Gurnee Girl Scout Creates Honor Guard for Fallen Firefighters

Gurnee Girl Scout Creates Honor Guard for Fallen Firefighters

NBC certainly made a hit with their show “Chicago Fire” and helped bring awareness to viewers about the trials and dangers of being an active firefighter, but one Girl Scout wanted to make a deeper impression with her Silver and Gold Awards.

Lauren Constantino of Troop 41413 in Gurnee, Illinois wanted to honor fallen firefighters in her Gold Award project and founded the Girl Scout Honor Guard for Fallen Fire Fighters (GSHGFFF). Her mission as State Commander of GSHGFFF is to promote public awareness and honor those who have sacrificed their lives in duty, as well as the honor guards and families.

“While I was working on getting together my flag training and volunteers for my Silver Award, I had an idea of creating my own honor guard, and to make something bigger out of what we were already trying to accomplish,” Lauren said. “Honor guards are a large aspect of my life. My dad was my inspiration for the project, because not only is he a fallen firefighter, but also he began the honor guard at the Gurnee Fire Department and participated in the state and national firefighter honor guards.”

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Lauren and her GSHGFFF team proudly participate in the Annual Honor Guard Convention at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois.

Since GSHGFFF’s founding in January 2015, Lauren and her 15 other members have performed many flag ceremonies, led color guards, participated in Memorial Day parades, as well as multiple events with Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois Honor Guard (AFFI HG) since May 2015.

“The most defining moment is when we were at the Illinois Fire Fighter Memorial ceremony. Our state governor actually talked about us in his speech!” Constantino said.  “It has been so amazing just to see the acceptance and support for the Girl Scout Honor Guard for Fallen Fire Fighters.”

Lauren, as well as the other Girl Scouts who helped her on this journey, were not only able to honor the firefighters, but also the Girl Scouts as they completed trainings, drills and events. Her project has even brought her closer to pursuing a career in law enforcement and possibly ROTC as she enters college in fall 2017. Her family, including her brother, who is a firefighter, is very proud of her accomplishments.

“It is not just a Gold Award project,” said Lauren. “It is an official, established honor guard to support and honor those who put themselves before us every day and put their lives on the line for us, as well as the families who stand by them, and the honor guard members who never forget them.”

For more information about the GSHGFFF, an application to join, or to start your own chapter, email Lauren at

Valparaiso Girl Scouts ‘Take Action’ for Camp Butternut Springs

Valparaiso Girl Scouts ‘Take Action’ for Camp Butternut Springs

Troop 30364, from St. Paul Catholic School in Valparaiso, Indiana, took a “sit” against littering and for recycling at nearby Camp Butternut Springs and donated a bench made out of 400 pounds of recycled plastic water bottle caps.

The plaque on the bench reads: “Enjoy resting on this bench made of 400 lbs. of plastic caps – a Porter County Community recycling project made possible by Brownie Scout Troop #30364 and Pines Village Retirement Communities, Inc. 2016.”

The troop delivered the bench in April with the help of Pines Village Retirement Community’s CAPs Crew, which cleans, sorts and bundles un-recyclable plastic bottle caps.

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Troop 30364 from Valparaiso, Indiana worked with a local retirement community to create a bench made from plastic bottle caps.


Members of the troop came up with the idea to create a sustainable bench while earning their Brownies Quest Keys Award.

“Through this award, we learned that together their three Keys – Discover, Connect, and Take Action – unlock the meaning of leadership,” they explained. “To earn our last Key, we had to take action somehow in our community.”

The girls decided that recycling would be their focus and started their research.  They came across an article from Pines Village Retirement Community about transforming recycled caps into benches, and decided to partner with the crew. With the help of Lu Krieger-Blake and some of their Girl Scout Cookie sales money, they participated in a program called “A Bench For Caps.”

Troop members Dina Nguyen, Kylie Starkey and Elise Maxey thought that the hardest part of the project was collecting 400 pounds of clean, non-metal, plastic caps.  According to the community’s website, these caps can include:

  • Snap-On cottage cheese, coffee can, and yogurt lids
  • Twist-on medicine, drink, and milk bottles, including the ring
  • Flip-top ketchup and condiment bottles
  • Large twist-off lids (such as detergent)
  • Spout lids (such as squirt mustard)

While there were some challenges to the project, they said the most fun was when they went to the Pines Village Retirement Community and met with Lu and the CAPs Crew.

“We spent time with them sorting caps while learning about each other,” said the girls.  “Before we left we sang them our favorite Girl Scout anthem: ‘Make New Friends.’ It was a great time and we can’t wait to go back!”

This project has inspired their troop to make more change in the world by continuing to save caps and work with Pines Village Retirement Community CAPs Crew. In doing this, they hope to help put brand new sustainable and eco-friendly benches around the community for people to enjoy, all while keeping plastic caps from ending up in landfills.

“We are so proud of our Brownie Troop 30364,” said troop leader Diane Nguyen.

“And we look forward to many adventures in the future!” said troop leader Tiffany Maxey.

Chicago Girl Scout Sells 13K Boxes of Cookies

Chicago Girl Scout Sells 13K Boxes of Cookies

What does it take to be a Cookie Boss?

For Giada Gambatese, the top cookie seller for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI), it takes perseverance, a bit of tech savviness and some serious networking skills.

In her third year of selling Girl Scout Cookies, the 8-year-old Girl Scout Brownie who lives in Chicago, sold more than 13,000 boxes of cookies. About 12,000 of those boxes were donated to the council’s Gift of Caring program, which sends Girl Scout Cookies to military personnel.

Contributing to Gift of Caring was especially important to Giada, whose grandfather served in the Marines.

“It’s important because we care about soldiers,” she said.

When Giada, whose favorite Girl Scout Cookies are Thin Mints, found out she was the council’s top seller, she was ecstatic. She originally wanted to sell enough cookies to earn a laptop, but once she surpassed that goal, she decided to go for the top prize: a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

“I want to ride all the rides and meet Merida from Brave because she looks like me,” Giada, a member of Troop 20073, explained.

In order to achieve her sales goal, Giada made videos and sent them to prospective customers. When she grows up, she wants to become a professional YouTuber.

“My father is part of the President’s Club, so we targeted his business connections and they were very generous,” said Giada’s mom, Gianna Franzia.

As the Girl Scout who sold the most cookies in GSGCNWI, Giada is also a member of the elite Cookie CEO group, which consists of the top five sellers in the council. Cookie CEOs enjoy a busy day at the GSGCNWI’s Chicago office meeting with the council CEO, Nancy Wright; holding an all-staff conference call, lunch and much more.

“It’s like being a celebrity,” Giada’s dad, Michael Gambatese, said. “It’s very, very cool.”

As a gesture of goodwill, Giada also sent customized thank-you cards to all of her customers.

“We want to teach her to show appreciation for every customer,” her dad said. “It sets you apart.”

Nearly 40,000 Girl Scouts sold 4.6 million packages of cookies in greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana during the 2016 Girl Scout Cookie Program. Next year marks the centennial celebration of Girl Scout Cookies.

Downers Grove Teen Earns Girl Scout Silver Award

Downers Grove Teen Earns Girl Scout Silver Award

When Sophie Marro’s grandmother suffered a stroke a while back, the 13-year-old Girl Scout Cadette knew she wanted to do something that could help patients in rehab. After witnessing cancer patients struggle with seatbelts due to the portacath used for their chemotherapy, Sophie started making port pillows as part of her Girl Scout Silver Award project.

One weekend, 12 people and more than 250 port pillows later, Sophie, who lives in Downers Grove, was able to donate the items to Elmhurst Hospital Cancer Center, the hospital that treated her grandmother.


“The patients were really happy to see them,” Sophie said. “They were glad to see someone was thinking of them. It felt really good and I was happy that I could give back to the community that helped my grandmother.”

As a result of her project, Sophie earned her Silver Award, which is the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn.

“I feel like I really honed in on three skills: leadership, organization and staying positive,” she said. “Leadership because I learned about accomplishing goal. Organization because there was a lot of material and people to organize to make sure everything ran smoothly.”

At one point while Sophie and her friends were making the pillows, all of the sewing machines broke because they were overworked.

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“We got a little frustrated, but it was important to keep an upbeat attitude,” she said.

Sophie, who’s been a Girl Scout since first grade, has plans to earn her Gold Award as well, which is the highest award in Girl Scouting.

“I participate in a lot of sports, but they don’t really teach citizenship or giving back to the community,” she said. “I’m really happy that Girl Scouts allows me to do that.”

Local Girl Scouts Recognized for Innovation as FIRST LEGO League Semi-Finalists

Local Girl Scouts Recognized for Innovation as FIRST LEGO League Semi-Finalists

When you think of LEGOs, what comes to mind?

For members of Fast Thinking Girls, a Girl Scout-sponsored team, they think of an opportunity to change the world.

The Fast Thinking Girls (GIRLS stands for: Great Intelligent Robotics Loving Science) was one of the 20 semifinalist teams selected from entries across 23 countries for their innovative solution FIRF: Food Into Renewable Fuel.

“[FIRF] will keep food out of landfills which will reduce methane in the atmosphere and reduce global warming,” said the girls from Girl Scout Troops 40915 and 40792 and Service Unit 404 in Mount Prospect, Illinois.  “It will also help people have a more convenient way to recycle food.”

Fast Thinking Girls visit The Plant in Chicago to study a commercial digester.

The girls will be traveling from to Washington, D.C. this month to present their innovation to expert judges.  There, they will participate in a two-day hands-on event at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, aiming for the top prize of $20,000.

“We are most excited to go to Washington, D.C. for the awards ceremony and to meet the teams from other countries like Canada, Germany and Spain,” said the girls.  “Making a real prototype and getting a patent is also something we look forward to. We can’t wait to see it work!”

This was not an easy feat.  These troops completed a research project with involved working with mentors to design, build and program autonomous robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS.

“Learning the new EV3 software for our robot and understanding what anaerobic digestion [were the hardest parts],” said the team.  “It took us a long time to figure out our solution. This year’s solution is really complicated and there are a lot of pieces we still need to figure out.”

The team meets with engineers at Underwriters Laboratories.

These girls are joining the ranks of innovators and creators who have helped the world tremendously.  Past winners created solutions like helping toddlers with hand differences learn to write and erasable bar codes to warn consumers about food spoilage.

Luckily for the girls, they had the Girl Scout skills to support them throughout their journey.

“Girl Scouts helped us learn and research about new things, helped us create, design and talk to specialists and professionals to help create our FIRF,” said the troops.  “They have also given us the tools to learn how to communicate better with my team and resolve conflict.  They have given us support every step of our journey and shown us that our ideas are important even with providing money to help us during the season.  We have taken some classes about engineering and they invited us to talk to a group of engineers about our FIRF.  We think being on a team with just girls is better.”

Want to watch the team in action? Tune in to the live stream on Wednesday, June 22 at 3 p.m. CT/4 p.m. ET by clicking HERE!

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Girl Scouts Donate Nearly 200K Boxes of Cookies to Military Personnel

Girl Scouts Donate Nearly 200K Boxes of Cookies to Military Personnel

Giving back to the community is in every Girl Scout’s DNA, which is why Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s Gift of Caring program is such a success. This year, more than 14,600 girls donated one or more boxes of the iconic Girl Scout Cookies for a total of 199,780 packages of Gift of Caring boxes sold, exceeding the goal of 160,000 boxes.

“Gift of Caring donations provide twice the benefits with one simple purchase,” said Carl Canale, director of product program for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

“Girls learn life skills, local Girl Scout troops find their activities, community organizations benefit from the program, and the women and men serving in the armed forces get a great tasting reminder of home,” said Susan Rakis, who is also a director of product program for GSGCNWI.

Last year, nearly 153,700 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies were donated to military personnel through the council’s Gift of Caring program, which sends cookies to organizations that bring comfort to women and men serving in the armed forces. Some of those organizations include the Illinois National Guard, Manteno Veterans’ Home and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

“We get thank-you cards and letters and everything from these guys who receive Girl Scout Cookies,” said Linda Krone, a member of Johnson-Phelps VFW Post #5220 in Oak Lawn, Illinois. “The program works out really well and we get a lot of help from the girls.”

The program is especially important to Giada Gambatese, an 8-year-old Girl Scout Brownie who is GSGCNWI’s top cookie seller with more than 13,000 boxes sold, 12,000 of which benefited Gift of Caring.

“It’s important because we care about soldiers,” Giada, whose grandfather was in the Marines, explained.

Nina Grotto, a 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador, is also passionate Gift of Caring.

“My father and both of my grandfathers are veterans, so it was really important to me to participate in Gift of Caring on a personal level,” Nina said.

Nearly 40,000 Girl Scouts sold 4.6 million packages of cookies in greater Chicago and northwest Indiana during the 2016 Girl Scout Cookie Program. Next year marks the centennial celebration of the Girl Scout Cookie.

Join Us at the Grand Opening of Juniper Knoll’s Dining Hall

Join Us at the Grand Opening of Juniper Knoll’s Dining Hall

For generations of Girl Scout campers, the dining hall is the center of the action. It’s where you gather with friends, both new and old, and make memories that will last a lifetime.

On Saturday, July 23, we invite you to leave your mark at the grand opening for the new dining hall at Camp Juniper Knoll in East Troy, Wisconsin.

Festivities will take place between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and include camp activities, such as archery, canoeing, hiking and more. Guests can also enjoy lunch, which will feature a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. and a special Girl Scout Cookie-inspired dessert by local chefs at 12 p.m.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to support Camp Juniper Knoll by purchasing a commemorative camp chair and coaster sets or making a gift to the kitchen registry.

To RSVP for the grand opening, click here.

Local Girl Scouts Earn Gold Award

Local Girl Scouts Earn Gold Award

Nearly 70 local high school students recently earned Girl Scouts of the USA’s most prestigious national honor for girls, the Girl Scout Gold Award. Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) honored their accomplishments during a special ceremony on June 4, 2016 at the Chicago Marriott Oak Brook.

“Girl Scout traditions, such as earning the Gold Award, provide a bond that unites generations of girls and women who stepped out of their comfort zones to defy society’s expectations of what women could accomplish,” said Karen Layng, president of the GSGCNWI board of directors.

Gold Award recipients recite the Girl Scout Promise during the ceremony.

The Girl Scout Gold Award, which is celebrating its centennial this year, is the highest award that Girl Scouts ages 14-18 may earn. The leadership skills, organizational skills, and sense of community and commitment required to complete the process set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship. Girls complete seven steps to earn the Gold Award, including the completion of a significant service project.

“I have no doubt that you are the generation that will continue to shatter stereotypes about what women can achieve,” GSGCNWI CEO Nancy Wright told the students. “Use the skills you have learned through the process of earning the Gold Award to change the world for the better.”

The Gold Award project fulfills a need within a girl’s community (whether local or global), creates change and is sustaining. The Gold Award recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 80 hours or more, dedicated towards their service project. Girls complete a minimum of 40 hours in a leadership role before embarking on the final project.

Elise Mayfield, a former Chicago resident and finalist on MasterChef Season 5, was the keynote speaker for the ceremony and shared the importance of resiliency.

Elise Mayfield addresses the Class of 2016 Gold Award recipients.

“I know that you all have experienced setbacks in your journey, both in your personal life and, I’d be willing to bet, in your pursuit of the Gold Award,” said Mayfield, who is also the founder and executive chef of Honey Baby Bakery in Homewood, Alabama. “But you bounced back. You took a hit and you kept on going and I know you’ll continue to do that throughout your life.”

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute’s report, The Power of the Girl Scout Gold Award: Excellence in Leadership and Life, Girl Scout Gold Award recipients receive greater lifetime benefits than their peers with regard to positive sense of self, life satisfaction, leadership, life success, community service and civic engagement as a result of their experience in Girl Scouting, including earning their Gold Award.

Girl Scout Ambassador Allison Fron holds her Gold Award pin, certificate and program.

Girls have earned Girl Scouts of the USA’s highest awards since 1916, just four years after the organization’s founding in 1912. These awards include the Golden Eagle of Merit, Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, First Class and the current Girl Scout Gold Award which was introduced in 1980. Over the course of the last century, millions of Girl Scout alumnae have positively impacted their communities and the world with their creative, impactful and sustainable community service, or Take Action, projects.

Girl Scout Ambassador Sonya Ajani proudly demonstrates her Gold Award project, which consisted of a 72-hour survival kit and workshops for her community.

As awareness of the Girl Scout Gold Award continues to grow, so does its prestige. An increasing number of colleges are offering financial incentives to those who earn Girl Scout Gold Awards and admissions counselors view it as a sign of an individual girl’s ability to lead. This year, GSGCNWI announced a new scholarship for Gold Award recipients that was made possible through generous donations. The deadline is August 1, 2016 and information is available at


Photos courtesy of Lynn Renee Photography

Critters for a Cause: Girl Scouts Create Stuffed Animals for Hospital Patients

Critters for a Cause: Girl Scouts Create Stuffed Animals for Hospital Patients

Spending time at a hospital is no fun. But Girl Scouts from Service Unit 406 in Hoffman Estates, IL are aiming to bring cheer to pediatric patients at the Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, IL with hundreds of handmade stuffed animals.

“It’s important to give back to the community to help people know we’re much more than just cookies and we do many great things,” said Ameenah Zawahir, a 10-year-old Girl Scout Junior.

Her 9-year-old sister Jasmine, a Girl Scout Brownie, agreed.

“I thought it was fun to work as a team and do something nice for the children at the hospital,” she said.

According to Shane Sexton, a service unit coordinator for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, the project began a few years ago as a way for her troop to earn its philanthropist badge. To create the critters, the girls cut, stuff and sew tube socks with help from adult volunteers. Afterward, they decorate the faces of the critters and include a “healing wish” for the recipient.

“They’re happy to do it,” Sexton said. “They’re learning through Girl Scouts what it means to give back to the community through project like this. They really are loving it.”

Katelyn Malartsik, a 15-year-old Girl Scout Senior, enjoyed receiving thank-you cards from the family of patients who’d received the critters, such as one little boy who named his stuffed animal Pickles.

“It feels really good to hear that the animals helped them feel better,” she said. “I think it’s good for them to know that people care, and Girl Scouts are aware of what’s going on and want to help.”

Phyllis Harman, staff chaplain at Alexian Brothers Medical Center, is grateful for the sock critters, which often accompany a prayer blanket from the hospital.

“The patients and their families are amazed that someone else is thinking about them,” she said. “To know that little kids made these critters out of their own hands and hearts, the patients feel very blessed. We as chaplains feel very, very blessed.”

By participating in the service project, Sexton said the girls are truly living the Girl Scout law to “make the world a better place.”

“When they see how much it means to be helpful, considerate and kind, that’s what it really means to be a Girl Scout,” she said.

Want to make your own sock critter? Check out the video tutorial below:

Special thanks to Shane Sexton, Chris Stapleton and the members of Troop 43081 for their assistance in making this video!