“Compassionate, smart, fun, ambitious and lively” is how Jennifer McCray, leader of Girl Scout Troop 447, describes the six girls within her group. Kylie Arthur, Amanda Coats, Olivia Johnson, Kelsey Norris, Madison McCray and Madisson Smith joined the group in the first grade and have been growing and learning together for the past four years. The troop started off at the Daisy level and has formed a tight knit group as they continued up through the ranks of Brownies and currently as Junior Girl Scouts in the fourth grade. The girls are certainly living up to McCray’s description as they set their sights on joining the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
The Komen Race is a 5K walk that helps to raise awareness and uses participation fees and monetary donations to help in the fight against breast cancer. Troop 447 will use the profits raised from their annual cookie sale to pay for their participation fees. McCray and her co-leader, Sydney Gibson, have been with the group since 2008 and encourage the girls active participation in deciding on how they use the money they raise. “Now that our girls are in 4th grade they are getting older and a lot of the decisions are theirs,’ McCray explained. “We help them to think of ideas and we motivate their creativity, but the decision making is all theirs.”
McCray said she suggested trips to Great Wolf Lodge and camping, however, it was the Komen Race that snagged the groups attention. She went on to say that two of the girls have been in previous walks and their enthusiasm to participate again was immediately contagious. “They got the other girls excited and they all immediately started planning things like: What will we wear? Will we color our hair? Should we wear pink shoe strings?” explained McCray.
Their latest meeting was used as both a creativity session as well as learning lesson. During that time the girls put on their thinking caps to come up with a design for a team t-shirt as well as a mini lesson about breast cancer that covered topics such as detection and treatment.
The choice, to put the interest of others before their own, may have been a very personal one for many of the girls as McCray explains, “I was very surprised to hear that at the ages of nine and 10, when the girls were asked if they knew of someone who was currently fighting breast cancer, has survived breast cancer or has lost their life to breast cancer... five of the six girls said, ‘yes’.”
This isn’t the first time Troop 447 has reached out to aid others. They have worked with groups like Samaritan’s Purse; which sends out gifts to underprivileged children around the world and assisted CARITAS in filling care packages for local families. The troop has also aided in local homeless shelters and food pantries. In 2010, the troop banded together to help one of their own when a fire destroyed the home of a fellow girl scout. “Our troop, of very caring girls, gathered toys and clothes for the family. We launched a fundraiser to buy the five children in the family a very special gift.” McCray said.
It is McCray’s wish that valuable and lifelong lessons are learned during time spent in the troop. “I hope my girls learn self-confidence and I hope they learn that they are capable of anything they want in life,” she said. Touching upon the same giving spirit that is inspiring their participation in the 5K, McCray wants the troop “… to always treat others as they would like to be treated. And I hope they learn to love helping others and giving back to their community,” she said
There are two ways the community can join their girls in their efforts to raise donations for the race. The first is by lacing up your shoe strings and joining the girls on May 12 in their 5K walk; an equivalent of 3.10 miles. Kylie Arthur, 10-years-old, reveals that her troop is preparing by walking at one mile twice a week as well as walking as a group before their troop meetings.
McCray said the girls are “inviting anyone and everyone to join their team.” This can be done by going to the Richmond Race for the Cure website (http://www.info-komen.org/site/TR/RacefortheCure/RIC_CentralVirginiaAffi...) and joining the team “Girl Scout Troop 447”. The less physical option can be done by walking your fingertips to the same site and sending donations to the team.
Arthur is in her fifth year of Girl Scouts and is immensely satisfied with her troop’s participation in the walk. “I am proud that our troop decided to use the money to help people instead of doing something like going to an amusement park,” Arthur remarked. The troop has set a personal goal of raising $250 for the cause and Arthur expressed her gratitude for any community aide. “Thank you so much for supporting us and this great cause!”