By Becky Ginos, The Davis Clipper
It’s more than cookies. Girl Scouts have become synonymous with cute little girls selling Thin Mints and Samoas – but that is only a small part of what this program is about.
Girls from kindergarten up to seniors in high school have the opportunity to learn new things while making a difference in the world.
“I got involved because I was a Girl Scout when I was young,” said Sandy Hunsaker, a troop leader for the Francis Peak Girl Scout Community that covers Centerville through South Layton. “It’s a great program. What we like to do is have girls plan the activities. Our troop meets every other week but some meet weekly, it really depends on the troop’s emphasis.”
Hunsaker’s group of 8- and 9-year-olds were looking for a service project and with the help of an older girl, who had already graduated from Girl Scouts, they came up with a plan to fill boxes with items for patients at Primary Children’s Hospital.
Some 70 girls and their leaders converged on a home in Kaysville last Saturday to put together “Sunshine Boxes” with toys, games and activities.
“We decided we wanted to help these kids,” said Hannah Nielson, who has been in Girl Scouts since the fourth grade and is now in college. “We thought boxes with all these toys would make these kids’ day. All the donations came from the troops.”
Hunsaker and Nielson decided to fill the boxes in conjunction with a Girl Scout statewide day of service called “Build a Better Utah” held Saturday.
“Build a Better Utah was designed to give girls and volunteers the opportunity to come together as one Girl Scouts of Utah community to enhance their neighborhoods and demonstrate what Girl Scouts can do for Utah,” said Janet Frasier, Girl Scouts of Utah CEO in a release. “Girl Scouts are making our state a better place by identifying problems in our communities and coming up with innovative solutions to address them.”
More than 1,300 girls and volunteers across the state were expected to participate.
“We wanted to do something that would make a difference in other kids’ lives,” said Nielson. “This is a good way for them to connect with others. We made boxes for boys and girls. We tried to tailor them by asking the girls to think of what they’d like to play with so they would feel involved instead of just putting things in a box and shipping it off.”
Only an hour in, they’d already filled more than 100 boxes and had extra items left over, Hunsaker said.
“I just started with Girl Scouts,” said 9-year-old Sydney Marmdis. “I really like it and I like this service project.”
Nielson said the program helped her become a leader and learn new things.
“One of the biggest events was when I got to go to the National Convention as a delegate,” she said. “I got to vote and we got outdoor badges back in to the program. I also earned my Gold Award. It helped me serve my community and improve the world in my own way.”
To achieve the Gold Award, girls must complete 80 hours of service all on their own, Nielson said.
“It has to be something that will be sustainable for a least a year after you do it,” she said. “It needs to be something you are passionate about. I designed a website to help students learn how to earn their associate’s degree before graduating from high school.”
She said there are bits of information all over the Internet but she wanted to create one central site.
“I went around to 24 schools in the district to talk about the site,” Nielson said. “The district is going to start teaching it in the schools. It’s already had 1,600 views. It’s been amazing.”
Nielson is currently attending Weber State University with a pre-engineering degree. “I want to possibly go into software engineering and I’ll use the tools I’ve learned from Girl Scouts,” she said. “Then I want to transfer to the University of Utah for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.”
Nielson said when people hear she’s involved with Girl Scouts they say, “Where are the cookies?” But she said the program is so much more. “I’ve gone on some amazing trips and places I’ve never gone before. It’s really helped me as a person.”