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Girl Scouting is more than uniforms, cookie sales ...

February 26, 1998|By Marlo Barnhart

Girl Scouting is more than uniforms, cookie sales ...

As you reach middle age, there often is a tendency to look back over the great moments in life.

I immediately recall graduation day at Shepherd College, my wedding day, the births of my two children.

But when I think of what I would like to relive, the hands-down choice would be the three weeks I spent at the International Girl Scout Roundup in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, in the summer of 1965.

The years I spent as a Brownie, then an Intermediate Scout, and finally a Senior Scout had all prepared me for this great moment.

My mom urged me to try out, so I put my name in for one of the 32 spots to make this historic journey. Amazingly, I was chosen out of hundreds who applied.

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It's hard to explain the impact that trip had on me. It wasn't just fun ... not merely travel or adventure, either. As it turned out, it led to my current career. For that I will be eternally grateful to the scouting experience.

That summer, those 32 teenage girls from the newly formed Shawnee Girl Scout Council boarded a train at the Martinsburg, W.Va., station, joining hundreds of other girls from up and down the East Coast, heading to Idaho.

There our number swelled to more than 10,000 girls, getting together for what turned out to be the last such event in Girl Scout history.

On the trip out, we spent a day in Chicago and another in Glacier National Park, Mont., and three full days traveling before we arrived in Idaho.

For nearly two weeks, we lived in tents, cooked our own meals and met girls from every other state and 10 foreign countries.

We sang the songs we'd all learned in our home troops, we shared our particular heritage and swapped little gifts, many of which I still have.

Perhaps the highlight for me each day was heading into the press tent where tables, chairs and typewriters were set up for girls to write stories back to their hometown papers.

My stories appeared in The Martinsburg Journal, and I can still remember the thrill of seeing my name - then Marlo Dunn - in print in a REAL newspaper.

Over the years, I have run into other Roundup girls. We always have something to talk about. Remarkably, the Roundup program was so well integrated that we recall the same memories.

I came home a different girl, both socially and as it turns out, professionally. I discovered myself in Idaho that summer, and I have Girl Scouting to thank for that.

Little girls still dress in green, sell cookies and sing songs about making new friends. But Girl Scouting is more ... so much more.

Hopefully the Shawnee Council will continue to give girls vital support, skills and opportunities that will serve them through the years as it did for me.

Marlo Barnhart is a reporter for The Herald-Mail.

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