Eleven girls from Girl Scout Troop 211, including scouts from Bayville, Oyster Bay, East Norwich and Huntington, were presented with Bronze Awards on Dec. 22, an achievement they treasured. But they also gave the community something more important than an award — 600 Kindness Rocks, the byproduct of their participation in the Kindness Rocks Project.
The national movement encourages people to spread kindness. The hope is that if people find randomly placed rocks painted with inspirational messages, it will inspire them.
But the scouts from Troop 211 didn’t just paint a pile of rocks with positive messages.
“In order to earn a Bronze Award, the girls have to participate in a take-action project and take on a leadership role; they can’t just do community service,” explained co-leader Kristin Herron, adding that each girl is required to spend 20 hours on the project that the troop chooses. “They have to come across a problem and figure out how to solve it.”
The problem — how to get others involved in creating a conduit to brighten people’s day — required brainstorming by the fifth graders. “They created workshops to teach others how to make the rocks, which involved finding the rocks, purchasing the supplies (using money from Girl Scout cookie sales) and then figuring out where they could hold the workshops,” Herron said.
The scouts received permission to conduct workshops at the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery, the Town of Oyster Bay Waterfront Festival, the Farm at Oyster Bay Harvest Festival, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site’s Science Day, Oyster Babies Early Childhood Center and at the Oyster Bay-East Norwich–Locust Valley-Bayville Veterans Day Dinner at St. Dominic’s Church.
Each girl searched for the rocks by looking in their backyards, on the beach and in public spaces. Then they painted them with a base coat prior to the workshop.
At the workshop, they encouraged people to paint inspirational messages on the rocks, which they could either keep or disperse throughout the community.
Khadeejah Memon, of East Norwich, said she enjoyed working with the preschool children at Oyster Babies. She also made some personal discoveries. “I felt empowered when the little girls came up to me,” she said. “I realized I could be a role model.”
Her mother, Denise Trezza, who leads Daisy Troop 229 in Oyster Bay, invited the Girl Scouts to present a workshop to her girls. “It was so beneficial for the Daisies,” Trezza said. “It was very inspiring for them to see what they can do when they become Girl Scouts when they get older. They were very engaged.”
Herron said she saw the girls mature while they worked. “They learned how to work with little kids, some found out they got overwhelmed in big crowds, and some learned that they liked being in charge,” she said.
And the girls were sometimes surprising, she added. “Abigail Maselli became a natural leader, which she didn’t know she had the ability to do before the project.”
Abigail, 10, who lives in Bayville, said she was surprised by the reactions of the children when she engaged them in the workshop. “They were so excited,” she said. “I was surprised by how their faces lit up. I really liked how we got to meet new people and share this project.”
Herron was also impressed by how supportive the girls were of their fellow troop members.
“Some reached the required 20 hours before others,” she said. “They would help the girls who didn’t have enough hours. There wasn’t any, ‘I got my hours and you didn’t.’ Getting the Bronze is a group effort. They became a sister to every Girl Scout.”
When it came time for the girls to receive their Bronze Award pins, co-leader Dianne Russo took a moment to reminisce. “When we spoke of our vision for this troop six years ago, we agreed that we only wanted to introduce the girls to experiences that they wouldn’t have had if they weren’t Girl Scouts,” she said. “You taught us that no matter how much we challenged you, you met our expectations. So we rose the bar higher. You impressed us, and exceeded our expectations with this project.”