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From 18 girls to 3.2 million, Scout tradition continues

Girl Scouts was founded on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Ga., when Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low brought 18 girls together for a meeting. According to information on the Girl Scouts’ website, Low thought that all girls should be given the chance to develop physically, mentally and spiritually.

The organization’s early goal was to bring girls out of isolated home environments and into the community where they could participate in service projects and enjoy hiking, basketball and camping trips while learning how to tell time by the stars and studying first aid.

Within a few years, Low’s idea for a girl-centered organization was taking off and today there are more than 3.2 million girls and adults active in Girl Scouts. The organization reported that more than 59 million women in the U.S. are alumnae of the organization.

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The My Special Guy & Me Dance gave Girl Scouts the opportunity to wear their party dresses, have their hair twirled into curls and share time with the main men in their lives Saturday when Daisy Troop 440 threw a fundraising shindig in La Plata.

The dance was open to all registered Girl Scouts who could bring their dad, stepdad, grandfather, uncle, brother — whoever the special guy in their life might be — as their date.

The event raised money for the group’s activities fund and community services projects, said co-leader Diane Beuchert, whose daughter Alexandra Ellin, 7, is a Daisy.

The girls of Troop 440 helped make decorations while local businesses made donations to help make the event a success, an event that included a disc jockey, pictures, cookies, cakes, punch and candy.

That the girls and women who planned the dance brought it all together in about a month speaks to how the Girl Scouts prepares members to tackle challenges, brings out leadership skills and fosters a belief in giving back to the community.

“Discover, connect, take action,” said Kathleen Snellings, reading a patch on her daughter Rebekah’s vest that spells out the Girl Scouts’ three keys of leadership. “Courage, confidence, character,” Snellings continued, pointing out another patch. “That’s the motto. All of it ...,” she said looking at the various badges and patches Rebekah, 14, has earned. “All of this is about leadership.”

Rebekah, her twin brother Michael and oldest brother Benjamin, 21, an Eagle Scout, are all involved in Scouting along with dad Mark, who is a Boy Scout troop leader. Rebekah’s older brother Daniel is the odd man out in the family. Scouting didn’t appeal to him, said Snellings, who was a Girl Scout. Instead, Daniel is devoted to studying music.

Rebekah, who has been involved in Scouting since she was in kindergarten, was at the dance representing Troop 6621 selling roses to raise funds for her group’s trip to Canada.

Scouting has taken Rebekah and her peers to places they probably never would have visited, participating in activities they only might have read about.

She credits Scouting with keeping her from being a shrinking violet and giving her opportunities to explore and learn, not just about the community and the world, but about herself.

“I’ve learned a lot of leadership skills, social skills,” Rebekah said. “It’s a really nice experience.”

Joan Landicho’s family is another Scouting bunch. As co-leader of Troop 440 she gets to spend time with her daughter Carolyn, 7, while her husband Ed is a Scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 1709, which includes sons Marc, 14, and Alex, 12. Even though her boys have moved on from Cub Scouts, Landicho continues to volunteer with the younger guys.

“It’s an excellent program,” she said of Scouting. “It teaches leadership skills and independence.”

Rachel Chernoff, 7, joined Girl Scouts because “I knew that it would be fun, and I would get to meet new friends.”

Rachel and her dad Martin came to the dance to support a program that the Chernoffs have a history with. Martin Chernoff is an Eagle Scout and den leader with Cub Scout Pack 415, of which his son Sam, 10, is a member.

Rachel said one of the highlights of being a Girl Scout was when her troop learned first-aid tips and made emergency kits.

“We learned if something was major or something was minor,” she said of injuries and other health issues.

“I’m proud of Rachel being so dedicated,” Martin Chernoff said. “She’s always been social and responsible.”

He remembered his time as a Scout and said he thinks he learned about the program in elementary school when a flier about Scouting was sent home.

“I was very involved in Scouting as a kid. I learned a lot about leadership and organization,” he said.

Now that his kids are Scouts, the tradition will likely continue, something that as a parent Martin Chernoff can encourage.

“Appreciating the outdoors ... they can have fun without electronics,” he said.