A dream was born in September of 2011 at our first troop meeting of the year. “This is your troop. What would each of you like to do this year?” I asked. Like Old Faithful, ideas erupted and painted vivid images of possibilities: a trip to Chicago, horseback riding, a Broadway show in New York City, a water park weekend, and so on. The list was endless!
Dori (front row, third from right) and Hazel (front row, second from right) and the rest of Troop 5809 on their trip to Yellowstone.
The Scouts were very excited at the mere thought of taking a big trip. We explored the Girl Scout website and discovered Girl Scout destinations and other getaways all over the world. We discovered the Etoquinnow House in Cody, Wyoming. I explained that it IS possible to live your dream with proper planning. Some dreams may take more than one year to achieve. The total cost of the trip was $6,000. We would need to sell a lot of cookies!
The greatest challenge was securing enough chaperones. Circumstances prevented other mothers from helping. Two fabulous fathers, Paul and Frank, volunteered to go, but I needed another woman. I prayed for a solution. Hazel Christensen was the answer to my prayers.
My daughter, Laura, was part of the Racine/Kenosha chapter of GSWISE Youth Leadership Council (YLC) and every January they have blood drive. Even though I am terrified of needles, I simply had to donate blood. While in line, I met Hazel and we instantly became friends. Her enthusiasm for Girl Scouting was evident from the start. She shared some of her favorite memories of Girl Scouting as a youth and her ongoing volunteering. When I shared our dream trip, she offered to chaperone. At the time it was too early to determine when or if the trip would happen and we parted ways.
At the conclusion of individual cookie selling, we were halfway to earning enough money to fund the trip. With cookie booths, I was confident we could do it. Hazel agreed to attend a few troop meetings and chaperoned a few events to get to know the girls. From the start, Hazel became a beloved part of our troop.
Shortly before our trip last June, Hazel confided in me that she had early onset dementia and wanted to do as much as possible for Scouts before the dementia advanced. Naturally, this concerned me; however, word recall was her only symptom so we proceeded with the trip and everything turned out very well.
As I reflect on our Great Wyoming Adventure, feelings of joy, gratitude and pride surge from within. The girls dared to dream, pursue, AND make their dream come true. The fortitude of my Girl Scouts, supportive parents, the power of a cookie, and Hazel Christensen all worked together to make this trip happen. Hazel embodies the essence of Girl Scouting. She lives the mission every day and helps girls build courage, confidence and character and she makes the world a better place. It is for this reason that this blog is dedicated to Hazel.
Troop 5809 Leader
When I think back, the girls, especially at their age, were just wonderful. When we saw Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse and the Mammoth Site, they were in awe and appreciated every moment. My favorite part was the Mammoth Site. The girls participated in simulated excavation in a large sand pit where they learned how to properly dig for bones and identify them. After the dig, we entered the giant sinkhole that was formed over 26,000 years ago and it the largest sinkhole in the world.
The girls accepted me and treated me with such kindness just as they did to each other. Whatever task needed to be done, the Girl Scouts cheerfully volunteered. While driving, we talked and laughed and enjoyed the scenery and each other. It was incredibly special.
Has a volunteer, parent, or community member stepped in to make a big difference in your troop? Share in the comments below.