The Girl Scout and the Lady’s Slipper

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By Darcy Downing, Girl Scout Alumnae from Pagosa Springs who is also a Service Unit Leader and Troop #2927 Leader

The early jitters of Girl Scout camp faded into the first sunset as we grabbed each others’ hands in our first friendship circle and sang “The Friendship Song.”

Camp leaders announced their names like characters in a Tom Sawyer tale.  Not the normal names, but adventure names like Star-Fall and Dancing Hawk, True Bear and Blue Bird. We all tried like mad to discover their real names, but the Girl Scout Ambassadors were too smart for our Nancy Drew attempts.  It was the summer of 1983.

We were taught that morning about leaving no trace behind.  A Colorado native, I hung on to every word as descriptions of rare flowers were pressed into my mind.

Don’t get me wrong; I loved my pocketknife and the safety class, the camp songs, my name carved into a piece of wood and strung around my neck; I even loved sleeping in a tent with girls I barely knew, but the day I found the rare Lady’s Slipper was the day I knew Girl Scouts had an answer to offer me in my quest for self-discovery.  That Lady’s Slipper, the rare and beautiful pink flower, standing unnoticed mid-trail, mirrored my own awkward pre-teen stance.  I might as well have been given Cinderella’s glass slipper, only a woods variety, and hope that I had something significant to contribute to the world of pre-adolescents.

I did have something to offer that world– three daughters of my own and a passion to empower youth.  After 10 years of raising kids, I returned to college and earned my Masters in Community Counseling.  I counseled a few years for mental health only to discover I yearned for more “out there” in there! My middle daughter had been a Girl Scout since kindergarten and after bridging up into Brownies she lost her leader.  A good friend took over the troop and asked me to co-lead until she became ill and could no longer run the troop.

Quite unintentionally I inherited the troop and my desire to contribute to the world of pre-adolescents echoed up from the canyons of my past as I found myself face to face with a multi-level troop teeming with eleven, twelve and thirteen year olds.  We earned badges, participated in Fight Like a Girl,  hiked, cleaned up garbage, made stuff, sold cookies and did Power Up, Girl Scouts of Colorado’s bullying prevention program.

But what I remember most is not sleeping on a hard floor at an overnighter with my Girl Scouts and watching them sing and dance and giggle. We danced a different kind of trail and lined up like we were going hiking to the beat of the Cotton Eyed Joe. Then we had a slipper contest that night with slippers all in a row and I remembered another kind of slipper on the trail at Meadow Mountain Ranch in the summer of 1983 and I smiled.

Girl Scouts is embarking on a historic year as we mark our 100th anniversary on March 12, 2012. During this year of celebration, we invite alumnae, just like Darcy, to share their Girl Scout stories with us. Stories and photos can be emailed to Alumnae are also invited to learn more about Girl Scouts of Colorado and the many opportunities there are to help keep the leadership legacy growing.  

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