By Kim French, Director of Resource Centers
Congratulations to Kathy Gaddis who has been awarded GSNI’s Volunteer Spotlight for March 2022!
As a child, Kathy shared she had fond memories of participating in Brownies in Galesburg, Illinois. Around 1996, she assisted as an adult volunteer with Troop 4. As a teacher at Hope Wall School, she was approached to see if she would be willing to help establish a Girl Scout troop there. She has continued as Troop 4004 Leader within the Circle of Friends Service Unit consistently for over 10 years!
Lauri Doyle, one of GSNI’s Member Support Specialists, nominated Kathy for this award stating, “She has led Troop 4004 at Hope Wall School in West Aurora School District for years. This troop is truly unique as it is for students of Hope Wall with severe medical and developmental challenges, ages 10 and up. Kathy’s passion for giving every girl the chance to be a Girl Scout has provided these girls with opportunities they might not otherwise have, such as making treats and toys for the animal shelter, selling Girl Scout Cookies, celebrating earning badges and awards in art activities, and offering fun games everyone can participate in. Kathy has adapted each meeting’s badgework, community service projects, and fun events to meet each of the individual’s abilities and needs, no matter how challenging. These girls are so proud to be Girl Scouts!”
When asked about some of her favorite Girl Scout memories, Kathy replied, “There are so many! I have enjoyed watching a young girl with special needs who seldom talked become more social and more interactive with normal-aged peers. Another is when one of our troop’s girls wrote and published her own book about her dog! I was so proud of her and had her autograph my copy. Also, I enjoy having Girl Scouts from other troops come and assist our troop. I can stand back and watch the interactions. Many times, the meetings take on a life of their own with little direction from me.”
Integrating The Three Processes (girl led, learn by doing, cooperative learning) is a bit different with this troop. Kathy explained, “Due to some cognitive and physical limitations, the girls need more direction and guidance. Our troop leaders assume a more hands-on approach. I see my role as setting the stage for our monthly meeting and allow the girls to take it wherever it leads.”
What has volunteering for Girl Scouts meant to Kathy? She commented, “I have made a career of teaching individuals with special needs. In Girl Scouts, I can interact with girls, see them reach beyond their limitations, and do things they never thought they’d be able to do. Running a special needs troop does take a lot of work, planning, adapting badgework, and preparation. However, the end result is so rewarding!”
Kathy expressed, “I volunteer for Girl Scouts, because I get a sense of joy when a girl accomplishes something they have been working on, and they achieve it. I fell into the Girl Scout troop leader role. Once I was there, I discovered the value of showing girls with special needs their worth—showing them they can be part of something special. I think I have grown as a person just having the opportunity to work with these wonderful girls!”
What advice would Kathy give to other Girl Scout volunteers or parents? She responded, “It is a rewarding opportunity. Yes, there is planning and work involved. But, you are changing lives, and it is worth it. I would also say if an opportunity comes along for you to have girls with special needs in your troop, please consider it. It will be a great learning opportunity for all involved.”
Thank you, Kathy, for everything you have done and continue to do for Girl Scouts! You truly belong in the spotlight!
GSNI wishes to thank Patty Donahue and Image Awards Engraving and Creative Keepsakes in Geneva, Illinois, for providing the beautiful tile trivet awards for our Volunteer Spotlight Program.