Summertime fun? It’s in the bag, thanks to Junior Girl Scouts

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Kids and summertime go together like popsicles and a steamy-hot day, beach balls and sand, chalk and sidewalks.

Children from low-income families, however, may not take for granted some of the simple pleasures of summer vacation. The priority for their parents is putting meals on the table, not purchasing boxes of chalk or inflatable balls.

That's what Junior Girl Scouts from St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax realized as they worked toward their Bronze Award, the highest honor a Junior Girl Scouts can achieve. The result was "The 100 Bags Campaign," a creative donation effort for low-income students at Daniels Run Elementary School, located across Old Lee Highway from the church.

"The girls wanted it to be more than just the school across the street," said troop leader Dawn Shook. They wanted to "show its students that they cared."

On June 10, members of Troop 2765 delivered 100 hand-sewn bags to "the neighbors," as troop member Allyson Shook put it.

Overflowing with a variety of summertime staples - sunglasses and sunblock, books, crayons, a small stuffed animal, chalk, puzzles and a beach ball - the cloth bags and their contents were nestled in brightly colored sand buckets.

To earn a Bronze Award, Junior Girl Scouts are required to research needs in their community and organize a sustainable service project. Twenty hours are required, but the St. Leo troop put in double that, according to Shook.

Father David A. Whitestone, pastor, supported the effort, and items were donated by parishioners, TD Bank in Fairfax and local Girl Scout troops.

Shook said the girls have participated in many food and clothing drives, but this was an opportunity "to give something fun." It also was "a perfect blend of their Catholic faith and the Girl Scouts," she said.

The project began with the eight fifth-graders - six St. Leo the Great School students, one Daniels Run student and one home-schooler - interviewing a city councilman, police officer, doctor and Daniels Run Assistant Principal Dustin Wright. "They heard a lot about poverty from everyone," said Shook.

When they discovered that Daniels Run has about 100 children who receive food assistance through the school during the academic year, they came up with their campaign.

Last Friday afternoon, the girls worked cooperatively to lug all 100 bags into the Daniels Run School office.

"We are confident there will be lots of smiles because of you," Wright, a St. Leo parishioner, told the Junior Girls Scouts. Although Daniels Run continues to provide nonperishable food to low-income families during vacations, Wright said families struggle to make ends meet.

"We are so very grateful, and (the bags) are going to make for a wonderful summer for more than just 100 children," said Wright. He said students' siblings also will get to enjoy the thoughtfully selected items after they are distributed June 23, the last day of school.

"It was fun and a lot of hard work," said troop member Avary McCarthy, reflecting on the project. She explained that sometimes the handles on the bags would fall off because "some of us are just learning to sew."

After posing for a group photo with the piles of bags, fellow troop member Michelle Martin agreed it wasn't easy, but added that "it sure feels good."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016