By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
It was an emotional morning as I gathered some materials for the weekly Girl Scout meeting on Wednesday. While our troops always have a party on the last meeting day, last week was even more special to me.
It was my last day as troop leader of the Colony Elementary Girl Scouts.
The experience has been bittersweet. There have been frustrations and issues over the past four years when I volunteered to become the troop leader. There have been wonderous learning experiences from the many girls who have recited the Girl Scout Promise and put on their vests and sashes and walked away with some character building skills that, hopefully, they learned while in Girl Scouts.
One of the most memorable events was in my rookie year as troop leader when our troop participated in an overnight camping trip at the Optimist Club Camp. We (two other adult helpers and myself) thought being in a supervised setting and inside a cabin would be more convenient and full of activities than attempting such a trip on our own.
We were right--and wrong.
Many of this group had never been camping before and the excitement level was skyrocketing higher and higher as we three leaders got “tired-er and tired-er.” We were housed in ‘the dorm’--a large cabin divided into two sections. Each section had two separate sides with about 20 bunk beds per section.
Despite having a supper and snack, the girls quickly devoured the few snacks we’d brought with us. We hoped a campfire sing-along would help settle them down for the night, but again, we were proven wrong.
As we lay there in the dark, well after 11 p.m., the chatter of the girls was incessant. The more we urged silence, the more whispers we heard. The reflection of flashlights In the darkness initiated words of confiscation, but even in the pitch black of night, some of the girls slipped from their bunk to sit with a friend on another bunk. Others slid across the floor, trying to keep the adults from detecting their movement, to reach their friend. Their comraderie might have been successful had they not tried to fit six girls in one bunk bed, causing one to fall out and alert the three adults to the situation.
While we tried futilely to settle our troop down for the night amidst their groans of hunger, we could see the shine of a flashlight of the troop on the other side of our section. We could hear the crunch of potato chips and whispers of “pass me a sandwich” as our girls licked their lips and the moonlight reflecting in their eyes was reminiscent of a starving wild animal in search of food.
Finally, somewhere between midnight and 3 a.m., we got some rest, only to be up again by 8 a.m. To the complete surprise of the adults, these girls were up bright and early, getting showers and readying themselves for the next jaunt of their camping experience. Breakfast, though minimal, stiffled their growling stomachs temporarily, while we participated in more activities during the morning hours before trying to settle them down enough to clean up and pack up.
That was the only time we as a troop ever went camping. The experience has left memories that my assistant leader, Flossie Vaughn, and I will never forget.
Nor will we forget all the girls who participated in Girl Scouts during our tenure or the many things we all learned together. I encourage every girl to be involved in Girl Scouts and for parents to be active participants as well. If you are worried about the future of our society, the Girl Scout program is one assurance that character, community, concern and compassion will be instilled in the lives of these young girls.
It is an experience you won’t forget.