Hilton Girl Scouts earn Silver Award with new gaga ball pit

[The following story was shared with GSWNY by Troop 60437. To share your story, please email communications@gswny.org]

Three girls from Girl Scouts of Western New York’s Troop 60437 recently earned their Girl Scout Silver Award. Natalie Porter, Tiffany Wenzel, and Emily Richards created a gaga ball pit at their local park.

The Girl Scout Silver Award can be earned by Cadette Girl Scouts who are in sixth, seventh, or eighth grade. The goal is for girls to identify an issue in the community that they care about then develop a sustainable project that helps to solve the problem. The goal is to find the root of the problem and create solutions that will have a lasting impact.

The girls learned how to play gaga ball at Girl Scout camp and they wanted to share their love of the game with others in their community. Originally they proposed a wooden pit to their town board. The town loved the idea, but requested the girls use composite lumber to create a low-maintenance and long-lasting project, which meant a higher cost. The girls raised money for their project by applying for a grant and also running a bottle drive. Local businessman,  Keith Wrisley of LJ’s Remodeling, Inc., saw their bottle drive and donated the remaining cost of the project, as well as some building materials. Hilton-Parma Parks & Recreation also donated a concrete and rubber base to further ensure the project would remain low maintenance and sustainable. The girls were also able to add an ADA door to the pit so children of all abilities could access the pit and enjoy the game. The gaga ball pit is located at the Parma Town Hall.

The girls’ troop co-leader, Melissa Wenzel, stated, “We are so proud of the girls. This project had its challenges, and the girls got discouraged at points, but they persevered and were so pleased when the project was finished!”

Their other co-leader, Chrissy Porter, added, “The girls could not have completed the project without the generous sponsorships they received. The girls had a vision but it was the support of the town and our donor who made it possible.”

Girl Scout Tiffany Wenzel said, “The project was difficult but I had a lot of fun planning and working toward the final product. I am so glad we stuck it out and were able to accomplish something so big that the whole community can enjoy. I truly believe we have made a lasting impact on the community and I’m proud of what we have done.”

The Girl Scouts wanted to thank everyone who assisted with the project through donations and support.

Tom Venniro, the Hilton-Parma Parks & Recreation Director, stated, “The Town of Parma is thrilled to have a brand new gaga pit at Parma Town Park thanks to the generous donations from Girl Scout Troop 60437 and a private funder. The troop came to me back in May of 2019 with a very impressive proposal and worked incredibly hard to support the project and ultimately complete all phases of installation. Parma Town Park has so many great amenities, but did not have a permanent gaga pit, so this adds such a great element as gaga has been one of the fastest growing games/activities over the past five to six years. Upon completion of the build, the troop members hopped in and started playing immediately and although we still look forward to some finishing touches, we have already seen children intuitively hop in the pit and play in the short time it has been up, despite colder weather conditions. It is our pleasure to be able to thank Troop 60437 for a new park amenity that will bring joy to our community for years to come.”

Memories from a Hi-Adventure volunteer

Girl Scouts of Western New York recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, but the history of Girl Scouts runs much deeper in the area. Prior to becoming one, our legacy councils served their girls with unique and unforgettable programs.

One such program was Hi-Adventure, an outdoor experience for girls in Niagara County. They would learn outdoor skills and venture into the wilderness for seven to 10 day trips where they would backpack, camp, and canoe.

Recently, one of the program volunteers reached out to us to share some of his memories and photos from his time leading trips with Hi-Adventure.

Dean Johnson, pictured above in a tipping test, was a canoeing instructor who started his time with Girl Scouts as a one-time volunteer helping girls in a pool learn about canoeing. Soon he became a part of the Hi-Adventure program, helping to lead several trips.

After going through his photos, Dean sent along all the photos in this post (and promises to send more!).

Since our beginning, Girl Scouts have been passionate about getting outdoors. In fact, one of the main goals of Girl Scouting in the beginning was getting girls involved in physical activities outside. Juliette Gordon Low even established the first Girl Scout camp in 1921.

Volunteers like Dean have helped us continue Juliette’s mission and help girls get outside and find adventure. Hi-Adventure no longer exists, but its spirit lives on in our outdoor programs and camps.

Girl Scouts in Western New York show their spirit!

On Friday, October 4, Girl Scouts of Western New York held its first annual Girl Scout Spirit Day! Members of our council were invited to wear their Girl Scout gear and show off their pride.

More than straight spirit, we also held a contest to give away prizes for our participants. Two adults and two girls were randomly selected to win $25 GSWNY shop gift certificates and Girl Scout swag bags, respectively.

We received submissions from all around our council and selected four winners!

Visit Facebook to check out all our participants!

Girl Scout Spirit Day Album

It wasn’t just our members – our staff wore their Girl Scout gear too! Check out our album here.

10 Tips to make Back-to-School a breeze

Labor Day Weekend has come and gone, meaning it’s time for many students in Western New York to head back to school. Instead of letting all the changes disrupt everything, try these 10 tips that can help make going back to school a breeze!

1. Determine your routine

Before you can iron out the rest of the details, you need to determine what your routine is going to look like. Start with what you know – your schedule and your kids schedules – and work from that. Once you have a basic idea, you can add other pieces in and figure out the the planner/schedule that works for you.

2. Establish a family calendar

Using a family calendar is a great way to keep track of what everyone is doing through the week and/or month, depending on the style you choose. Don’t just write the events – schedule a meeting each week to go over them with everyone.

3. Set up screen time rules

This might be something you keep all year long, but if you’ve been less strict over the summer, now is the time to bring back restrictions. Set boundaries with your children about how often they can be on their devices and make sure you take them out of their rooms at night to remove temptation.

4. Keep to a bedtime and wake up schedule

Sleep routines are easily maintained with consistent times when you go to bed and wake up. Set a schedule for both weekdays and weekends so your children develop a rhythm that will promote more restful sleep habits.

5. Don’t overschedule

With everything new going on, it’s easy to say yes to everything and lose out on valuable family time. Refer to your calendar and routine to make sure something is feasible before agreeing – periods of rest are important for family members of all ages.

6. Get ready the night before

Another great habit to get your kids into is preparing for school the night before. Teach them how to pick out their clothes and pack their bag and lunch. This will make the morning go smoothly and help them learn organization and planning skills.

7. Talk to your kids about going back to school

Get a read on how your kids feel about going back to school. Some may be forthright in their worries and excitement, but others might need some encouragement. Learn about their anxieties and help quell them where possible.

8. Take care of yourself

In the hustle and bustle of managing the lives of your children, it might get easier to forget about yourself. Self-care is one of the best ways to keep you high-functioning because it allows you time to pause and think about your own needs as well instead of getting overwhelmed and burnt out.

9. Choose afterschool activities

While you don’t want to add too many activities in, finding at least one or two can be invaluable for your children. From the skills they learn to the fun they’ll have, it’s a nice way to keep them involved.

Of course, our number one recommendation for girls is Girl Scouts 🙂

10. Find more resources from Girl Scouts

As the school year progresses, you might want more resources about dealing with particular issues. Whether you want more back-to-school tips or help raising awesome girls, they have an amazing library of articles to help you!

We have more than 200 reasons why you should renew

With September days away and the new membership just beyond that, the time has come for On-Time Renewal. This is when our members are invited to renew their memberships with us for another year of Girl Scouts.

Coming back means another year of making new friends, going on adventures, learning new skills, and so much more. Even better, we have more than 200 reasons we can give you about why you should return.

In our Program and Outdoor Guides, you’ll find more than 200 opportunities for our Girl Scouts. Whether they want to pursue science, fashion, history, the outdoors, and everything in between, we have something for them.

Our goal is to provide our girls (and adults!) with amazing experiences they can’t get anywhere else. We keep adding more to make sure every girl can pursue her passion, whatever it looks like.

Don’t miss out on all our amazing programs! Renew your membership today!

GSWNY Staff Celebrate Skills and Chills!

Every year, girls gather at Camp Seven Hills for the culmination of their Outdoor Adventure Training Sequence. It begins for Daisies and Brownies at Tents Up and continues for Juniors and Cadettes at Ready, Set, Camp, all leading to Skills and Chills for Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors.

What began as a Niagara Legacy Council program has turned into one of our most cherished traditions. This year, we’re celebrating 50 years of Skills and Chills! While the weekend is sure to be incredible, GSWNY council staff wanted to take some time to experience the event like our Girl Scouts.

Keeping with tradition, we formed teams, picked themes, and dressed for the occasion!

Pictured are a few of our themes, including the ‘Spice’ Girls, Wonder Women, Time Travelers (they were our timekeepers!), Terrible Twos, Space Cadettes, and Sharks (think the ‘Baby Shark’ song).

We competed in four of the activities found at Skills and Chills, including knot-tying, cookie-box stacking, fire-building, and tent-pitching. A special Tug-of-War was held at the end to be a tie-breaker!

After a day filled with laughter and friendly competition, we ended our Skills and Chills with a Friendship Circle.

Not only did we enjoy a day of team-building at one of our beautiful camps, we all gained a new appreciation for everything our girls learn in preparation for the real Skills and Chills. We did less than half of the events they do and had much easier rules. It’s truly amazing to see what our Girl Scouts can do!

If you’re interested in learning more about Skills and Chills or registering for the 50th anniversary event happening September 27-29, 2019, visit gswny.org.

New Council Patch Contest for 2019!

We want a new patch for our council and we’re asking the best designers we know – YOU! Girls of all levels, Daisies to Ambassadors, are invited to submit a hand-drawn design to represent Western New York.

The theme is Western New York, meaning your design should feature something that makes you think of the local area. Be careful not to use branded items, like the Buffalo Bills, restaurant names, etc.

When you hand-draw your design, you can make it any shape you want, but we’re asking for a maximum of eight colors, including black and white. Any utensils can be used to design, including markers, crayons, paint, and colored pencils.

Once done, you must mail or hand deliver your design to council so we can have the original artwork to consider in the contest. If you win, there may be changes to your design in the translation to patch, but the concept will remain.

Oh yeah, we also have prizes! The winner will receive:

• (1) new council patch of her design (shipping from the patch vendor may take several weeks)

• (1) $50 GSWNY Gift Certificate

• (1) framed print of the patch design

• A photo taken with the CEO and a press release to the media in the girl’s local area, plus a GSWNY blog post of the press release

• (1) new GSWNY CEO patch

Good luck, Girl Scouts! The learn more or download the form, click here.

DOWNLOAD THE CONTEST FORM