On Saturday, Sept. 24, Girl Scouts from the Western New York council participated in the 48th annual "Skills and Chills" event at Camp Seven Hills Goodyear in Holland, New York.
"Skills and Chills" is a yearly competition in the Western New York council that allows Girl Scouts who are sixth-grade Cadettes through 12th-grade Ambassadors to test their abilities and earn awards. A committee organizes the event and chooses judges who are subject matter experts in each field. Girls face off in events such as archery, orienteering, first aid, canoeing, tent pitching, log sawing, knots and lashing, and field sports.
Janet DePetrillo, director of outdoor program at the Girl Scouts of Western New York, stated, "The point of 'Skills and Chills' is to bring all of our older girls together for an opportunity for team camaraderie, as well as individual competition. It's really a bonding experience. They're outdoors and it's skill-based and all about having fun!"
Troop 30646 co-leader Cindy Breeze of Tonawanda stated, "Over the last year, we've probably practiced about 40-plus hours, and we have a team of six with us today. We always work on outdoor skills when we do troop camping, plus girls have participated in many council events leading up to this. Many of my Girl Scouts did the 'Ready, Set, Camp' program."
Ambassador Girl Scout Teresa Buchner from Troop 70400 of Niagara Falls said, "This is my seventh year doing 'Skills and Chills.' My favorite skill is tent pitching. It's a lot of fun and it's something that you can really use. I enjoyed doing it before ever trying 'Skills and Chills.' The fastest that a partner and I have set up a tent is three and a half minutes when we timed ourselves. But mostly, the judges are looking for teamwork. They want you to communicate and they don't care as much about how much time you take, they just want you to work together with each other and do the best that you can."
Teresa's mom, Girl Scout volunteer Roxane Albond-Buchner, added, "This is unplugged and it's awesome!"
Troops collectively decide on a team name and often create costumes to match their theme. This adds to the fun and helps to unite the troop even further with a visual element. This year, troops chose team themes such as ducks, playing cards, "Sesame Street" characters and movie characters.
Girl Scout Marlena Grakowsky was joined by three other girls from Pittsford Troop 60222. She said, "We're great at first aid. We had a lot of help practicing from parents who are doctors. They gave us a lot of great information about how to treat and care for people. The biggest things during this whole event are teamwork, cheering people on, and having a good time. I think people take it too seriously sometimes and get upset, but if you just have fun it's not really about winning."
Breeze added, "The No. 1 thing that I hope the girls get out of this is confidence. They try new skills, put them to use, work together, and cheer each other on a as a team."
Erin Day of Kenmore Troop 30143 took away a personal lesson.
"You need to keep trying no matter what, even if you didn't do good at something, you just say 'I tried my hardest.' If doesn't matter if we take home awards. It matters that everyone is working together," she said.
Buchner added, "The main focus of this event is teamwork, but also getting to meet new people and see how they do things differently. Last year, we took home a couple of ribbons and we're hoping to win more today, but it's really the fun and memories that are important."
DePetrillio said, "This program really would not happen if not for the dedication of the group of women and men volunteers who sit on our committee. Together, they make this event happen. Without their skills, time and talent, events like this where girls really come to together and build their courage, confidence and character wouldn't occur. We are nothing without our girls and our volunteers."
At the end of the evening, all the teams' points were totaled and award ribbons were given out. Regardless of who won in each category, everyone cheered each other on and applauded the successes of their fellow Girl Scouts.
To learn more about Girl Scouts of Western New York, visit gswny.org