A 40-Year Volunteer Shares Her Story: The Girl Scout Difference

The story below comes from Theresa Kasper, a 40-year volunteer with Girl Scouts in Western New York. While she explains the difference Girl Scouts made in her life, we wanted to explain the difference she’s made to us.

With a four-decade history, it isn’t surprised that she’s well known around our council. As soon as you mention her name, most staff have something great to say. Usually it involves the fact that she won’t say no to a girl.

Theresa believes so passionately in Girl Scouts that she makes room when a girl needs troop. To accomplish this, she has meetings twice a week just to accommodate all of her girls. She seeks out girls who need Girl Scouts and gives them opportunities to do whatever they want to learn about, including camping and kayaking. Coming from Niagara Falls, a lot of her girls have never been to camp and likely wouldn’t without Girl Scouts.

Her work with the girls doesn’t end when they age out. Theresa makes an effort to keep in touch with her girls and many leader now as a result. When you’re in the community, it’s likely you’ll run into someone who asks about Theresa because she was in one of her troops. 

Kelly Garrow is a Service Unit Support Specialist who was leading a troop in Niagara Falls before becoming an employee. When it was time to make the transition, she needed someone to take over her troop of older girls. Theresa was so excited for Kelly that she took all her girls. 

Stories like this are what make Girl Scouts and our council shine. We wouldn’t be nearly as successful without leaders like Theresa who are dedicated to our mission and making sure that every girl has the opportunity to become a girl of courage, confidence, and character. 

My Story by Theresa Kasper

There was no such thing as a sleeping bag in 1962.  I was tagging along with my big sister Joyce and her friend Maryann as we rolled blankets, clothing and toothbrushes into a bedroll for Joann’s first campout at Windy Meadows.

Joyce and I begged our parents to allow us to join but to no avail.  With 6 children in the house and one on the way there was no chance of joining.  There was just not enough money. 

Fast forward 16 years later, a marriage, several relocations, a daughter and a son, a nasty divorce and a return home to Niagara Falls.  My mom is now a Girl Scout Leader and she suggests I join scouts for the summer and take my children to day camp.  They need volunteers.  There is a pixie unit for my son and I can head the unit for my daughter.

A week in the woods with other volunteers. Lots of fun and activity distancing me from the stress of my new divorcee status and my unemployment. Not to mention the stress of potentially leaving my children to be employed and all that goes along with it.

A wonderful experience never to be forgotten.  Edward and I had a walk in the woods a thick brush at that time.  We made our own path and eventually were at the end of the property in a field of cows.  He was 4 years old and it was awesome.

Not having raincoats when it rained we donned black garbage bags and kept dry.  It was an adventure. Sarah made many new friends and learned the girl scout way.

In the Fall my daughter was in Second Grade.  There was a girl scout troop and we signed up.  In the middle of the year the leader quit. I was in the church basement with 20 children and no leader.  I improvised and kept them busy until the parent’s showed up. Having had all those little sisters, I knew a bit about crowd control.

That day no one stepped up to take the troop.  I was without employment, a car or resources but told the parents if they would help I would take the lead.

I would always sing and play games with my siblings, so it was all fun for me.  A neighborhood Girl Scout mom called me and I started training. Somehow there was always a ride and someone to take care of my children.  My friend Pat said, “If it is for the kids it will all workout.”  And it did work out.

Over the past 40 years, the training I received in GirlScouts led me to better positions at work. Yes, I got a job the first year I started scouts.  I retired three years ago from work, but I hope to be a Girl Scout leader to the day I pass away!  The experience led me to be abetter person always giving me new learning to this day.  The girls andparents never cease to amaze and inspire me.

And with the ongoing changes in the girl scout experience I have never ever been bored with the program.  Today I lead 5 troops. And there are six fantastic women who love Girl Scouts in the troops that help me.

I reluctantly gave up the Daisy troop this year. There wasonly one girl left after flyups.  Everything changes. Today my largestgroup is the Cadettes with 21 registered. Amazing. This is usually the smallestgroup. 

I never cease to be amazed with Girl Scouts!

Theresa is featured kneeling on the right with some of her girls at a recent tour of the Niagara Falls Police Department.

The Mito Warriors of Ken-Ton: The Girl Scout Difference

In Girl Scouting, our mission doesn’t end at building girls of courage, confidence, and character. We empower them to take it one step further and help make their world a better place. For Troop 30143, the difference they want to make is related directly to one of their co-leaders.


Ken-Ton troop leader Ann Marie Lesnewski, center left, celebrates with her Junior Girl Scouts Sunday after a ride to raise awareness for mitochondrial disease. Pictured around Lesnewski clockwise from bottom are Charlotte Brach, Lucy Dettbarn, Lily Foglia, Sierra Green, Jessie Harper, Grace Miller, Ella Jones and Maxine Ensminger.
Image via Ken-Ton Bee

In working towards a Bronze Award, the troop chose to raise awareness about Mitochondrial Disease. While many have never heard of this rare disease, they have a direct connection to it through one of their co-leaders.

Ann Marie Lesnewski, called ‘Miss Annie’ by her girls,  has a lifelong history with Girl Scouts, from her days as a Girl Scout at Kenmore Presbyterian Church to leading troops in the Ken-Ton Service Unit for seven years.

Earlier this year, she explained her passion for Girl Scouting to the Ken-Ton Bee:

“I wasn’t really there for what I received to put on my uniform, but for how it made me feel. It was a place that I could go to feel that I belonged, that my thoughts mattered, and where I’d be told that my dreams were attainable. I want girls to feel confident, and I want them to know that they’re valued, that their opinions matter, and that I believe that they can change the world for the better. I think girls don’t really get that message all the time in life. Kids are told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and they’re not really given the opportunity to think. That’s what Girl Scouting really offers them is the opportunity to think, and to dream big.”

Troop 30143 embraced this opportunity to dream big and change the world for the better through their Bronze Award project, called “Mito Never Sleeps.” One of the main components was to raise awareness about Mitochondrial Disease in their community.

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On Sunday, September 16, the girls began a 24-mile bike ride to represent how the disease affects people 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Despite the long ride, the girls and their decorated bikes made it the entire journey.

Another leader tweeted this touching message about the ride:

“Today I was honored to support my Girl Scouts as they rode 24 miles to bring attention to those who battle Mitochondrial Disease, 24 hr/day. These amazing girls planned, organized, made phone calls, & hit a goal that was big and scary! Troop #30143”

During the week of the bike ride, the girls also:

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    Asked the principle to have a Go Green Day at school

  • Made a presentation to their science class about Mitochondrial Disease
  • Talked to people about the disease and gave them an awareness ribbon
  • Wore seven pounds of weight on their arms and legs for 24 hours to simulate the feeling of someone who has a muscle disease
  • Wrote a letter to seven politicians to spread awareness, ask for donations for Mito research, and explain the burden the insurance companies place on the person with the disease
  • Made rocks about Mito Awareness

     

The troop explained their passion for their Bronze Award project:

“Mrs. Annie is an inspiration to us and she has taught us to be strong, independent, and confident girls. In return we want to help spread awareness for this horrible disease. And we also want to get the Pharmaceutical companies to stop the burden on the patients who need medical supplies.”

The project ended on a fun note at the 49th Annual Skills and Chills Event at Seven Hills. Keeping with the festivities, Troop 30143 wore their green Mito Awareness shirts and were adorned with different forms of power, including batteries and electricity, because the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. The girls decorated their tent with awareness information and even had SWAPs to help spread the word.

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The Girl Scout difference is exemplified in troops like these who show that Girl Scouts make a difference. Through their co-leader Miss Annie, they recognized a need for awareness around Mitochondrial Disease and took action to help with the pharmaceutical companies that take advantage of patients who need supplies.

This is just one of many amazing stories that happen around our council. We’re so proud of our girls and the work they do to help make their community a better place, and the passion they show for helping friends and family.

 

Have you renewed?

We’re just over two weeks away from the end of the 2017-18 Girl Scouting year! New troops are forming and we’re storming the open houses to find my girls who want to become G.I.R.L.s (go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders).

If you haven’t renewed your or your girl’s membership, you still have time before we kick off the 2018-19 year. With so many exciting programs planned, you don’t want to miss out.

Renew Today! 

Speaking of kicking off, next week we’re hosting exclusive previews of our new cookies and munchies at our service centers during regular business hours! Stop in to register at one of our computers, try the new cookies, enjoy some snacks, and get excited for next year! Come see us next Monday, September 17, Tuesday, September 18, and Wednesday, September 19.

AND DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE GIVEAWAYS!

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We still have incentives for everyone who renews by September 30!

2018 Registration Incentives

One month left of On-Time Registration Prizes!

It’s hard to believe there’s only one month left of our current membership year. Looking back, 2017-18 was filled with so many amazing programs, events, and opportunities, but we know 2018-19 is going to be even better.

With the new year starting up soon, it’s important to make sure you and/or your girl have renewed their Girl Scout membership by September 30. To learn more about why this is important, check out this video from Christine Kirwan:

 

Don’t forget about the prizes

If you watched the video, you heard about the drawing for the last August Target gift card as well as the upcoming surprises for those who have renewed. Yes, that means you still have chances to win! Plus, even if you renewed your membership prior to September or even in the spring, you can still win! How cool is that?

2018 Registration Incentives

Don’t let your membership lapse and miss out on all of the amazing rewards that come with being in a Girl Scout. It’s more than just the prizes we give out, too. As the preeminent leadership organization for girls, we build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. We want to give her the opportunities to experience new and exciting activities that help her discover her strengths so she can grow into a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader).

Renew your Girl Scout membership today!

You can still win a Target gift card!

So far two lucky members of the Girl Scouts of Western New York have won $25 Target gift cards just by renewing their membership for the 2018-19 year! If you haven’t renewed yet, what are you waiting for? We still have two gift cards to give away, plus awesome prizes all through September!

2018 Registration Incentives

Thinking you missed out by renewing in the spring? Think again! Everyone who’s already re-registered for next year is eligible to win. Even if you renewed months ago, your name is still in the drawing to win each week!

Don’t delay, renew today!

Resident Camp is Off to a Great Start!

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Even though camp season officially kicked off last week at Camp Piperwood, the spirit has finally spread to the rest of the council. Our resident camps, Camp Seven Hills and Camp Timbercrest, each began this week with girls participating in a number of programs, including Dumbledore’s Army, Climbing Masters, Pony Pals, and more!

To stay up to date with the action, make sure you follow our Camp Timbercrest and Camp Seven Hills blogs. They’re updated daily by our onsite camp staff, bringing you recaps and more!

For those visual people, we have albums chronicling each session as well. Check out GSWNY’s Flickr account for all the great photos! Another council staff member travels to all the camps, and you can check out her photos on our Facebook page! She posts albums from the sessions she attends. Our Page also features a drop off album for parents and guardians to share their photos of leaving their girls!

We have so many ways for you to keep up with camp, but we also have a challenge. Just because you aren’t at camp doesn’t mean you can’t get outdoors. Try working toward your Outdoor Guru Challenge badge this summer!

Unleash Strong! Be a Girl Scout.

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The Fourth of July feels the peak of summer fun, but fall is right around the corner. You can even see it in stores . Despite school not starting for more than a month, the back to school sections are popping up. Pool toys are being swapped out for classroom supplies and the bus will be rolling down the street sooner than you’d like.

When school begins, so do the never ending extracurricular activities. At times, it can feel like every night is booked. It’s easy to cut certain programs you don’t feel are as valuable. Unfortunately, Girl Scouts is one that doesn’t always make the cut.

The case for Girl Scouts

You want your girl to succeed in her life, whatever it may look like. You want her to opportunities to shape her own future. While a number of activities can help her, none partner along side of her quite like Girl Scouts.

At Girl Scouts of Western New York, we’re dedicated to building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. When your girl joins a troop, she isn’t just signing up to do arts and crafts and sell cookies. She’s joining a sisterhood where she can be her own person and make a difference in her community.

We believe in the inclusive, all-girl environment and have the research for why it matters for you girl. This helps us create a safe space for her to try new things, develop new skills, take on leadership roles, and work toward earning the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards.

What we do

At Girl Scouts, your girl will have the opportunity to experience new adventures while giving back. All of our programming focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), the outdoors, like skills, and entrepreneurship.

Bottom line, we know this is a man’s world, but we want to help your daughter reshape it for herself and generations to come.

Why it matters

More than just what we offer, we have proven results. Women who were Girl Scouts are more successful, enjoy higher incomes, are active volunteers, and vote more regularly.

Half of all female business leaders are Girl Scout alums. More than 70 percent of female U.S. Senators were in Girl Scouts. Every former female Secretary of State are Girl Scout alums.

Unleash strong!

Become a Girl Scout this fall and see the difference it can make for yourself. Join Girl Scouts today!