Become an Outdoor Guru This Summer

We may have left June and The Great Outdoors Month behind, but that doesn’t mean it should be the last time you enjoy the warmer weather. To encourage girls to spend more time outside, Girl Scouts of Western New York is pleased to announce the Outdoor Guru Challenge!

To win the exclusive outdoor challenge patch, girls must complete a certain number of items from a list of 65 activities, depending on Girl Scouting level:

  • Daisy: 20
  • Brownie: 25
  • Junior: 30
  • Cadette: 35
  • Senior: 40
  • Ambassador: 45

The activities range from watching the sunset and stargazing to earning a Troop Camping Badge. Girls have from July 1 to August 31 to complete as many challenges as possible. When they’re done, they can go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/outdoorguru and fill out the form to claim their patch. The form will be active until September 15.

Fortunately for all Girl Scouts, the fun isn’t limited to Western New York. Any girl is invited to take the Outdoor Guru Challenge and order a patch for $3 from us (more details soon).

Below is an image of the challenges, but you can download a copy here: http://bit.ly/outdoorguru

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Good luck, Girl Scouts!

Gold Award Girl Scout Chris Belin reflects on what Girl Scouts taught her and the importance of the program for girls

[Below is a guest post written by Gold Award Girl Scout Chris Belin]

My name is Chris Belin.  I am a 38 year-old self-employed Health and Business Coach living in East Amherst, NY.  Just over 20 years ago, I earned my Girl Scout Gold Award, and to this day, it is still one of my proudest moments!

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That’s me on the left!

I became a Girl Scout when I was 6 years old.  I still remember our meetings in a church basement!  Learning the Girl Scout Promise, selling cookies, and singing songs.  Within a few years, I went to Girl Scout Camp and volunteered in the community at soup kitchens and homeless shelters.  But, as I got older, it became more difficult to juggle my school work, sports, social life and Girl Scout activities.  I wanted to quit.  But, my Mom, not a Girl Scout herself, refused to let me.  She knew the impact it had on me and the community.  She said “this is your commitment and you are going to finish it!”

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Me with my mother at the Gold Award Ceremony

While in high school, I earned my Silver Award, and without much time in between, I began working on my Gold Award.  My first two ideas were rejected by Council.  I was so upset and shocked actually!  But looking back, I see why.  It would have been too easy!  I really needed to push myself and do more for others.  I began a project of Female Empowerment with young girls in my community.  It lasted three months and was an amazing experience for them and me. I learned just how powerful one person can be, no matter their age!  Nothing else could have better prepared me for college, and later….working full time, motherhood, and entrepreneurship!

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Me and other members of my troop at the Gold Awards

I am now a wife and mom of two kids, an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son.  Raising kids is a lot of work and it certainly “takes a village”.  For that reason, and many others, we are and will always be a Scouting family. Girl Scouts is a great resource in teaching so many important life skills to my daughter, such as leadership, contribution, healthy relationships, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, etc. I am not aware of any other organization that does all that!

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When I was a Girl Scout, I didn’t fully understand why we sold cookies. Through my daughter’s experience, I learned that the Girl Scout Cookie Sale is the largest entrepreneurial program for girls in the world!  As an entrepreneur myself, I love that! It has taught my daughter how to be confident, how to talk to people, how to shake hands, how to manage money and deadlines, etc.  She was her troop’s top seller this year!

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I am thrilled to be part of my daughter’s own Scout experience.  She is learning, growing, and having fun!  If you have a daughter, I urge you to check out a local meeting, and find a troop that is right for her.  You will be so glad you did!

Chris Belin

Mompreneur & Founder, Design Your Days Nutrition

716-207-0134

chris@chrisbelin.com

Why Girl Scouts should still be the choice for your girl

Today Boy Scouts announced a change in who they are – while its parent organization will keep the title of Boy Scouts of America, its actual boy scouting program will be called ‘Scouts BSA,’ starting next February. This change came after the controversial decision in 2017 to let girls join its program.

For more than a century, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts coexisted with programming designed to nurture boys and girls in separate, targeted environments with strategies to aid in leadership development. As the world changed, so did the programs to reflect the current challenges each gender faced and the best way to overcome. At least that’s the case for Girl Scouts.

It’s not a secret that both organizations have experienced declines in membership due to increased competition. Families are running from one activity to the next and for a number of reasons, including a lack of understanding, Scouting is falling lower and lower in importance. While both organizations have felt these effects, we’ve chosen to respond differently.

Boy Scouts is throwing up the Hail Mary by inviting girls into their programming. A campaign set to launch this summer – ‘Scout Me In’ – is designed to show the ease of taking all your children to the same meeting, making it more convenient to be a Scout. Rather than design unique programs, Scouts BSA will simply divide boys and girls where they will follow the same curriculum. A selling point is that now girls can also work toward the highly praised level of Eagle Scout.

What that fails to mention is Girl Scouts already have the option to not only reach that same level, but pass it with their project. The Girl Scout Gold Award, while less seen, requires more time and effort to achieve than the award of Eagle Scout. Because it doesn’t have the Boy Scout boost and notoriety, few understand just how incredible it is for a girl to become a Gold Award recipient.

More importantly, Girl Scouts refuses to budge from its stance on only accepting girls because it will not compromise its mission. Especially in today’s world with more and more women finding their voice and fighting for their seat at the table, we understand the value of what we do. We’re showing girls from a young age their value and letting them know they’re capable of anything. We believe in building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place, and we don’t plan to step away from that.

Girl Scouts is an organization that is fun for girls, but we can’t forget its importance. Yes, it might mean taking your children two places for their troop meetings, but your child’s future shouldn’t be built on convenience. While we try to make it as easy as possible for you, we want your girl to be a part of our organization because of what she can become.

We’re more than cookies, crafts, and friendship bracelets. We see the lack of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics so we’re creating more programs to expose girls to these opportunities at a young age. We teach outdoor skills and survival, all while making sure your girl is empowered.

Our programming comes from years of research to ensure we’re raising female leaders. Even better, we have proven results. All of our female Secretaries of State were Girl Scouts. Almost all female astronauts. Your girl has potential, and we want her to unleash it early and often with Girl Scouts.

Lee Snodgrass from the Girl Scouts of Northwestern Great Lakes council summarizes it well:

“We proudly own the ‘Girl’ in Girl Scouts. Since our inception, Girl Scouts of the USA has been about putting girls front and center, ensuring that everything we do is with their best interests in mind and equips them to be the fearless leaders and change-makers our more than 50 million alums prove themselves to be. For 106 years, Girl Scouts has prepared girls with essential leadership skills and provided them with a supportive network of girls and women who can face any challenge, from the wilderness to the boardroom, with confidence, compassion, and success. Our focus has always been and always will be girls.”

Girls Scouts isn’t just an activity for your girl. It can change her life beyond the memories she’ll make at at camp and the lifelong friends she’ll find. Just like you, we believe in your girl’s greatness. Join us today and help her grow.

Girl Scouts of WNY learn about car care and safety

1Caption: The girls broke into groups to discuss topics that affect driving such as bad weather, construction, personal distractions, and more. 

On Sat., April 2, the Girl Scouts of Western New York partnered with GEICO car insurance to deliver a car maintenance and safety program called Car Care with GEICO. The event was targeted at Girl Scouts that are about to become new drivers or have only been driving for a short period of time.

Melanie Bloodworth, Director of Program at GSWNY, commented, “All the girls are earning their Car Care badge. That’s including an opportunity to learn some basic car maintenance skills, how to jump a car, how to change a tire, how to check your oil. They’re also participating in activities around safe driving and how to drive for a greener Earth. At the very end, they’re coming up with safety jingles that they’re sharing with everybody.”

This is the second year that GSWNY has offered the program with GEICO. Last year, the program was only available in Buffalo, but because of its success, it was brought to the Rochester area. Approximately 40 girls along with parents and troop leaders attend the programs.

“These are some basic life skills that girls often don’t learn at school or maybe even at home if their parents aren’t comfortable with car maintenance,” said Bloodworth. “These are very important things for girls to learn as they become drivers, so that they can be safe and do some basic checks to make sure their cars are in good working condition. I think it’s something about Girl Scouts that’s unique. We provide girls these opportunities to learn these skills that they really don’t have another venue where they would be learning this in an organized program that’s also fun and interactive.”

A team from the Management Development Program in the GEICO Claims Department led the event at the Al Sigl Center in Brighton. At GEICO there is a committee for Girl Scouts that gets together to ensure that all the requirements for the Car Care badge are met. The team then takes that information and puts their own twist on it to make it even more fun.

2Caption: The GEICO staff explained what tools and safety equipment are great to have in your car. They explained that it is better to have it and not need it, rather than need it and not have it.

Erin Dorozynski from GEICO had her first experience working with Girl Scouts at the event.

“Their creativity is just amazing,” she said.” It’s nice to see them thinking outside the box and taking a different look at distractions or ways to be more safe as drivers.”

Katherine Warth, an Ambassador Scout from Monroe County troop 60420 commented, “I learned a lot about what kind of tools you need to keep in your car, how to change a tire, when your battery dies how to jump your car. My dad recently had to do and I was like ‘Oh my gosh! I never want to be stuck in that situation and not know what to do. So it’s good things to know as a new driver. I learned some things at home, but it was a little bit here and there. This put everything together in one cohesive place.”

The parents and troop leaders in attendance also had some questions and contributed to the discussion providing their insight from their own driving experience.

3Caption: The Girl Scouts came up with funny jingles to better remember how to be safe and aware on the road and protect the environment.

Dorozynski said, “It’s incredibly important to be prepared. I know that’s something the Girl Scouts live on, but especially as drivers, you can’t be unprepared, especially in the weather we have in Western New York. Being prepared and having everything you need is of the utmost importance.”

She added that awareness is a huge factor in safe driving. Not only awareness of your own actions, but being conscious of what other vehicles around you are doing as well. She also wants girls to feel like it’s okay to ask passengers for help. They can help give directions, respond to messages and calls so that the driver can stay focused.

Joelle Maurer from troop 60835 in Monroe County, said, “They’re just 16 and new drivers. I wanted them to become a little more aware of road safety, as well as awareness. Growing up I didn’t do this, and I still wouldn’t have a clue how to change a tire, so giving them an opportunity to learn this from someone besides mom and dad is a really good tool for them.”

To learn more about Girl Scouts of Western New York, visit gswny.org.

Girl Scouts of WNY connect with the world

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The event started off with high school-level Girl Scouts teaching younger girls fun camp songs.

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Ambassador Scouts Paula Brant, Miranda Mellan, Adeline Kofoed, Kelsey Lubecki, along with Senior scouts Ashley Whipkey and Gabrielle Gasiorek taught the girls the song “Bazooka Bubblegum.”

Girl Scouts from all over Western New York gathered together for the International World Thinking Day event on Sat., Feb. 27, 2016. The theme of the event was “Connect,” which focuses on understanding yourself, relationships with friends and family, and your part in the world and how to make it a better place. Girl Scouts and Girl Guides worldwide spent the day learning about other cultures and working together.

The Girl Scouts of Western New York spent the afternoon at Herbert Hoover Elementary School in Buffalo. There were 150 Girl Scouts from 29 troops.

Bree Kramer, the lead volunteer at the event, said, “I wanted girls to have an opportunity to connect with other Scouts globally and learn about Scouting in other countries.  I was also hoping they could learn about the opportunities available to them as older Scouts.  I was fortunate enough to go on a Destination (then called Wider Opportunity) to Puerto Rico when I was 14 for an Ecology Education program in the rainforest and a Troop final trip around Europe.  Those memories have stayed with me and helped shape the person I am today.  I want other Scouts to know that there is so much more available to them outside their neighborhood and council.”

The Girl Scouts learned about Girl Guides, the International version of Girl Scouts, and their famous lodges which act as headquarters: The Pax Lodge in the United Kingdom, Our Cabaña in Mexico, Our Chalet in Switzerland, and Sangam in India.

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The girls decorated a craft featuring each lodge’s mascot animal using bird seed and crayons.

Another activity featured technology as a way to connect with the world. The Girl Scouts played GeoGuessr, a computer game where you are shown a random view from somewhere in the world and then you click a map to guess where you are. The closer you are, the more points you get. You can use clues from the scene such as the color of dirt, types of trees, style of vehicles, writing on road signs, and more as context clues about the location.

“I really hope the girls learned that even though people in other parts of the world are different, they are also similar to us. The GeoGuessr game they played helped the girls realize that there are many places in the world that look similar to the United States, despite being thousands of miles away,” said Kramer.

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Because STEM is important to the Girl Scouts, technology provided a fun way to get a view of random locations around the world.

The girls also participated in a series of games about working together. The Girl Scouts played a game where you had to keep a ball moving around the circle in a series of half tubes. They also passed a beach ball to each other without using their hands. The girls also played the traditional game of Telephone where the first girl says a phrase to the next and by the time it gets to the last girl you see if the message has become jumbled.

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Daisy Girl Scouts work together to help a ball travel down the line. The cooperative game taught them that tasks aren’t as hard when they solve problems as a group.

The last station the Girl Scouts visited was to learn meditation. Ken Stucynski, a professional martial arts instructor from 8 Tigers Academy of Tai Chi & Chi Kung, taught the Girl Scouts about finding their inner calm and learning how to diffuse stress through thoughtful breathing and carefully listening to the world around them. It helped the girls to connect with themselves, while also mentally reaching out to the world around them.

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Daisy Girl Scouts talk about breathing calmly to help their bodies relax. 

Stucynski commented, “As we get older, we lose more and more touch with what it means to be centered. If children get a glimpse of this and this became a part of learning experience with any regularity, this could create a new type of adult, someone who would be equipped with basic tools to survive and thrive much more than they could otherwise. They wouldn’t have to fix themselves later. It’s a way of dealing with stress instead of trying to Band-Aid it.”

At the end of the day the Girl Scouts earned their World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts USA World Thinking Day Badge, and they fulfilled requirements for their GSUSA Global Action Badge.

Kramer hoped the Girl Scouts enjoyed the event, adding, “I hope they learned that even if they stay locally, there are many new friends and new adventures waiting for them all over Western New York.”

To learn more about the Girl Scouts of Western New York, including opportunities to volunteer, please visit gswny.org.

Rochester Girl Scouts celebrate the world around them

Rochester, NY (Feb. 10, 2016) – On Sat., Feb. 6, the Girl Scout Tekakwitha Service Unit in Rochester held their 4th Annual International Festival at the Rochester School of Medicine to celebrate World Thinking Day. To earn the Girl Scout badge associated with the event the girls devoted time to learning about a country and its culture, then at the festival they shared their knowledge with other Girl Scouts.

Troop leader and event organizer Svanhildur Thorvaldsdottir stated, “It’s really nice for girls, especially in the world today, to learn a lot about things that are going on around them and learn about some countries that they maybe didn’t even know existed. They’ll hopefully gain some understanding of foreign cultures and practices.”

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A troop performs a traditional fan dance from South Korea.

Eleven countries were featured at the event including Jamaica, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Republic of Italy, Canada, Ethiopia, and China. The young Daisy Scouts learned about the United States.

Troop 60054 chose Canada for their World Thinking Day project. They learned about the general customs of the African diaspora, the Caribana celebrations in Toronto, language, and money.

“We picked Canada as a troop because our Junior troop leader is Canadian. Her daughter is a dual citizen in the United States and Canada,” said troop leader Aria Camaione-Lind. “We chose it because we had a resident expert and because the girls were really interested in learning more about one of their troop leaders and troop members.”

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Troop 60054 explains Canada’s love of hockey, their two official languages, and other interesting facts they learned about the country. The Girl Scout on the far left in the red hat and the woman in the moose hat are citizens of Canada.

Several troops took the project to a more interactive level. The Girl Scouts presenting South Korea and Ethiopia performed traditional dances, and the troop that presented Jamaica even sang a song that got the audience to join in and clap along. The Girl Scouts covering China, Italy, Canada, and Germany featured clothing from the countries. Many troops prepared a food from that country for attendees to taste, such as Irish soda bread.

Ambassador Scout Samantha Pollard recalled her trip to Europe for a Girl Scout travel program and how the experience was a great thing to think about for World Thinking Day.

“We first went to Edinburgh in Scotland and then we travelled to London,” she said. “We went to Pax Lodge, the International Girl Guide House. I’d love to do more of that in the future.”

Neely Kelly, a Peace Corps volunteer, spoke with the older girls about her experience traveling to a foreign country and offering assistance.

“The Peace Corps is a program that sends Americans all over the world to volunteer and ostensibly improve the lives of people in third-world countries. It’s like an ambassadorship program,” said Kelly. “It definitely changed me and helped me become a better citizen. I hope [the Girl Scouts] got an understanding about what Peace Corps is and what they do.”

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Troop 63064 explained the colors of the Italian flag mean hope, faith, and charity.

Avalian Rios, a Cadette from troop 63064, explained that her troop had chosen the Republic of Italy, which is the official name for what most people simply call Italy. Rios stated that World Thinking Day had been very eye opening and it was one of the many enjoyable parts of being a scout.

Rios added, “Being in Girl Scouts, you can meet other people, and you get to learn skills that help you move up in life and help you grow up.”

Over 146 countries worldwide participate through their own scouting programs such as the Girl Guides. The Girl Scouts of Western New York World Thinking Day is Sat., Feb. 27.

To learn more about Girl Scouts and the badges they earn, visit gswny.org.

Your daughter is worth more than $12?

The more news I hear about the nearly 300 girls who were abducted from a secondary boarding school in Nigeria, the more troubled I become. Recent developments have revealed that the captors have threatened to sell the girls into marriage in the marketplace for $12 and to use also them as slaves.

Although this tragedy has occurred outside of the United States, my heart goes out to all the families of the young women. My prayer is that as many girls as possible are brought to safety and that punishment is swiftly and justly brought to the captors. Those girls could be our daughters.

Imagine making the decision to send your daughter to a boarding school to get an excellent education in a city where education is the “key” to improving not only their lifestyle, but the lifestyle of their families. You drive away from campus with a lump in your throat and a firm resolve, confident that you are making the best decision for your child. Now, put yourselves into the place of those girls’ parents and imagine getting a call from school officials telling you that your child has been abducted. I cannot imagine! Those beautiful young women’s lives are worth more than $12.

In the United States, we take freedom for granted. I read a quote by former President Ronald Reagan that said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

On the eve of Mother’s Day celebrations across the nation, there are mothers who won’t be celebrating until their daughters return safely home. Individually, there is not much we can do to directly help the parents or the girls. Collectively, we can spread the word to our friends, colleagues, and family about this horrific tragedy. If any child is in danger, our future is in danger.

I’m spreading the word. How about you? #bringbackourgirls