The National Council Session – A Sustained History of Girl Scout Governance

Starting in 1915 in Washington, D.C., the democratic process has been continually promoted by our organization through the National Council Session (NCS), a.k.a. the National Convention. 

Orlando, Florida, will host the 56th National Council Session from July 18-20, 2023, followed immediately with Phenom by Girl Scouts from July 20-22, 2023. This triennial meeting, comprised of delegates from each council, is charged with giving clear direction to the future of the Girl Scout Movement. It is the central link between Girl Scout councils and GSUSA. Each local council is allotted delegates on an adjustable formula to keep the National Council close to the optimal size of 1,500 delegates. Once elected by their local councils, the delegates serve a three-year term.

So, what do these National Council delegates do once they are elected to their positions? During NCS, National Delegates represent their local councils as voting members. They gather input, debate, and vote on proposals that impact the future of the Girl Scout Movement, including changes to the Constitution and the Blue Book of Basic Documents. In addition, National Delegates elect the National Board of Directors and the Board Development Committee. However, during the interim three years between each NCS, the National Delegates can also develop and submit proposals to the National Board for consideration as agenda items. In Girl Scouting, a proposal is a leading motion to bring a recommendation before the National Council for a vote. The National Board of Directors decides whether each submitted proposal is worthy of being on the agenda. 

However, if any proposal developed by a local council receives support from 15 percent or more of the Girl Scout councils, then the National Board of Directors is obliged to have that proposal on the agenda so the National Council can act upon it.

This may sound boring and mundane, but the National Council Sessions are vital to keeping the movement forward-thinking. There has been a wide range of proposals since that first Girl Scout convention in 1915, and it’s quite interesting to look back on what has transpired at NCS.

My first encounter with the National Council Session occurred in 1990 in Miami Beach. At that convention, I was the chaperone for the two girls from legacy South Cook County Council who were sent as visitors. Since I had no previous association with NCS, I didn’t realize how many councils would actually send girls as delegates. I then began to lobby for a change to any subsequent South Cook County delegations to include at least two girl delegates.

After Miami Beach, I attended all but one NCS either as a delegate, a girl chaperone, or often both! However, Miami Beach was an experience I will never forget. The keynote speaker was the author and poet Maya Angelou who captivated and inspired the attendees. The Spring 1991 Leader Magazine described her address in this manner: “. . . she held everyone spellbound. In song, in prose, in poetry, she captivated one and all with her wisdom, her insight, and her humor.”

The Miami Beach Convention Center during the 1990 NCS.

An additional highlight of the Miami Beach convention was the launching of GSUSA’s national service project on literacy with the help of an unexpected visit from our Honorary President at that time, First Lady Barbara Bush. Leader Magazine depicted it this way: “The excitement of the First Lady’s visit began with the arrival of the Secret Service people who checked the arena thoroughly. A surprise for those stern-visaged gentlemen must have been the immediate silence resulting from our Girl Scout quiet sign!”

First Lady Barbara Bush at the 1990 NCS.

The 1990 NCS is memorable for another reason, too. At this triennial meeting, the National Council passed a proposal to establish the designation Girl Scout “Gold Award” as the highest award to be earned by a girl member. After having the name of the highest award change several times in our Girl Scout history, this proposal dictated that the name “Gold Award” could not be altered.

You probably already know that the Girl Scout Promise and Law have been changed several times. However, you may not realize that some changes were voted upon during a National Council Session. The first-time changes were made at NCS took place in 1972 in Dallas. The delegation voted to approve this wording of the Promise and Law:

The Promise

On my honor, I will try:

To serve God,

My country and mankind,

And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

The Law

I will do my best:

—to be honest

—to be fair

—to help where I am needed

—to be cheerful

—to be friendly and considerate

—to be a sister to every Girl Scout

—to respect authority

—to use resources wisely

—to protect and improve the world around me

—to show respect for myself and others through my words and action

The Promise was again revised by the NCS delegation in Detroit in 1984 to its current form:

On my honor, I will try:

To serve God and my country,

To help people at all times,

And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

However, The Law did not undergo additional changes until the Fort Worth NCS in 1996, which is the version we use today:

I will do my best to be

honest and fair,

friendly and helpful,

considerate and caring,

courageous and strong, and

responsible for what I say and do,

and to

respect myself and others,

respect authority,

use resources wisely,

make the world a better place, and

be a sister to every Girl Scout.

Perhaps the most misunderstood proposal concerning the Girl Scout Promise was passed by the National Delegates in 1993 at the Minneapolis convention. The proposal was titled “Flexibility in Wording for Spiritual Beliefs in the Girl Scout Promise.” It stated:

THAT, since the Girl Scout organization makes no attempt to interpret or define the word “God” but encourages members to establish for themselves the nature of their spiritual beliefs, it be the policy of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. that individuals when making the Girl Scout Promise may substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs for the word “God.”  

Having attended the 1993 National Council Session, I still remember the headlines of that time declaring that the Girl Scouts had taken “God” out of their Promise. The intent of the proposal was to promote inclusivity for girls of various faiths whose religious beliefs might have a different terminology for “God,” such as Allah or Yahweh. Many media outlets totally misrepresented what had transpired, so GSUSA had to do damage control and make numerous explanations on what the proposal intended to do.

Members of the South Cook County Council delegation wearing their convention casual attire during the 1993 Minneapolis NCS.

At other National Councils Sessions, the delegates have reviewed the request to increase dues. The Constitution was amended in 1975 during that year’s Washington NCS, giving this authority to the delegates. It stated: Decision on annual membership dues shall be by ballot and shall require a majority of votes cast. However, the wording in the GS Constitution concerning membership dues was somewhat altered at the 2008 NCS in Indianapolis. Within its rationale for the changes, the National Board included the statement that after the 2008 NCS, it would be the one to set dues amounts going forward and included a lengthy explanation as to why it felt it had the authority. At their January 20, 2012, meeting, the National Board raised annual membership dues from $12 to $15, effective with the 2014 membership year. This was the first time since the 1975 amended Constitution that the National Board raised annual membership dues without the National Council’s approval. Then in 2016, the National Board raised the dues again, going from $15 to $25. A lawsuit initiated by the Farthest North Council against GSUSA claimed that the dues increase violated the Constitution. The lawsuit went all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Farthest North Council.

This controversy on who has the authority to raise the membership dues caused the delegates of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) to write a proposal for the 2020 NCS that would create a compromise between the National Board and the National Council. The proposal inserted into the Constitution has this wording:

The National Board of Directors must seek approval from the National Council whenever planned dues increase will increase by more than 25% in any triennium. This amendment to the Constitution passed, making it one of the two proposals submitted by GSGCNWI in 2020 to be approved.

Delegate Marty Poch (right) served as a resource person for the GCNWI dues restriction proposal at the 2020 virtual NCS

Another proposal associated with membership dues was passed at the Houston NCS in 1981. However, it was at this time the Lifetime Membership category was established. Then in 1999, at the Kansas City NCS, a vote was taken to have a special Lifetime Membership dues be offered to any girl who was a registered Senior Girl Scout at the time of her high school graduation or equivalent. In 2017 in Columbus, the delegates approved the elimination of the multiplier formerly used to establish the cost of a Girl Scout Lifetime Membership and voted for a flat rate of $400 or, for alums under age 30 and currently registered volunteers with ten or more years of service, a $200 cost. This change was supported by the GSGCNWI delegation.

GCNWI Delegation at the 2017 Columbus NCS.

There have been other significant proposals passed during NCS, such as those concerning the National Board. For instance, the Denver National Council session in 1978 reduced the number of National Board Members from 65 to 51. This number of National Board members was again reduced in 1996 in Fort Worth to 35. During the Atlanta NCS in 2005, the number of members of the National Board of Directors was amended to 25, which is the number that is in place today. Also, in 2005, the number of consecutive terms for the National President was reduced from three to two.

As I mentioned before, GSGCNWI had two proposals pass during the virtual NCS of 2020. Besides the proposal to restrict any dues increase to not exceed 25% in a triennium unless voted upon by the National Council, the GSGCNWI delegates also developed a proposal for the movement to establish a feasibility task group to research the formation of a National Gold Award Scholarship Foundation. When both proposals received positive outcomes, the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana made NCS history. We were the first local council to have two proposals pass during a single NCS. As one of the authors of the National Gold Award Scholarship Foundation proposal, I was asked to sit on the feasibility task group. Our findings will be shared at the NCS in Orlando this coming July. Stay tuned!

Karen Schillings at the virtual 2020 NCS presenting the proposal to initiate a task group to research the feasibility of a National Gold Award Scholarship foundation.

The GSGCNWI delegation is really looking forward to attending the Orlando NCS this July. After having the 2020 NCS held virtually due to the pandemic, it will be so satisfying to be in a convention hall once again with Girl Scouts from across the country. Being a National Delegate is a huge commitment with the numerous meetings before and even after the National Council Session. However, it’s extremely gratifying to know that this work is tremendously important to the vitality of the Girl Scout Movement.

Finally, I want to share a uniquely GSGCNWI tradition that was started for NCS in 2011. As a National Delegate who is also a Council Historian, I have had the capability to acquire vintage uniforms for our girl members who attend NCS as either delegates or visitors. The girls always feel special when delegates from other councils can identify the era of the uniforms they are wearing. Because 2020 was virtual, this tradition was suspended during that NCS, but it will definitely be brought back for 2023!

Troop 606 – Leave: July 28, 1991, 8:30 a.m. from Mrs. Caragher’s House 

<strong>Troop 606 – Leave: July 28, 1991, 8:30 a.m. from Mrs. Caragher’s House </strong>

By Chris Caragher, Girl Scout Historian

After years of being a Girl Scout troop leader for Brownies, Juniors, and Cadettes, I yearned to visit the birthplace of Girl Scouting, Savannah, Georgia. I viewed that as the ultimate pilgrimage to our founder’s home and, by extension, the birthplace of my Downers Grove-based Cadette Troop 606. It was the girls’ last year in this troop as they were faced with the decision to move on to a long-standing Senior Girl Scout troop, a “Mariner troop,” known as Ship 167, or end their active membership as they started high school.  

At our meeting, we decided the trip would be a great idea, and we had enough cookie money in the bank to do it! 

The troop applied for a date, as required by the birthplace, and chose a “high tea” program and house tour. Our reservation was for August 1, 1991. Now, all we had to do was to figure out the transportation costs, logistics, and the care and feeding of each member. Our troop loved camping and had been on short trips to Mackinac Island and Wisconsin and used Camp Greene Wood often, even in the winter, but this was much bigger! So, I called an airline. Tickets to fly would take all our cookie money plus more! We had to figure out another way. 

My co-leader, Ginger, and I wondered if we could drive to Savannah, so we thought we’d check with the parents.  We knew that we had parents who owned vans. We asked, and two dads volunteered, but they would need gas reimbursement  to drive and would go for free. We calculated the miles, cost of gas, food, and activities.  

At that time, the birthplace provided a booklet called Birthplace Bound.It had ads for accommodations, restaurants, local attractions, and some discount admission coupons for Girl Scouts. I called the hotels recommended for Girl Scouts and got a special Girl Scout rate reservation at Budget Inn.  

The trip down to Savannah would take time, so we decided to leave early to do some activities on the way down and some on the way back; it turned into a 10-day trip. It was like a family vacation. We had snacks, drinks, games, camping equipment, luggage, and uniforms in each van.  

The itinerary as told by a Girl Scout:    

7/28 We visited the Kentucky Derby Museum and toured Churchill Downs. Afterward, we drove to Cave City, tent camped and cooked at Mammoth Cave National Park. 

7/29 Mammoth Cave Tour and lunch in their cafeteria, then departed to Indian Springs State Park near Macon, GA, where we visited the Historic District. When we arrived at the campground at 7 p.m., we discovered we had lost our campsite for being late, so we just found a long stretch of grass, set up our tents in a single line, and shared a fire with the friendly campers next door. We made a snack and settled into our tents. After breakfast in the morning, we waded in the creek before we left. 

7/30 We visited the Macon Historic District and a trinket store tourist trap, then drove to Savannah, GA, through a torrential rainstorm and arrived at a flooded Savannah. As troop leader, I was elected to wade through the water to check in to the Budget Inn, 3702 Ogeechee Rd., Savannah. It was an old, one-story motel with outside doors looking nothing like the ad in the Birthplace Bound booklet, but it was clean enough and turned out to be safe. The promised swimming pool was out of order and filled with rainwater, but we went swimming at one of the owner’s other properties. We ate at a real sit-down restaurant and ordered off the menu! Thank goodness! 

7/31 Toured the Savannah Visitor Center, the Savannah Experience, and the Ships at Sea Museum. We walked along the ocean, visited the Andrew Low House and other mansions, learned about the city’s squares, had fun, ate popcorn, shopped for souvenirs, saw a movie about Juliette Low and her childhood, and more. We walked ’til we dropped and ate out, but not at the famous restaurant everyone else was eating at. It was way too long of a wait time for hungry girls! 

8/1 Birthplace Day! – JULIETTE LOW DAY AT HER HOUSE! We had a lovely tour and took pictures. Saw all the rooms, including her bedroom and the old library. We went to the garden and learned all about JGL, her art, her wedding, the history behind the birthplace, and some things about the Civil War. We saw the real oil painting of Juliette Low in her pink party dress hanging in the living room. The docent answered all our questions. Then it was time for our activity program in the basement. We did a project to learn about the Girl Scout history of helping others and interacted with another troop that had signed up to try-on dresses that girls and women might have worn in JGL’s time. We invited the “dress girls” to our tea party.We had fun. Then we went to the gift shop for souvenirs. We all got a Birthplace Pin with a Daisy on it. Our precious spending allowance was also used, so everyone could bring home a keepsake. 

One of our troop’s favorite fun songs was Boom Chica Boom.We came up with new lyrics that didn’t really fit the tune but went like this:  

I said a Boom Chica Boom – a little bit Southern Style: 

“So down to Savannah we went, I said a Boom Chica Boom, 

Little did we know that the Budget Inn, I said a Boom Chica Boom!  

Would be only a little better than a TENT, 

I said a Boom Chica Rocka Chica Rocka Chica Boom!” 

8/2 We started heading home but not stopping the fun. We made our way north to Stone Mountain. This was a place where a large bare rock was carved to show the Confederate Generals. Although we were mostly Northerners, it was interesting to see and part of our country’s history. We stayed in the beautiful campground behind the rock. It was a lovely place. At night, a laser light show reflected off the rock carving and special effects to make it look like the generals were actually riding their horses across. It was kind of like a fireworks show. Very cool. We had a good time, and I shared with the girls that my maternal grandfather, Josepha Bouska, who had been a stone cutter in Chicago, was one of the cutters hired to work on carving the rock.  

I bought a book with a picture of all the stone carvers in a big group. I told the girls I could not figure out which one was my grandfather, but I wanted it anyway. 

8/3 We went home a different way through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We stayed at the Tanglewood KOA Swannanoa, North Carolina, near Ashville, which had a swimming pool! It had a big hall in a red building with screens all around, but no windows. We visited the National Park Shop and signed up to learn horseback riding. We had hoped to do this activity while planning the trip, so we packed the helmets. We learned how to lead a horse, not be scared of the horse, and we went on a trail ride. Then we brushed the horses and helped put them in the stable. It was great! There were many water activities around the area as well. Although we could not do the tubing activity because no lifeguard was going down the stream with the group. We still interacted with the water at the edges of the stream and got very wet. This area was beautiful to drive through.  

8/4 Driving home through Indiana, it got to be late, so we decided not to camp. We found a nice hotel and a restaurant for a late dinner and collapsed from all the vacation activity.  

8/5 Arrived back home. We called our moms to let them know we were home. We cleaned out the vans and gave them a car wash to thank the drivers. We had a little goodbye ceremony on the front lawn. It was not only the end of the trip but the last thing for our beloved Troop 606, as we disbanded with hugs and tears all around. 

Camp Butternut Springs Gets New Pool and More! 

Rendering of how the new pool and shower house will look once completed.

Over the past year, Girl Scouts GCNWI has been working on planning, designing, and constructing a new pool and shower house at Camp Butternut Springs, allowing for improved facilities for campers. This 3.2-million-dollar project is the largest capital project that the council has ever worked towards and will be completed before the start of Summer Camp 2023. 

The old pool was over 50 years old, and it was time to replace and upgrade. The new pool will have a diving board and will be accessible. For those hot summer days, campers will stay hydrated and ready for camp activities with two separate water drinking fountains that include bottle-filling stations while enjoying the shade of a large canopy on the new pool deck. Along with the construction of the new pool, a brand-new shower house is to be built with 16 individual shower rooms with a sink and toilet to provide privacy for everyone using it. 

GCNWI has been working with VJS Construction and Whiteco Pool company to complete this work. GCNWI has previously worked with VJS Construction to complete projects, including the new dining hall at Camp Juniper Knoll and two new cabins at Camp Butternut Springs. 

A Groundbreaking Ceremony will take place on October 20 at 2:30 p.m. at Camp Butternut Springs to highlight all the hard work being done to improve our Summer Camp program for all Girl Scouts. The ceremony will last one hour. If you would like to attend, you must RSVP to vking@girlscoutsgcnwi.org no later than October 18.

Donate to a Sweet Cause through Girl Scouts Gift of Caring 

Have you ever been in a coffee shop drive-through, and the car ahead of you has decided to pay for your entire order? It’s a wonderful feeling to be the recipient of someone who chose to pay it forward. You can join Girl Scouts through the Gift of Caring service project to make someone’s day even sweeter – literally!

 Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Gift of Caring service project is offered when Girl Scouts participate in selling either Fall Products or Cookies. Gift of Caring is an option on Girl Scouts order cards and online purchases. When chosen, the proceeds go directly to pay for the items that are chosen by the GCNWI Council to use as the donation. The items are then distributed to many different community-based organizations, such as the military, first responders, and essential workers.

This small gift brings pure joy and gratitude to the recipients, who share how much it means that others think of them.

Help Girl Scouts and the Community

One hundred percent of the proceeds from Gift of Caring donated products stay in the community to fund Girl Scout activities and service projects. These activities allow girls to make new friends, challenge themselves, and take action to change the world for the better.

Girl Scout helps Rush volunteers unload 800 boxes of girl scout cookies in front of the Brennan Pavilion for distribution to frontline health care workers. Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois. Thursday, March 10, 2022.

Last year, our council donated more than 14,000 items during the Fall Product Program. In 2022’s Cookie Season, more than 278,956 packages of cookies were collected for Gift of Caring by our Girl Scouts. One of the many cookie drop offs was made at Rush University Medical Center where a Girl Scout Cadette helped Rush volunteers unload 800 boxes of cookies for distribution to frontline health care workers.

You Can Donate During the Fall Product Program

You can donate to the Gift of Caring service project when you purchase products in our Fall Product Program starting September 23, 2022, through October 19, 2022.

During the fall product program, can choose the amount they would like to donate, and the Girl Scouts GCNWI Council will choose the items to be given in the Gift of Caring program.

To participate, a customer simply pays the funds and marks “Care to Share” on the order card or in the online storefront. When a Girl Scout collects seven or more donations, she’ll earn the Care to Share patch. Also, when girls participate in Fall Product, they get the chance to strengthen five essential leadership skills, including goal setting, decision making, people skills, and business ethics.


If you do not know a Girl Scout, and would like to participate in the Gift of Caring service project, you can do so here.

Your support of the girls and the community is greatly appreciated.

Click here to learn more about the items available in this year’s Fall Product Program.


Join us for our Smart Cookies “Badge Bash”

Join Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) at our adult premier fall fundraising event,  Smart Cookies Badge Bash, this September 22, 2022, at Cafe Brauer in Lincoln Park. Hosted by our Associate Board, this event will give our supporters and community the chance to experience the fun and meaning of Girl Scouting firsthand, by meeting and learning from our Girl Scouts themselves.

At this signature Girl Scout event, we are showcasing a few of the unique experiences Girl Scouting provides at booths headed by girls in our council. Attendees will participate in hands-on activities and learn more about what Girl Scouting is all about.

We are excited to feature the Newton Busters, the FIRST LEGO League World Championships competitors, who will be present at the Smart Cookies Badge Bash with their own booth! This is an incredible team of robot-designing Girl Scouts in 7th to 12th grade who utilize several programs to showcase their technical design and team performance at local, state, and national competitions. They aim to raise awareness that women represent 25 percent of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce, and to increase the participation of girls in STEM activities through community outreach programs. Don’t miss out on a chance to see how these robots are made and get an opportunity to drive one!

Don’t miss out!

Bring your “troop” of friends and test your skills in earning badges and patches, led by today’s Girl Scouts, while enjoying bites, beverages, music, and much more.

Buy your ticket today!

Interested in sponsoring Smart Cookies? Check out the sponsorship benefits package

This event is for our adult supporters and community; the “badges” earned will be just for fun!

An Inside Look at How Council Historians Preserve Our Girl Scout Treasures

Who are the Historians you might ask? The Historian Team at GSGCNWI is made up of 26 volunteers who are interested in the history of Girl Scouts and actively work to preserve and present the story to our community.

History of the movement

Begun by Juliette Gordon Low on March 12,1912, Girl Scouts quickly spread throughout the country. Girl Scouts offered young women the opportunity to learn important life skills, as well as to live by the values of the Promise and Law – unselfishness, patriotism, loyalty and truth. Our current Council was formed in 2008 from seven councils in the Chicago media market following the guidance of Girl Scouts of USA (GSUSA). Those seven councils were the result of over 40 smaller councils that had been established, functioned and eventually combined over the years.

In the early days of the movement, individual towns were set up as councils that governed and guided their girl and adult members. Logistics, better governance and the opportunity to bring a better program to the girls brought these smaller councils together. What it also created was story after story about the local Girl Scout program.

Enter the Council Historian Team.

Historical Treasures

Some members of the team have been actively involved in preserving our memorabilia and stories since the 1980’s. GSUSA encouraged historians to step forward and provided professional level training in the preservation of all aspects of the history of Girl Scouts. Many of our team members have traveled to the Macy Program Center in New York, as well as multi-day programs held before National Council Sessions to learn the proper techniques to accession and store all the bits and pieces of history donated to us by our local community. Members of our team hosted “Learn to Preserve” in 2014 and were privileged to have experts from GSUSA and volunteer historians from throughout the Midwest attend our training.

When the words Girl Scout history come up, most people think of the uniform they wore and the handbook they used. We have all that and so much more. Each item that is donated to us is recorded and then passed along to the team member responsible for accessioning that category of material. We use simple excel spreadsheets to record our work and have over 70 categories of physical items in the council collection. Yes, we have magazines, dolls, camp canteens, mugs, postcards, volunteer gifts, tins, cameras, pens and pencils, membership cards…and the list goes on.

The collection is currently housed in the annex at the Joliet and Vernon Hills Gathering Place (GP). Team members meet on Mondays and Tuesdays each week at one of the GPs to process the literally thousands of pieces of historic memorabilia that have been donated to us over the years.

Over those same years, we have opened the gray archival boxes and shared the collection with our local communities. Sometimes it’s smaller displays at libraries, community meetings and events. We have produced fashion shows of uniforms for Alumnae and Service Unit events, as well as large scale shows at local malls. To celebrate our special anniversaries, we have held programs at Navy Pier (90-year anniversary) and at some of Chicago’s premier museums in 2012 to commemorate the 100 years of Girl Scouting. Currently there are displays in the Gathering Places in Chicago, Joliet and Woodridge. The displays are changed regularly to showcase just some of the treasures from the collection.

The team has offered Victorian themed tea parties throughout the council, taken books and uniforms to troop and Service Unit meetings, and participated in other council events, such as Trunk or Treat. We have put together kits that can be checked out by troops for use at their meetings – ranging from tea parties to history themed book and uniform bins from the 1960s and 1980s.

Take Home a Piece of History

This upcoming September 29 (10am – 4pm), 30 (10am – 6pm) and October 1 (10am – 2pm) will be our first sale of excess historical items from our inventory. We are always grateful for any donations, but we have limited storage space and must be selective about which items we accession. We invite you to the Joliet Gathering Place to shop for books, uniforms, badges and patches, and many of those extras that might be new to you.

Most of us are Lifetime Members of Girl Scouts and have served in many volunteer positions over the years. Our love of Girl Scouts and her history keeps us active in the movement and having fun. If you are interested in learning more about the team or donating some Girl Scout treasures, please contact our Archivist, Rosemarie Courtney at rdcourtney1940@gmail.com.

Colgate Brings “Bright Smiles and Bright Futures” to Girl Scouts with New Patch Program

Let your smile shine!

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana is partnering with Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures to encourage Girl Scouts to learn about oral health and wellness. Since 1991, the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® initiative has touched the lives of more than a billion children in over 80 countries. Their mission is to connect underserved communities to oral health educationfree dental screenings and treatment referrals.

Working with members of the community, Colgate strives to promote lifelong learning opportunities and create a world of bright smiles and even brighter futures by ensuring that prevention and good oral hygiene remains a top global health priority. Colgate believes every child and their family has a right to a lifetime of healthy smiles, and to help promote its initiative, they created the Colgate Bright Smiles Patch Program where families can complete fun science experiments and build healthy oral habits.

Learn powerful habits like brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, how to build healthy oral habits, making snacks that are good for your teeth, and discover something new about your dentists.

Check out Girl Scout Daisy Troop #35683 having fun completing some of the Bright Smiles, Bright Futures activities below!

During their troop meeting, girls collectively completed the apple experiment. Rather than allowing the “tooth” (apple) to decay in the brown bag, they expedited the process by adding food coloring in the “cavity” (pencil hole):

After drawing a tooth on a Styrofoam cup, troop leaders added paste (flour + water). Decorating with sprinkles were the best part because the girls thought they tasted so GOOD. But what a messy “tooth decay” watching the Styrofoam cup dissolve in the acetone:

Next it was time to get those bright smiles checked out by a dentist!

At the end, girls created dental posters to help remind them to take care of their teeth. The troop completed their smile posters on different color paper to collectively show a rainbow!

Get Involved

Help Colgate in their efforts to reach two billion children by 2025 by completing the Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program with Girl Scouts! Download this workbook to help get you started on this patch program as a troop or with your family! You can pick up additional copies of the workbook at our Girl Scout GCNWI shop (while supplies last). Learn more at www.ColgateBSBF.com.

Girl Scouts Gain Powerful Lessons in Confidence, Friendship, and Success at Camp CEO 2022

Nothing is more empowering than having someone believe in you!

Camp CEO is dedicated to creating a safe space for Girl Scouts to network and interact with women from a variety of industries and backgrounds who believe in girls and all that they can accomplish. 

The environment is fun, camp-based, and full of unique opportunities to hear about the twists and turns of the women mentor’s career paths and ask questions about how they got to where they are today. Their stories give Girl Scouts in grades 9-12 a “peek behind the curtain” and reinforce how tenacity, persistence, being curious, and taking risks without fear of failure can be the catalyst for interesting careers.

Read below as Girl Scout Program Specialist, Jauzlyn, shares highlights of the three-day event held at the Chicago office, culminating with an overnight stay at Camp Greene Wood.

Day 1

On the first day, 10 girls arrived to the Chicago Gathering Place with a look of uneasiness. Sure, there were a few who allowed a sliver of a smile to show on their faces, but underneath there was surely anxiety. Most of the girls were very quiet and hesitant to actively participate, while a couple of them were able to break out of their shells more as the day went on. The girls were able to make their first connections with the mentors during an activity where they created vision boards, in which many of the mentors and girls were engaged in thoughtful conversations.

The biggest highlight of the day was when we played “Cross the Line”. This is a game where the facilitator makes various statements and participants take a step forward if the statement applies to them. During this game, there were a variety of serious statements, with some goofy ones in between. When we discussed how the game made them feel, many of the girls shared that it allowed them to feel closer to other people in the room, it helped them trust us as mentors and other girls, it allowed them to learn new things about each other, and it made them feel better about speaking up.

As time went on, the girls began to come out of their shells and expressed how doing this game made them feel more open and excited for the next two days.

Day 2

The girls worked through a coding badge, thanks to our partner Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, at HCSC. The girls were tasked with taking data and creating a visual representation of the data to present to everyone. The girls were nervous at first, but once they began to work on the projects and had the guidance and coaching of HCSC volunteers, a whole new feeling of confidence was able to emerge. When asked who wanted to go first, there were a couple of girls who raised their hands quickly. In fact, a few of the quietest girls were first to raise their hands. The girls all did so well in presenting their projects. Some of the girls even helped their shyer peers speak up when it was time to present. Many of the girls stepped into the role of a leader during this time.

Once back at the Chicago Gathering Place, the girls participated in an activity called “Life Mapping”. During this activity, the girls were given the opportunity to identify different areas in their life that help them understand who they are and who they want to be as they develop and progress in life. Many girls shared that this activity helped them be more open and understand themselves a little better. They also enjoyed being able to learn more about each other and their mentors.

Later in the evening, we went to Camp Greene Wood. When we arrived at camp, it was safe to say that the girls trusted the facilitators and each other a lot more. By this time, the girls were looking as if they all came into this program knowing each other. During an activity called “Fear in a box,” we had the girls write down a fear and put it into a box, then, we sat around the campfire and I read each person’s fear. During this activity, the girls were given the choice to claim their fear, speak about it, and give advice and feedback to each other or not.

Each girl claimed and elaborated on their fear, and openly received advice and feedback from each other and the facilitators. The girls were then given the chance to burn them in the campfire. After discussing the activity, girls expressed that they felt comfortable because of the vibe of the group and because they felt like they could trust us and each other. Many of them said that they can see themselves being friends with all of the other girls after the program was over.

It later came to our knowledge that after lights out, the girls used the flashlights on their phones as light so that they can sit together and make friendship bracelets. They did that until they all fell asleep.

Day 3

On the final day, the girls were split into smaller groups with mentors and participated in a variety of leadership activities. Each girl was expected to take turns leading the group in an activity and work on their communication and leadership skills. The mentors guided them and gave feedback about their performances. Mentors shared that many of the girls were excellent in how they led activities and how creative they were.

During lunch, the mentors had an insightful discussion about networking and using social media as a way to promote themselves. In return, many of the girls downloaded LinkedIn and created accounts the same day. They spent the rest of the day getting each other’s LinkedIn information and the information of facilitators and mentors.

The end of the day concluded with a business pitch competition. During the competition, the girls had twenty minutes to come up with a business and pitch it to an audience. Many of the girls became more animated and livelier when presenting. They used this opportunity to show off their personalities and their creativity, which resulted in some amazing business pitches. It was clear that by the end of the program, many of the girls had a newfound confidence in themselves.

According to Girl Scout Alonda, her biggest takeaway from Camp CEO was that, “passion drives everyone to success. Having drive and passion will always keep you focused on your career path and understanding your purpose.”

“I really felt honored to be part of the conversations,” Girl Scout Program Specialist JT said in regards to an activity centered around being your authentic self and finding commonalities between the girls. “I think a lot of the girls were skeptical about how the day would turn out, but our mentors’ genuine interest in learning more about them and especially the vulnerability as they told their stories really resonated with the girls.”

Girls shared that their opinions of the program changed as their day progressed. They expressed being glad to be there and felt more connected to each other.

“I was really nervous to come here but after meeting everyone and getting to talk, I enjoyed myself!” exclaimed a Girl Scout.

Here are some more highlights from the event:

We want to thank all of the incredible women involved in making Camp CEO a success, from our sponsors and community partners, to the mentors, to the staff, to the Girl Scouts themselves!


GCNWI Shifts the Narrative on Outdoor Experiences for Families of Color

Girl Scouts of USA recently released a funding opportunity for up to six councils to each receive a $10,000 grant to support multicultural family camp events. Research showed that less than 10% of people engaging in outdoor experiences at recreational parks and camps included people of color. These events aimed to increase racial, ethnic, and social-economic diversity among our resident and day camps. 

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana invited specific girls to participate in the grant-funded program as part of an effort to include girls who would not typically engage with summer camp programs. A part of this program included early registration for summer camp programs in order to ensure these girls, who we do not typically see at camp programs, had access to attend during the summer camp season this year. The goal was to transition 30 girls to day camp and 10 girls to resident camp by start of camp season. This work is part of GSGCNWI’s continued work to improve inclusion and access across our council offerings.

Read along to see how it all came together and how Girl Scouts GCNWI was able to transition 38 campers for day and resident camp, 12 of whom were first time campers.

To ensure the campaign’s success, the council aligned itself with partners who could assist with promoting its mission. Members of the GCNWI Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA) committee met with Earl Hunter Jr., Founder and President of Black Folks Camp Too, an organization dedicated to outdoor lifestyle education and works to remove the fears and inhibition’s affiliated with the camp lifestyle. Black Folks Camp Too presented at a GCNWI staff meeting and provided insight to help the council recognize the generational and historical ties the idea of outdoor experiences may have on these communities. The council wanted to provide a platform for those trailblazers willing to flex their resiliency, break free from molds, and create some of the best memories of their lives! 

Girl Scouts sought out to help shatter myths, break stereotypes, even make some introductions regarding outdoor experiences and the involvement of Black and Brown communities. From that stemmed the “Life Outdoors is LIT” event series, designed to create a safe space for families of color to grow more comfortable with outdoor exploration and expose our members to a lifestyle that may differ from their everyday experiences.

Girl Scouts we’re invited to participate in a series of exclusive, complimentary experiences where they could engage in fun outdoor activities, make new friends and earn badges. Each progressive activity led up to a culminating, overnight-optional event at Camp Butternut Springs.

Check out the highlights from each event below!

Virtual Family Camp In

The first event in the Life Outdoors is Lit event included a virtual family camp-in. What better way to get introduced to the great outdoors than to create your own camping grounds right in the comfort of your own home? Families learned how to set up a campsite in a room in their home, how to prepare for a winter hike, and participated in badge activities and a cool science experiment by making fizzy lemonade!


Girl Scout Bonfire

Next, it was time to get outdoors! Families braved the cold at Big Marsh Park and got ready for the next phase in their outdoor exploration. GCNWI camp staff walked families through how to build a fire, how to create a camp setup with tents, and bonded together while making s’mores over the fire.

Overnight at Camp Butternut Springs

Families were encouraged to take all of the knowledge they had gained so far and put it to the test at the Life Outdoors is Lit culminating event at Camp Butternut Springs in Indiana. Families had a chance to enjoy such activities as as archery, boating, letterboxing and geocaching, fun tie-dye crafts, and even got a chance to have a cookout, make a meal over the campfire, sing songs, and of course, make s’mores!

“Thank you for the fantastic program you provided the Girl Scouts and families at the ‘Life Outdoors is LIT’ finale event this weekend! The tireless dedication of your staff surely comes from a place of love & community, and did not go unnoticed,” exclaimed one Girl Scout Mom in attendance.

“My girl loved every minute of being at camp. I cannot wait until the next event!” exclaimed another.

Check out more pictures from Camp Butternut Springs below!

Council Historians Share Beloved Memories from Their Times at Girl Scout Camp

Over the years, forty historical councils have merged into what is now Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana.  In that time, Girl Scouts have owned or leased at least 91 camps, program centers and Little Houses. Below, historians share memories of some of their visits to a few of these camps and how much girls enjoyed being there. If you have stories or photos you would like to have preserved in the council’s archives please contact Rosemarie Courtney via email at info@girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

Camp Woody Acres; Owned by Chicago Girl Scout Council 1944-1981

Girl Scouts of Chicago purchased the property in 1944.  It had one lodge named Redwood.  The only other building was the caretaker’s small farm.  Except for latrines, it was a primitive camp.  The council sold the property in 1981.  Today it has luxurious homes on 1 acre lots.

Lifelong Girl Scout Rosemarie Courtney remembers: “When Troop #298 in Chicago was founded in 1950, it did not take long for the troop to find it a wonderful place to learn all the outdoor skills a Girl Scout should know and use every day of her life. By that time, there were 2 cabins, a screened in pavilion and pitch-your-own-tents camp areas. The big treat seemed to be Sunday breakfast using the caretaker’s eggs that were speckled; somehow, they tasted better. My troop camped there at least 3 times a year, from cabin camping to tent camping.  The most memorable experience was when some of us bridged to Senior Troop 1615 in 1954 and decided to bike to Woody Acres the first weekend of June each year, a 20-mile distance.  We did this for 3 years.  The straight route would be Harlem & the Kennedy Expressway to Irving Park Road.  But safety rules had us planning routes through neighborhoods, forest preserves and country roads.  All our gear and food for the weekend was in our backpacks.  We followed the rules in the Intermediate Handbook and made shelter, if need be, under our poncho over our bikes; otherwise, we slept under the stars.  Unfortunately, in 1956 the Bartlett Police found the 2 miles we had to travel on Irving Park Road to be unsafe for bicycling with gear on our backs, as the road was being widened to 4 lanes to reach a rural road.  So, a parent came and picked up our gear. The photo shows us waiting for the police to give us the OK to bike 2 miles to the rural road:

The widening of Irving Park Road ended this yearly event.  Also, note that we didn’t wear helmets when we biked back then, and all our bikes had one speed.”

Camp Hickory Hills; Owned by Northwest Cook Council sold in 1929-1964

 The land was purchased in 1929 by Mr. & Mrs. Charles F Loesch for the purpose of a Girl Scout camp. They immediately donated the land to the Des Plaines Girl Scout Council. The first building on the property was named Loesch Lodge which is pictured here. When Des Plaines Girl Scout Council merged to form Northwest Cook Council, the newly formed council took on ownership.  Today the property is Hickory Hills Campgrounds which has a display of what the place looked like when it was a Girl Scout Camp, and many former Girl Scouts stop by to reminisce about their days at the camp.

Elise Gould remembers attending the camp on weekend overnights:  “We slept in raised tents, 4 girls in a tent.  We cooked outside over an open fire.  The camp had 3 units: Merriwood, Sherwood Forest and Hilltop.”

Camp Pokanoka; Owned by Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana sold 2021

The camp was originally purchased in 1965 by Trailways Girl Scout Council.  When Trailways Girl Scout Council merged to form Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana the newly formed council took on ownership.  The camp was sold in 2021.

Kathy Webb wrote, “Being a Girl Scout for over 40 years and calling Camp Pokanoka my camp has always been the norm. My first visit to Camp Pokanoka was back in the late 60’s with my older sister and Girl Scout leader, mom.  From that first visit this young Girl Scout was hooked and couldn’t wait to be old enough to attend resident camp for 2 weeks.  One of my first years at camp I attended ‘Ride in the Wind’ with my no-speed bicycle and backpack.  I can remember our pool times and showers in the old, little shower house until the new one was built.  Hiking to the clay pits where we would wallow in the mud or sailing bars of soap boats down the Illinois River.  I even remember making torches from Kotex dipped in Kerosene to light up the road so we could see our way north to the river.  Cleaning the Latrines was my favorite or maybe cooking over the fire. Or was it songs we would sing everywhere we went?

The song Slap Bang after meals was always a highlight to watch all those dishes bounce up and down on those old round tables in the Oriole House.”

Not many changes were made at Camp Pokanoka.  Canvas tents in the Whippoorwill, Chickedee and Flicker which became “cabins” with more sleeping room and a roof, while Blue Jay remained the fun platform tent area.

As years past and I became a Girl Scout mom, Pokanoka was first on our troop’s agenda.  We made it out to camp three to four times a year and helped at council events.  Even though my troop has bridged to adults, I will always love Camp Pokanoka which has been and will always be a Girl Scout Friend to many from all over the world.

Camp Thorn Creek; Leased by Girl Scouts of South Cook Council 1951-1988

Camp Thorn Creek was leased from the Cook County Forest Preserve.  In the spring of 1934 the camp was opened in Sweet Woods Forest Preserve as a home for the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps.  The men built military style barracks on the site to use as their lodging.   It was named Camp Thornton and later used during World War II to house German prisoners of war.  From 1946-1947 the Illiana Christian High School conducted classes in the buildings.  Then in 1951 the Girl Scouts of South Cook Council entered into a lease agreement for the sum of $1.00 per year to use the property as a camp and the barracks were converted to cabins.  The camp was honored by a visit from Olave Baden-Powell in 1953.  In 1988 when the Forest Preserve would not agree to any improvements on the cabins which were in disrepair, the council relinquished its lease on the property.  The barracks were demolished in 1989. Because of its historic importance, the Illinois Historical Society placed a marker at the site on June 26, 2010.

Karen Schillings had the good fortune to bring both of her daughters’ troops to Camp Thorn Creek.  As Brownies, the girls had the opportunity to stay in the barracks that were built during the Great Depression.  These barracks were very primitive and perhaps a little bit “scary” for 7 and 8-year-olds, since they were basic wooden plank floors and walls that the wind could whistle through.  I vividly remember one Sycamore Association (Homewood) spring encampment in the mid 1980s.  The Brownies were housed in the barracks and the Junior, Cadette and Senior Girl Scouts used the platform tents or pitched council tents that were stored at camp. 

Karen recalled, “my Junior troop pitched their tents Friday afternoon excited to be in tents for the first time.  Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate.  In fact, it seemed that a deluge had befallen us.  The rain started coming down during the night, and although I had warned the girls NOT to touch any part of the canvas on the tents, the warning was not heeded by everyone.  Some of the tents started to leak profusely.  When morning arrived, many of the girls and their gear were totally soaked.  As the rain kept coming down, we had to figure out a way to prepare breakfast without cooking, since there was no way, we could start a fire.  We basically ate bread with butter and jelly, along with some orange juice – not the scrambled eggs and toast we had planned.  By mid-morning, we could tell that the rain was not going to let up, so we decided to break camp and started calling parents to come and pick up their waterlogged daughters.  That was the most exhausting camp experience I’ve ever had in Girl Scouting, but it didn’t deter my desire to continue taking my troops to camp!”

Camp Chippewa Bay; Owned by Girl Scouts of DuPage Council 1955-2000

Since the formation of the DuPage Council one of the main objectives was to own a camp property with a waterfront.  A search committee was formed in 1953.  For the next five years, while the committee continued its search, the council rented facilities.  At first, the committee was told to limit their search to within a 150-mile radius which proved to be fruitless.  With the help of an estate agent two sites were found in Wisconsin.  The Girl Scout Region VII Camping Adviser visited the sites and made a recommendation to the committee.  The findings were presented to the DuPage County Council board in 1955 and the property which became Camp Chippewa Bay was purchased.  The first Girls camped there in 1958.

When asked to write about why Camp Chippewa Bay (CCB) was so special, Anne Brennan posed the question to the CCB Facebook page (currently 504 followers strong) and received 40 responses and 27 hearts.  Most of the responses expressed similar sentiments: “Camp Chippewa Bay was magic and still holds a special place in our hearts.  It helped women young and not so young find who they were and then allowed them to be that with support and without judgment.  To try new things and challenges and escape from the “real world.” We learned skills in leadership, teaching, empathy, outdoor life and more that has lasted in us all to this day.  Music and singing were also a major theme so I will leave you with a condensed version of our dedication song: ‘We came here as strangers, learned the way of the wind and of the wood and the waves, and left as lifelong friends.  We still gather as much as we can and thank the Girl Scouts for creating this wonderful place.’”

Camp Tocanja; Owned by Girl Scouts of Calumet Council 1956-1988

In 1956 Calumet Council purchased 315 acres on Clear Lake in Twin Lakes, Michigan for a summer camp.  The first girls to camp there were in 1957.  The Scouts did two weeks of primitive camping.  Over the next three years the camp was developed, and Calumet Council declared 1960 to be “Camp Tocanja Year.”  The last summer camp sessions were held in 1985 and the camp was sold in 1987.  The property remains undeveloped and forested. 

Beginning in 1961, the second year the camp was open, Peggy Tuck-Sinko spent many happy summers at Camp Tocanja.  She recalls, “while I enjoyed almost everything (with the possible exception of some of the government surplus food that was served in the dining hall), my favorite memories are of the canoe trips.  Camp was where I learned to canoe, but we all got very tired of practicing strokes, and tip-tests, and maneuvering on Clear Lake.  Why couldn’t we just go out and paddle on the river?  Two different trips around 1963 and 1964 on the White and Pere Marquette Rivers really stand out.  On the White River we slept under overturned canoes at Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery – which still operates today, burned leeches off each other, and tried somewhat successfully to keep the food supplies dry.  I think Happy Mohawk is where I lost my Girl Scout knife.

We also encountered a group of boys who, in one tricky part of the river crashed into rocks and trees, and even overturned some canoes.  They pulled over beyond the “white water” (not raging, but scary enough to us), ready to laugh and catcall at our mistakes.  Now we knew why we had practiced!  One by one, our canoes threaded their way through the snags and churning water.  I’m sure it wasn’t flawless, but there was no crashing of aluminum on rocks or tipped-over canoes.  We waved at the dripping and silent boys as we paddled by, barely containing our glee.  An active Camp Tocanja Facebook group keeps these and other memories of this special place alive.”