Many men, women and children across the globe have shoes on their feet this year, thanks to the combined efforts of the Maple Grove Girl Scouts and the Soles 4 Souls organization. Every third week of June, the girls meet for fun at Lights and Lakes Day camp. But according to program coordinator Cathy Tarman, the camp’s content is designed to develop leaders and global citizens. “It’s for girls in 2nd through 12th grade, and a leadership camp for the older girls,” she says.
The theme of last year’s camp was The Amazing Race, which sparked an idea on the leadership team. “Race, shoes, Soles 4 Souls. That should be our community service project!” Tarman says, recalling an idea by one team member.
Throughout the week, the girls logged a record 774 shoes for Camp Elk River, collected from friends and family. Their efforts benefitted children and adults both in the United States and around the world. “It felt good to help people that have less than I do,” says 10th grade camper Madison Ahlgren. “Donating shoes was great because many kids around the world have to walk far distances and that would be hard barefoot. Shoes help keep their feet from getting hurt,” she says.
Every year the camp works to have a community service project relevant to their theme, encouraging the 300 scouts in attendance to reach out and help those in the world around them. During the week, older scouts are recognized for their gold, silver, and bronze awards—an incentive for the younger campers. “We want to instill in all of our girls the need to outreach, and work on global citizenship,” Tarman says.
One of the young women who took this idea to heart is Olivia Trudeau. She submitted a proposal for a Gold Award her senior year at Maple Grove High School. “I wanted the opportunity to impact my community and it was the natural progression in the Girl Scout experience,” Trudeau says.
According to Karla Leitzman, River Valley Girl Scouts fund development associate, a Gold Award is quite an undertaking. “In order to earn this, there are prerequisites the girls need to complete, as Olivia did, even before submitting a proposal. A minimum of 80 hours needs to be spent doing active leadership, directing and facilitating all aspects of their project, and needs to be sustainable after they’re done. Last year we had about 70 girls complete their Gold Award. It is very exciting.”
Trudeau waited until her senior year in large part because she wanted to find an idea she was passionate about. Addressing mental health awareness and the stigma surrounding it caught her attention. “My project was titled ‘Peer to Peer: Stamping out Stigma,’” Trudeau says. It took the entire year to complete and she turned in the final paperwork on the day she moved to college.
“The biggest help pursuing my Gold Award came from community members and my peers who were equally invested in my project. The biggest take-away was the drive to persist despite red tape. I had to work within certain guidelines of the schools while casually pushing past some of the limits. I learned to work within boundaries while maintaining my vision,” Trudeau says.
The program continues, despite Trudeau’s moving on to college. It underlines the Girl Scout mission statement from 1912: “Build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”