It’s one thing to sell Girl Scout cookies outside Stop & Shop to earn a good deed badge. It’s another to commit substantial time to raise enough money to help people much less fortunate feel better around the holidays.
The girls of Wilton’s Girl Scout troop 50310 have spent the last four months working to raise money to help people through the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. The 13 fifth graders decided to do enough fundraising to purchase sleeping bags and personal care supplies for adults and children without stable homes or places to sleep.
“We had an idea that we would raise money for kids whose parents might have lost their job or something, and they have to sleep one different place each night, or they don’t have a lot of money. So we were raising money to get sleeping bags so that if they had to move around they would have something they could call their own. We also got ‘bedtime bags’—packed with toothbrush, toothpaste, a bar of soap, a stuffed animal and a book,” Gracie McDevitt, a troop member, explained.
The troop undertook the project as part of their effort to earn a Bronze Award. The Bronze Award gives Junior Girl Scouts the chance to define what's important to them and make a difference in the lives of those around them. Girl Scouts must complete a project of at least 15 hours that demonstrates leadership skills and commitment to the community.
For troop 50310, they were able to raise enough money to give away 70 sleeping bags and 110 bedtime bags. To do so, they planned out several activities to raise the money needed to purchase everything they planned to give away. Each girl worked separately or in teams on ideas they contributed.
Troop member Elizabeth Cameron described some of the activities the girls did. “We had a bike-a-thon, and we each biked 16 miles in Yonkers, NY. Our troop worked to get donations for each mile we biked. We also had a bake sale at a soccer game, and we sold a lot there. We raised $1,500.”
Lilly Casiraghi added, “We went to Walmart a couple times to get gift cards so we could buy the sleeping bags. They donated three cards and we bought 70 sleeping bags and things for bedtime bags too.”
Troop leaders added that part of the goal was to involve the community in their efforts when possible. The Friends school saw one of the flyers the troop put up and donated 35 complete bedtime bags; Dr. Molinaro in Ridgefield donated six dozen toothbrushes and toothpastes; and the Toy Chest and Carluzzi’s also contributed some items.
Kimberly Cameron, one of the mothers who leads the troop, pointed out that because they girls traveled to Bridgeport to help distribute the items, they were able to learn significant lessons. “It would not have been the same if they had just raised the money and bought the stuff. The fact that they were there, and they saw the people, that they were there to help, and that they got that gratification, really made an impact.”
The girls echoed the sentiment in their descriptions of what it was like to help distribute the items they’d collected.
“It’s not always about helping yourself, but you need to help other people,” Alexsis Kaine said. “I really didn’t think we could achieve getting that many bedtime bags and that many sleeping bags, so it showed me that with a good group of friends, you can really achieve a lot.”
“It made me feel good, giving back to the community,” Nicole Saxon added. “We felt blessed because we have a bunch of things, we have already soap and toothbrushes, but they don’t. So we felt really fortunate that we have those things. We see how we take things for granted.”
For 10- or 11-year-old girls, learning that a toothbrush was a gift worth appreciating became a valuable life lesson.
“I was giving a bag to a woman and I asked which toy her daughter would want. She said her daughter would appreciate anything they gave her. It made me think that we need to appreciate our things more. When we do have a lot, really think we need more. People that are less fortunate think they have lots, even when they don’t,” Lilly Casiraghi said.