As a volunteer leader, one usually looks to an experienced leader for instruction, advice, and mentoring. Pat Walenga, who died suddenly in 2019, was one of those mentors.
Pat Walenga was a Girl Scout herself. With disruptions in her own life growing up, she could always count on Girl Scouts as the place that provided stability.
Initially an assistant leader for two years when she was just out of high school, Pat returned to being a leader when her older daughter needed one. Pat never stopped being a leader over the next forty years, which led to having four or five troops at a time every year.
Pat was steadfast in promoting Girl Scouting. She was a service unit manager, area chair, master trainer, council and national delegate, board of directors’ member, board secretary (for the Girl Scouts of Chicago, before the merger of councils in 2008), and historian. She served on numerous committees: 75th Anniversary, By-Laws, Contemporary Issues, Outdoor, Long-Range Property, and Field Policy.
With Pat’s many jobs, her dedication to girl involvement and experiences was always at the heart of what she did. Girl Scout activities needed to be fun, as well as a place to learn skills, learn about oneself, and learn about others.
At Salmagundi, a northwest area annual event she ran, Pat appeared as Yum Yum, her clown character. On camping trips and outdoor events, Pat would have teams of girls go on an unnatural hike, looking for non-natural items near the path.
At times, questions were asked at troop meetings that girls did not feel comfortable asking in any other environment. One Daisy was worried that her grandparents would be sent back to Mexico; Pat was there to listen. Pat was always there to squeeze the hand of a Junior who got a bad grade; she encouraged a Cadette struggling with school; she hugged and assured others.
Pat connected not only with girls but also connected with former Girl Scouts wherever and whenever she could. When Girl Scouts of Chicago was considering selling Camp Juniper Knoll, Pat provided the local newspaper with a very old photo from the archives which showed young campers with lily pads on their heads; a half-million-dollar donation was received from a woman who remembered the event, saving the camp.
Pat received every award over the years. However, her most outstanding achievement was the fun and adventures with her many Girl Scouts. Her reward was the joy of working with the girls to help them become confident and caring women.