided issue, Ally witnessed Alex not only continue to support her vote,  but spoke up to opposition who questioned her decision.

“My daughter said ‘you tell me I’m smart enough to be a delegate [and evaluate decisions] and that I can control our destiny, so I voted the way I thought was appropriate.’ It was a beautiful moment, I thought ‘she’s not a teenage girl right now, she’s an articulate, young lady.’ It’s moments like that you see [in Girl Scouts],” Ally said.

Experiences like this led Ally to join the Juliette Gordon Low Society while at National Convention. This society (previously known as the Trefoil Society at GSKSMO) is for anyone leaving a financial legacy to Girl Scouts in their estate plans.

Ally receiving her Juliette Gordon Low Society pin from Founding Chair, Dianne Belk (left & right). Ally posing with Dianne and Lawrence Calder (center).

“As someone in the corporate world, my time is money. Right now, I can give my time, but when I’m no longer able to give time, leaving a legacy means my giving can continue on past me,” Ally said. In a very special moment, Ally was pinned by JGL Society Founding Chair, Dianne Belk, at Convention.

 

We thank Ally for her service and continued dedication to Girl Scouts. Her volunteer work and leadership is helping girls become all they can be. By joining the Juliette Gordon Low Society, she is creating a positive future for the girls of tomorrow. Thank you for creating lasting change!

 

Do you know a special volunteer we should highlight? Tell us about her or him in the comments below.

From Gold Award to the Silver Screen

Spotlight on Filmmaker and Gold Award Alumna, Morgan Dameron

Morgan Dameron has known that she wanted to make movies ever since she was old enough to figure out what a movie was. As a young Girl Scout Brownie, she remembers being fascinated with the coveted Polaroid camera and the camcorder that that was just as big as she was. “I used to make my family members and pets re-enact scenes from Disney animated films in my living room,” Morgan said!

When Morgan was in high school in the early her passion for film grew and the arts scene in Kansas City was only beginning to blossom into what it is today. With the leadership skills she learned through Girl Scouting, Morgan influenced the film scene for women and teens. She was an honorary board member for Kansas City Women in Film, founded the youth division of the Kansas City Independent Filmmakers Coalition and started the first ever film festival for the Kansas City Teen Star.

“Having that idea of being a leader, following my dreams and having a support system of other strong-willed girls and leaders of our troop really influenced me growing up.”

It’s no surprise that when it came time to think about her Gold Award, making a movie was what Morgan knew she wanted to do for her project. With some help from the Women in Film Commission, Morgan wrote and produced a short-film called Finding Harmony; a story about a young woman and older man who formed an unlikely friendship through music.

“I had to raise the money, cast, shoot and do everything. The amount of hard work that is required is a lesson I was able to learn so young is a result of my Gold Award project.”

That lesson has paid off, ten-fold.

Morgan graduated from Pembrooke High School in 2007 and attended University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts on a full-ride scholarship. While at USC, she made short films that played in film festivals all around the world. When she graduated, she landed a job with a production company in Los Angeles where she worked on movies including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Trek Into Darkness and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Yep, she worked with the amazingly talented Film Director J.J. Abrams.

Now at the age of 28, Morgan’s first-ever feature full length film Different Flowers is being screened in theatres across the United States.

“I had always wanted to tell stories since I was little girl. I had gone to USC to film school and worked in the industry for 5 years and the time was right to make this movie. I was just bursting at the seams to make my first film and nothing was going to get in my way,” Morgan said.

Morgan made a plan. Plan A was to make a movie; there was no plan B.

“It’s been a year!” Morgan said.

Different Flowers is a dramedy feature film full of kooky characters, and real heart inspired by the relationships and surroundings of Morgan’s childhood, growing up in Missouri. Characters, Millie and Emma are sisters with a rocky past who are each stuck in their ways and bring out the best – and worst – in each other. When Emma helps Millie run out on her wedding, they embark on an adventure neither could have anticipated. It’s a story about following your heart, and how, sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. And that’s okay.

Shot on location in Kansas City and surrounding areas, Different Flowers isn’t only about women but it’s powered by women too. Something that was important to Morgan as a female filmmaker. “I really wanted it to feel authentically Kansas City and authentically mid-western. I wanted it to be infused in every element.”

Morgan spared no detail in achieving that feel. The cinematographer is from Kansas City, many of the sound tracks are by local musicians including Sarah Morgan, Darling Side and Brewer and Shipley, one of the necklaces worn by a cast member is made by a Kansas City jewelry artist and Millie’s wedding dress was designed by Kansas City Designer, Emily Hart.

This project was a family affair for all of the Damerons and they were promoted from their home movie roles they played in the 90’s for Morgan’s first feature-length film! Morgan’s younger sisters and fellow Gold Award recipients Natalie and Mallory have cameos in the film in the bridal suite, her Dad is the reverend and Mom plays Chef Suza.

Different Flowers also has some connections to Morgan’s Gold Award project film, Finding Harmony. The lead actor from that film, Ari Bavel, has a supporting role as a Boulevard Delivery Man in Different Flowers.

“The Gold Award has stuck with me. Even though you know it’s going to be so much work, you know that it’s going to be so rewarding to do what you know you love to do,” Morgan said.

Morgan’s sister Natalie also got to use skills she learned through her own Gold Award project, serving as the on-set photographer for the film!

Photos by Gold Award Alumna, Natalie Dameron.

“The biggest piece of advice I can give is to give yourself permission to follow your dreams. Don’t wait for someone else to give it to you. You have the tools you need to tell your story, you can make it happen. The Gold Award is a good experience to just try it,” Morgan said!

We love that Morgan’s Gold Award project inspired her to follow her dreams and that she’s using the leadership skills she gained through her Girl Scouting experience to continue empowering adult women to pursue theirs!

Different Flowers is being shown at AMC Town Center in Overland Park, KS and AMC Barrywoods in Kansas City, MO beginning Sept. 29, check their websites for show times. Want to meet the Leader and filmmaker Morgan Dameron?! She’ll be doing a talk-back on Oct. 1 at AMC Town Center following the 5:10pm showing and at AMC Barrywoods following the 7:00pm showing!

Check out the trailer for Different Flowers!   And, make plans to join us! Let’s pack the theater with Girl Scouts!!

Girl Scouting Goes Full Circle

Spotlight on Girl Scout Alumna, Katelyn Clark

Like most kindergarteners, Girl Scout Alumna Katelyn Clark had no clue what she was getting into when her mom signed her up for Girl Scouts. What she does remember from being a Girl Scout Daisy is being asked by her troop leader, Kim Harrington, what she wanted to do, what badges she wanted to earn and when she wanted to bring in snacks for the troop.

“I had a phenomenal troop leader. Even at that young age, she ensured a girl-led experience. That inspired me at a young age to be confident and self-led,” Katelyn said.

She also remembers making snow globes out of baby food jars to learn about the different winter holidays celebrated around the world; an activity that would influence her Gold Award project ten years later.

Katelyn as a Girl Scout Daisy and Brownie.

There are many life lessons learned and passions discovered that Katelyn credits to her time as a Girl Scout in the Spirit of Nebraska Council.

In middle school that Katelyn started to realize the opportunities available to her because she was a Girl Scout. At the age of 13 she went on her first destination trip to the Boundary Waters and fell in love with travel. “My mom put me on a little prop plane and I flew up to Ely, MN. I spent a week canoeing and I think that sealed the [Girl Scout] deal! I realized that I loved camping and that at 13 years old I could fly by myself, I could pick up a canoe and carry it over a portage and camp. It was really empowering to meet all these Girl Scouts from all over the United States that had such cool stories” Katelyn explained.

Katelyn during her Girl Scout Destination trip to the Boundary Waters.

Almost immediately upon her return from her Boundary Waters trip, Katelyn started planning her next adventure; she wanted to go to Costa Rica.

To raise funds, she and a Girl Scout sister Beth Harrington planned a lock-in for over 40 Brownies complete with workshop rotations and followed Girl Scout Safety Activity Checkpoints! They even recruited non-Girl Scouts to help with programming! It was so successful that it not only raised the funds they needed to go on their destination, but also inspired their Gold Award projects.

Drawing on that first Girl Scout memory with the snow globes, Katelyn created a half day Holiday Fun Fair for girls to learn about five different winter holidays celebrated around the world. Instead of charging admission to the event attendees were asked to bring an item like diapers, formula, etc. to be donated to The Child Saving Institute, a local nonprofit in Nebraska. At the end of the Fun Fair, Katelyn delivered two car loads of items to The Child Saving Institute!

“To go from a Daisy to earning your Gold Award is so fulfilling. At the time though, I didn’t realize the magnitude of it.”

As she grew through Girl Scouting, Katelyn wasn’t really thinking about the Gold Award. It was her progression through the program when it just kind of happened for her.  “I thought the Gold Award was something I wanted to do for me and thought it was just something you did in Girl Scouts,” she said.

After completing her project, Katelyn recalls receiving her Gold Award congratulatory packet in the mail. It contained letters of support and recognition from community members, elected officials and even the President of the United States and she thought “holy cow, this is a big deal!”

“I was more appreciative of my Gold Award actually after I earned it. It became something I put on my college applications, on resumes.”

Left: Katelyn with GSSN Board Member, Karen Morey. Center: Katelyn collecting items for The Child Saving Institute during her Gold Award Project. Right: Katelyn with Girl Scout sister Beth Harrington.

Those college applications and essays earned her admission into Rockhurst University’s international business administration program and Katelyn moved from Nebraska to Kansas City to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree. Girl Scouting was never out of mind though, she returned to Nebraska every summer and worked as a Girl Scout camp counselor.

“Girl Scouts taught me I am who I am. I lived in middle school and high school as my most authentic self for who I was. Girl Scouts taught me that other people can be different as well and that everyone has a story. It also taught me to be compassionate, to look at those around you and see how you can make the world a better place.”

Today, Katelyn’s Girl Scouting experience has come full circle and she has remained in KC working for a senior living marketing company and is a Gold Award advisor and travel volunteer with our council, inspiring and empowering Girl Scouts through her own experiences!

Katelyn on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park with GSKSMO Girl Scouts!

Katelyn’s advice to Girl Scouts? “I know it gets hard in that 5th, 6th and 7th grade time frame, but hang in there and look at what you can do as a teen Girl Scout. There are so many opportunities to travel, sit on teen advisory councils, sit down with mentors and business leaders. That’s a unique opportunity you can’t get anywhere but in Girl Scouting in your teen years. Know that while not every badge is the most fun or every Journey the best, look around and at the people you’re meeting. Some of these girls will be lifelong friends. You’ll have a moment that you change your perspective. Maybe you’ll be inspired and it’ll lead to a career. You’ll be surprised at where Girl Scouts will take you!”

You’re a Girl Scout Rock Star, Katelyn! We appreciate all you do for girls in our council!!

Don’t miss out on these upcoming opportunities available to teen Girl Scouts!
The first deadline to apply for a Girl Scout Destination trip is Nov. 1, you can take a domestic or international tirp with Girl Scouts from all over the US!
– Want to travel to the Boundary Waters, canoe and camp for a week? We’re taking a council-sponsored trip in July, 2018!
– Thinking about Going Gold?! Learn more about the steps and requirements!

 

Built by G.I.R.L.s for G.I.R.L.s: A Look Inside the “Magical” Camp Prairie Schooner

Frolicking with the Prairie Fairy and adventures out in Farmer’s Field – those are experiences that Girl Scouts who call Camp Prairie Schooner home are very familiar with. For more than 70 years, Girl Scouts have taken pride and ownership in this beautiful camp located near the Little Blue River in Kansas City, MO. It’s also the location of our upcoming Alumnae Reunion Weekend, Lifetime Member Picnic and Trefoil Society Pinning Ceremony on Sept 23 – 24! Today we’ll take a look how this camp came to be and the women whose tenacity made it a reality.

Camp Prairie Schooner patch (left); Flag ceremony and patches (center) and early sign (right).

In the early 1940s, the Independence Council of Girl Scouts decided they wanted a camp for Kansas City Girl Scouts. A leader in that initiative was Mrs. Dewitt, who was active in the community and knew about a war time fund that had unallocated money. During World War II, the War Chest fund had been active in raising funds and by 1945, the remaining money was in limbo, ready to be reorganized.

Mrs. Dewitt, advocating for girls, approached the War Chest Board about the funds before they reorganized and the leadership wasn’t sure if they could trust ladies to establish and run a camp. As we know, G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)TM can do anything, and the Girl Scout Council knew they could achieve their goal, even if the Board doubted them.

The Council found the land where Camp Prairie Schooner currently sits and decided it was an ideal location. With a train stop just a short hike away, wooded areas and space for camp, they advocated for the funds. Despite pushback from the War Chest Board, Mrs. Dewitt was a hard woman to say “no” to and the Board sent the Jackson County Planning Commission to look at the land and make a recommendation. They had planned to use this as a stalling technique, hoping the women would give up before getting the funds.

Jerry Manning was sent to inspect the site and as he visited, he met the team behind the camp plan. It included community leaders and strong women who knew this would be a success. He realized this was a project backed by serious people wanting to create a better world for girls, not a whim that ladies had. He made the recommendation that the War Chest

Camp Prairie Schooner staff from 1988 (left) and approx. late 1970s (right).

funds should be given to Girl Scouts, and they were. After they acquired the land, the Council asked Mr. Manning to become the Camp Chairman, which started many years of service he gave to Girl Scouts, including serving as President of the Pioneer Trails Council!

Cookie money and funds from the War Chest paid the $4,000 for 127 acres of land that is now Camp Prairie Schooner. Still having reservations about the project, the War Chest Board held the title to Camp Prairie Schooner until the Council proved the camp was successful. After the installation of a pool and successful management of the property, they realized that these G.I.R.L.s meant business and the title was officially given to Girl Scouts.

Camp Prairie Schooner philanthropy! Girl Scouts from SU 638 & 639 built a Gaga Pit in 2015 (left) and Burns & McDonnell host annual work days at camp (right).

Today, Camp Prairie Schooner stands as a living testament to the power of G.I.R.L.s who wanted to make the world better for young women. We thank those early pioneers for their vision and tenacity that brought that camp to life as well as the current day donors who add to camp each year! Businesses, donors, and girls have added new facilities and games to camp, creating more opportunities and adventures (read our blog post about girl donated projects). Thank you!

We invite you to join us at Camp Prairie Schooner for our Alumnae Reunion! Registration closes SOON, so register today at www.gsksmo.org/reunion! See you at camp!

A New Home for the Oakledge Ish-Ki-Ti-Ni

The most recognizable symbol from Camp Oakledge was the totem pole (or “Ish-ki-ti-ni” for more recent Girl Scouts) that stood near the dining hall. Its image was on badges and shirts, serving as a friendly face for campers. When Camp Oakledge was decommissioned, the Ish-ki-ti-ni was moved to Camp Prairie Schooner. Now renamed the “Oakledge Ish-ki-ti-ni,” the rebuilt totem pole will be rededicated during the Alumnae Reunion and Picnic on Sept 23 -24, 2017 at Camp Prairie Schooner. We wanted to share the story of this symbol of camp history and celebrate its new life!

The name Ish-ki-ti-ni comes from a Native American mythology of the owl. While the whole totem pole has come to be known as the “Ish-ki-ti-ni,” it is started as the name of the owl that symbolically sits at the top of the totem. According to Oakledge camp legend, you can sometimes see Ish-ki-ti-ni flying over camp at night, watching over Girl Scouts.

Below the Ish-ki-ti-ni are symbols – the Girl Scout Trefoil, the frog, the turtle, the butterfly and the gnomies (pronounced “ga-no-me” for this totem). Each represents a part of the camping experience.

 

For alumnae and younger Girl Scouts alike, the Ish-ki-ti-ni serves as an important part of childhood. “In 2013, we pretended it was a time traveling machine. We wrote a song and we would hold onto it while singing it and it would take us to different summers. Kind of like a ride down memory lane. The song went: ‘Ishkitini Ishkitini take us way back when / Show us all the memories that you hold within,’” Girl Scout camper, Olivia (AKA Puffy) said.

Marley Parsons (AKA Ferris), resident camp director and alumna, feels the Ish-ki-ti-ni is a symbol of her Girl Scouting life. “The Ish-ki-ti-ni was a huge representation of my childhood. From whispering in the Green Gnomie’s ear to help find lost times, to peeping in the hole in the back to try to see the Red Gnomie, it was all part of my camping experience,” Ferris said.

Since the Ish-ki-ti-ni is made of wood, it needs to be remade about every 10-15 years, meaning a new group of Girl Scouts gets to give new life to the totem. Currently, the Oakledge Ish-ki-ti-ni is being rebuilt for the 2017 Alumnae Reunion, retaining as much of the original as possible.

“In 2004, the totem pole I grew up with fell into disrepair. While I was heartbroken that we had to build a new one, I loved that Bean and Beaner had us write wishes on the back of the new feathers [on the owl at the top]. It made it really special. Part of me was now a part of the Ish-ki-ti-ni. It makes me really happy to know that I am also here now, in 2017, helping rebuild it for another generation of campers,” Ferris said. She’s also part of the rebuilding team that’s preserving the memories of the totem.

In the process of being rebuilt, the Ish-ki-ti-ni is also finding a new home at Camp Prairie Schooner. “I’m happy it is being rededicated to Prairie Schooner because, for me, that’s where it all started. My very first camp was Schooner. So because the journey to camping at Oakledge started [at Camp Prairie Schooner] for me, it’s giving me a sense of closure,” Puffy said.

We hope you’ll join us on Sept 23 -24, 2017 at Camp Prairie Schooner where we will rededicate the Oakledge Ish-ki-ti-ni at Camp Prairie Schooner and create a time capsule with it! Registration closes on September 8th, so get registered today at www.gsksmo.org/reunion.

 

Becoming a Woman of Confidence

Spotlight on Alumna & Donor Chris McClain

 Girl Scout Lifetime member and Camp Prairie Schooner alumna, Chris McClain found her voice in the great outdoors at camp as a Girl Scout. Through Girl Scouting, Chris was able to discover who she was, learn acceptance and become the strong woman she is today. Growing up in the 1950s, Chris was given unparalleled opportunities because of Girl Scouts.

Now a resident of Vermont, Chris found herself back among the Prairie Fairy and familiar trails of Camp Prairie Schooner last winter when she was visiting Kansas City. While on a walk through memories and trails of camp, Chris happened upon the GSKSMO Philanthropy team as they were having a meeting. After some introductions, she was able to reconnect with the council and camp of her childhood.

Chris McClain (third from the left), with GSKSMO Philanthropy team in December 2016.

Camping was a huge part of Girl Scouting for Chris. She remembers working at Camp Prairie Schooner and getting to know new girls every time she went. It was a place of discovery where she was able to push her limits and explore possibilities.

During the 1960s, camp was a place where she learned acceptance and social inclusion as race riots in Kansas City changed the dynamics of camp. During the riots, there was a particular push to get Girl Scouts of color to camp, not only for their protection, but to give them a chance to just be girls and focus on their own development. For Chris, this gave her new opportunities to meet girls she’d never met before and see that everyone was accepted. At camp, everyone was a Girl Scout, no matter the social climate in the city.

“[Girl Scouts gives you] the confidence to try stuff outside your comfort zone and to stand up for what you believe is right,” Chris said.

A highlight of her experience was attending a Girl Scout Roundup in Vermont during high school. After applying with thousands of other girls from around the country, she and her troop were accepted and jumped on a train for Vermont. She and 10,000 other Girl Scouts camped together and made new friends. One of the best parts? A closing campfire with the real life Maria Von Trapp!

This Roundup group continues to hold reunions every other year, reuniting Girl Scout friends from around the country. Chris is an active member of planning these reunions and loves the chance to reconnect with one of the most life changing opportunities she had in her childhood.

 

Chris McClain in her home in Vermont and enjoying bagpiping – a hobby and profession for this alumna!

Today, Chris is a proud Girl Scout Lifetime member, an active community member and periodic volunteer for Girl Scouts in Vermont. She loves having opportunities to inspire young girls and give back to the organization that helped her grow into the woman she is today. She’s also become a member of the Trefoil Society, giving back to Girl Scouts through her estate. “After all Girl Scouts did for me, I can finally give back,” Chris said.

Thank you to Chris and the other Trefoil Society members who are leaving a legacy and making a better tomorrow for girls. If you’d like to share a powerful Girl Scouts story from Camp Prairie Schooner, leave a comment below!