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Troop Leader Spotlight: Sara Ditwiler

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Cactus Bloom Service Unit

Troop 2425 (Multi-Level)

Years as a Troop Leader: 7

What inspired you to become a Troop Leader?

When my oldest daughter was a Daisy, one of the leaders stepped down and I was approached about taking over that role. I decided that it would be a great opportunity to support my daughter in her Girl Scout Journey as well as spend time with her. I had no idea what it fully entailed but I've enjoyed being able to share this experience with my daughter as well as our troop.

What kind of activities do you do with your troops? What is their favorite thing to do?

We are a multi-level, multi-school troop, and we love to bonding together by giving back to our community. We like to engage the girls with new experiences, introduce them to different worlds, and promote team building with an emphasis on supporting their Girl Scout Sisters. As the girls have aged, encampment has become one of their favorite things to do. Each camp allows them to try new things, meet other Girl Scouts, and bond. One of their favorite things to do is skip the bonfires and have dance parties and tell bad jokes in their cabins. Those nights are full of laughter, memories, and stories that they will tell years later from a previous encampment.

What kind of service projects have you done with your troop?

We have done several different types of service projects. We like to teach the girls about the different ways to give back (time, monetary, etc.). A few of the service projects we've completed have been:

  • Collecting donations for the Arizona Animal Welfare League
  • We’ve read to the dogs at the MCSO MASH Unit
  • Collected donations and pop-tops for the Ronald McDonald House
  • Made and donated dog toys
  • Put together Snowman Soup to give out at a “Shop with a Cop” event for the Peoria Police Department
  • Created donation boxes for Domestic Violence Awareness month
  • Painted rocks that were placed at the Oncology unit of the Mayo Clinic.

With each project, I see the girls’ passion and their growth as leaders!

Tell us about a volunteer moment that stands out to you.

One of my favorite moments was when our troop hosted a daddy/daughter day to build robots that earned girl their Robotics badges. As moms we get to participate in programs more often, but the ability to include the dads and allow the girls to show their dads what they can do was great. It allowed the girls to bring their dads into our Girl Scout world but also allowed the dads to see how incredible and capable their daughters are.

It also bring be great joy to see how the girls love and support each other. It doesn't matter who they are within the troop, you are guaranteed to hear giggles and discussion. They are there for each other, encouraging each other during a difficult moment, applauding and praising when one succeeds, and ensuring each girl is safe. Those are the bonds and moments I believe help shape their experience and will leave lifelong impressions.

What advice would you give other Troop Leaders?

My advice to other troop leaders would be, allow yourself some grace. Life is busy and there are times when we don't always feel on our game but that is the best time to lean on your fellow Troop Leaders and share the responsibilities. The girls will see your actions and will learn how to ask for help or even step-up when someone needs help. Leading by example is important and can help groom positive self-care and mental health examples. Leading takes a village.

What do you wish someone had told you as a new Troop Leader?

You do not need to know everything about Girl Scouts and do not hold yourself to another troop’s standards. Each troop is unique, like a snowflake, and what one does may not be what's best for your troop. Find your own groove. There are a million resources available which can be overwhelming but do not fret, you do you. And if you need help, ask. Look for a mentor within your neighborhood or even another that you are comfortable with, and you can lean on. We are all here to support each other.

What would you like others to know about volunteer opportunities with Girl Scouts?

If you'd like to see improvements or changes within your neighborhood or council, get involved. There are many types of committees that you can join. They might seem intimidating at first, but you will not regret it. I've been able to support IGMs, new volunteers, present at a council training, and even provide council feedback on training over the years. Everyone has skills that they can offer, and we always need new ideas and sounding boards to make our daughters experiences better.

Does your troop sell cookies? If yes, please tell us in your own words, why it is important to participate in the cookie program?

Our troop does sell Girl Scout Cookies each year. I think the cookie program helps girls learn how to handle money, how to improve customer service skills, and proper etiquette when a guest is at a business. These are all important lessons that the girls will need to know throughout their life. No matter what career path they choose or where they adventure, they will need to understand money, working with others, and proper etiquette. It's OK to be sad when goals aren't hit or a customer refuses or ignores you but we like to teach the girls how to handle rejection, move on and try not to dwell on a handful of “nos”.

What are your troop’s cookie selling tips and tricks?

This is where we've seen success with girl behaviors and etiquette. Our girls always thank customers no matter if it's a "yes" or "no" and they like to add a touch at the end such as "have a great day" or "thanks for supporting" based on the response from the customer. We've had customers return to purchase based on etiquette alone. I don't believe there are many tricks to selling as it comes down to the girls’ goals and how they want to push themselves. We have one who will knock it out of the park every year and as soon as she hits a goal, she sets another. We also have some girls who use this as an opportunity to help support the troop and they focus on wanting to help earn funds for high awards. I love the flexibility of the program and how it allows the girls to lead but with clear boundaries to help them succeed.

What is the most inspiring moment you have experienced as a Troop Leader?

When a girl finds her voice or is willing to push herself out of her comfort zone and try something new is such a great feeling. I love that our girls are learning healthy boundaries and supporting themselves while having fun. Leading is great but most speak of leading others; we want them to lead themselves and witnessing a girl learn her worth and lead herself is a true testimony of what the Girl Scout Leadership Experience is.