Madison Burrell uses these adjectives to describe her time at the wet and windy West Point Camporee: “tiring, scary, wet, muddy, crusty and painful.”
Hardly a ringing endorsement, right?
But then read what Madison says next: “I hope I’ll get to make more memories like this.”
For Madison’s mom, Troop 5109 Scoutmaster Christine Burrell, that’s the perfect metaphor for Scouting right there.
“It seems everyone these days is talking about grit as the big predictor of success,” Christine says. “That is what the BSA develops in spades.”
In its first year in existence, Troop 5109 has camped in sun, rain and snow. They’ve earned merit badges, religious emblems and the Messengers of Peace Award. They’ve met Scouts from across the country and around the world. And they’ve learned they’re capable of more than they ever thought possible.
They’ve learned they have grit.
“I’ve opened my mind up to new experiences and adventures that have made me feel like a better person, physically and mentally,” Madison says.
Ready to go
Troop 5109 was one of hundreds of Scouts BSA troops for girls that formed on the first possible day: Feb. 1, 2019.
I first learned of this group of remarkable Scouts long before they were officially Scouts. I interviewed Christine, her fellow Troop 5109 leader Kim Towne and some of the soon-to-be Scouts for the September-October 2018 issue of Scouting magazine.
In that story, Christine shared the five-step process she used when co-founding Troop 5109.
Fast forward to summer 2019 — nine months after that article appeared. Christine and Troop 5109 were at summer camp at Woodruff Scout Camp in Georgia.
“We shared a campsite with another female unit,” Christine says. “I met one of the leaders, shook his hand, and introduced myself. He brightened at hearing my name and took out his phone. There, on the notes app on his phone, was my name and a quote from page 31 of Scouting magazine, talking about starting up a troop for girls. He told me that he was reading that article and said to himself, ‘If she can do that, I can, too.’ He proceeded to start up his own troop just a few miles down the road.”
Christine says she’s grateful for Scouting magazine and the ways it “inspires all of us leaders to keep growing this great program.”
But this story isn’t about Scouting magazine. It’s about Troop 5109. And Christine insists that Troop 5109’s story not be told by her.
“This is a youth-led program, so I’d rather you hear about how it’s going in their own words,” she says.
Finally a part of it
Scouting has been in Kayla Bell’s family for generations. Thanks to Scouts BSA, she’s continuing in the footsteps left by men she admires greatly.
“I am so happy that I can finally be a part of it, too,” she says.
So far, she’s been camping and caving, climbing and kayaking. And the troop is only getting started.
“I am in an amazing troop,” Kayla says. “I have met many new people and I love collecting new patches from different events and places that I have been.”
Getting closer as friends
A little awkwardness is inevitable any time you join a group of strangers. Sarah Takahashi felt exactly that when she joined Troop 5109.
But Scouting is the ultimate icebreaker. The journey of planning campouts, learning new skills and experiencing the outdoors together has a way of breaking down barriers and building up friendships.
Whether camping inside caves (“fun and challenging, especially in the dark,” Sarah says) or hiking to see llamas at the top of a mountain, Sarah’s adventures with Troop 5109 have formed unbreakable bonds.
“Our troop may have a few arguments and disagreements every now and then, but we are definitely getting closer as a team and as friends,” Sarah says.
A year in pictures
The photos below tell even more of Troop 5109’s first-year story. I can’t wait to see what they do next.
“We are an exceptionally active troop, and these girls are so full of energy and passion,” says Christine, their Scoutmaster. “We are fostering in these Scouts independence and curiosity, and an ability to overcome and even cherish challenges. I am so proud of these girls.”