Raising the bar among future Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSSI), O’Fallon’s Lainey Brown did what most teenage girls wouldn’t when it came to helping her local community for her arduous Girl Scout Gold Award project—she dove into Alzheimer’s awareness, Karlene Hoefener, GSSI Troop No. 915 leader, said.
“O’Fallon is a hotbed of Gold Awards (recipients),” Jay Strobel, GSSI chief communications officer, said. “There’s a lot of work that goes into these projects over a period of about a year, for the Girl Scouts planning with volunteers and donors, as well as mentoring from troop leaders and community members, not to mention all the time, creativity and ingenuity it requires.”
Brown, along with seven other girls from the O’Fallon-Shiloh area, received the Gold Award last month, which is the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn. Not only was Brown recognized for her Gold Award, but she also earned the Girl Scout Trifecta Award, according Strobel.
“Lainey is an amazing young woman,” Strobel said. “The Trifecta is given to girls for having completed her Girl Scout Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards during her journey as a Girl Scout, which in Lainey’s case was a 12-year run. And finally, she was named an Outstanding Graduating Girl Scout and received a $500 scholarship, which is a very select process.”
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The following girls also earned the Trifecta Award last month: Kaylynn Clement of Troop 915-O’Fallon; Alexander Lloyd of Troop 1123-O’Fallon; Caitlynn Rosenberg of Troop 915-O’Fallon; Tera Sparks of Troop 915-O’Fallon; and Krista Van Driel of Troop 915-O’Fallon. In addition, Kathryn Stacy of Troop 915-Shiloh did receive her Gold Award, according to Hoefener.
Brown chose to focus on working with two area nursing homes to help improve residents’ lives.
“I knew that I wanted my project to benefit the elderly,” Brown said. “I have always had a passion for volunteering and visiting at nursing homes.”
Brown especially wanted to help Alzheimer’s patients. She created two sensory boards to help patients with everyday obstacles. She also made more than 100 sensory bags to help improve memory skills. She brought in a guitarist, and working with staff, engaged residents’ memories through music. She also held a party at each facility, with homemade blankets and other items as door prizes and for winners of games she led. Along with helping residents, she also provided books about Alzheimer’s for facility staff to read.
“I have learned through my Girl Scout Gold Award project that with passion, dedication and ambition, I can truly accomplish anything I set my mind to,” she said. “Nothing feels as good as knowing I have positively affected the lives of others.”
Brown is the daughter of Katherine Brown. She is currently a senior at O’Fallon Township High School and plans to attend Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in the fall to study Nursing.
“Lainey is such a positive and outgoing person with goals that far surpass what most teenage girls have on their minds at her age,” Hoefener explained.
The Girl Scout Gold Award recognizes a Girl Scout’s commitment to excellence as she develops skills and values to meet present and future challenges in her life. To earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, a Girl Scout Senior or Girl Scout Ambassador must design and carry out a project that fulfills a need within a girl’s community, creates change and is sustainable. The project must be completed with a suggested minimum of 80 hours of work.
Only about 6 percent of eligible girls earn the prestigious Gold Award.
“A lot is expected of these girls in general as a Girl Scout, period, but then you have this handful of girls within each community that really keep raising the bar for their peers and those to follow in their footsteps,” Stobel explained. “Those elite young ladies that make up that 6 percent of girls are being honored with the prestigious Gold Award.”
According to Hoefener, Brown worked extensively on research to keep residents and their family and friends abreast with the latest studies and available resources for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s.
“Penny Pejka, my co-leader, and I were both brought to tears while watching Lainey interact with the residents during her time with residents at the nursing homes,” Hoefener said. “It’s just not very common to see a young teenager be able to not only interact with the elderly, but to relate with them and have fun with them too—it was priceless.”
The Gold Awards, Trifecta Award and scholarships were awarded Saturday, March 28, at the GSSI’s 6th annual meeting at Rend Lake Resort with a full house of well over 400 people in attendance, according to Strobel. Megan Kraus of Waterloo and Deanna Hohgrefe of Chester both received the Outstanding Graduating Girl Scout scholarship as well.
Today, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. is the largest voluntary organization for girls in the world. Its sole focus is to meet the needs of all girls (ages 5-17) from diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Today’s Girl Scouts not only enjoy camping and crafts, but they also explore math and science and learn about diversity, good citizenship, leadership and teamwork. Girl Scouting is the place where girls experience the fun, friendship and power of girls together.
Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois is a not-for-profit organization supported by various United Ways throughout the region. The Girl Scouts is a Proud Partner of United Way. For more information, call Erin Johnson at (618) 692-0692.