Wesley Chapel Girl Scouts empower other youths

Ask members of Girl Scout Troop 473 what they’ve been up to this past year, and they’ll tell you — they’ve been putting smiles on other kids’ faces.

The Wesley Chapel troop, comprised of eight girls, has been working toward getting its Silver Project Award since August of 2017.

The award requires 50 community service hours, and the young ladies decided to focus on charitable work that was near to their hearts.

Wesley Chapel Girl Scout Troop 473, from left (front row): Sofia Marasco, Lauren Erwin, Kate Niehoff and Isabel Poholsky. From left (back row): Hailey Krall, Mia Marasco, Rachel Sutherland and Adrienne Gammage. (Brian Ferndandes)

Initially, the troop chose the theme of childhood reading for its project because of a sense of gratitude for literature.

“We all like to read,” said Mia Marasco, adding, “we all realize how lucky we are.”

The girls then decided that their efforts would be better spent if they divided into two groups, each group focusing on its own topic.

Eighth-grade students Lauren Erwin, Isabel Poholsky, Sofia Marasco and Kate Niehoff remained focused on childhood reading. The girls, who attend Dr. John Long Middle School, partnered with the United Way Children’s Literacy Program.

The ninth-graders — Mia Marasco, Adrienne Gammage, Rachel Sutherland and Hailey Krall — turned their attention toward helping foster kids. The four Wiregrass Ranch High School students partnered with the Eckerd Connects Foster Care Organization.

Both groups had a bake sale and sold popsicles to raise funds. They took the opportunity to display two presentation boards. Each represented their causes, explaining what they were about and offering interesting facts.

“It was really fun to watch them learn something of reality – budgeting and earning money,” said Mindy Gammage, who hosts scout sleepovers at her home. “It was definitely skill-building.”

The ninth-grade girls used proceeds from their fundraisers to buy supplies to make personal care bags. They filled plastic baggies with daily essentials such as deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes and hairbrushes for foster kids.

“With these bags, they can grab it, and it has everything they need for a week,” said Sutherland,  a Girl Scout for 10 years.

The four scouts were able to create care bags for 20 boys and 20 girls, delivered through Eckerd Connects.

Besides hygienic products, each bag included something extra from the heart.

“We also made personalized quotes of inspiration that when they read it, they can feel happy and look at the positive side of a bad situation,” said Mia Marasco, the project communicator.

Members of Troop 473, from left: Sofia Marasco, Lauren Erwin, Kate Niehoff and Isabel Poholsky stand with their presentation board. The board advocates for child literacy and offers interesting facts. (Courtesy of Girl Scout Troop 473)

The girls also were sponsored by the Ernst and Young Company, which gave them a platform to bring awareness to foster care. They set up their presentation board and enlightened listeners on the subject at the company’s office.

Meanwhile, the eighth-graders strategized the best ways to collect books.

The tutoring organization Life Skills in Action sponsored the girls, setting up a book donation bin within its facility.

The girls advocated for donations at local events. They also used their presentation board to inform others about child literacy.

“It was just a very eye-opening experience to see that other people didn’t know our fun facts,” said Isabel Poholsky, social media director.

The scouts ended up collecting well over 400 books, exceeding their goal of 375.

It was an important milestone for the girls who acknowledged that the thought of kids who are struggling to read makes them feel sad.

Although they accomplished their donations to United Way, it didn’t stop there. The girls took it a step further and became ‘reading pals.’ They volunteered their time in Tampa and Wesley Chapel, sitting down with children to read to them.

“We realized how lucky we were that we had a good school and a good family to help us have a good education,” said Erwin, project organizer. “We would have liked to return the favor.

Reading and offering Girl Scout cookies to the kids made quite an impact. The children didn’t want their ‘reading pals’ to leave, but to stay and read some more, the girls explained.

Aside from their projects, the young ladies enjoy camp-outs, selling cookies and visiting nursing homes. They also have made donations to a pet shelter.

They’ve made it a priority, too, to learn the Girl Scout promise in sign language.

“They always rise to the occasion – multitasking between school, social activities,” said Elizabeth Poholsky, leader of Troop 473.

Now, their attention is set toward achieving the Gold Award.

They haven’t settled on a new project yet, but they’re sharing some ideas.

Troop member Isabel Poholsky is considering the topic of self-confidence, reasoning that’s something that many people struggle with.

Sofia Marasco is focusing on a topic that’s personal to her.

“I want to do it on celiac awareness,” she said, as her own mother suffers from the disease.

The scouts recognize that with each award comes more responsibilities, but said they’re ready for new challenges.

Scout volunteer Alycia Erwin sees the impact that Troop 473 is making — both on the girls personally, and also those they reach out to.

“They really are making a difference in the lives of others, which is the Girl Scout way – making the world a better place.”

For more information about the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida please visit, GSWCF.org, or call (813) 281-4475.

Published September 12, 2018

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