On Sat., Sept. 24, Girl Scouts from the Western New York council participated in the 47th annual Skills and Chills event. The event took place at Camp Seven Hills Goodyear located in Holland, NY.
Skills and Chills is a yearly competition in the GSWNY council that allows Girl Scouts that are sixth-grade Cadettes through twelfth-grade Ambassadors to test their abilities and earn awards. A committee organizes the event and chooses judges that are subject matter experts in each field. This year, ten new volunteers were trained as subject matter experts and added to the judging panel.
Nancy Grimes, chairperson of the outdoor committee, stated, “It’s important to know these skills. It gives girls a sense of strength in the outdoors. They can say, ‘I can do this. I can accomplish this. I don’t need to wait for someone else to do it.’ Part of the philosophy of this program is not just having the skills, but being willing to try and give it a shot.”
Ann Marie Lesnewski brought Cadette troop 30143 to the event. She commented, “We try to do the skills throughout the year. Whenever we go camping we try to incorporate fire building. With first aid, we talk about it all the time and what you should do if certain situations come up. It’s an ongoing process for us and we don’t just do this to prep for Skills and Chills.”
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 of camaraderie.
Lesnewski explained how her troop chose their theme. “We came up with a Christmas theme because I ride in a scooter, so the girls were trying to figure out how we could incorporate that. I’m Mrs. Claus in a sleigh, the leaders are elves, and the girls are all reindeer.”
Girls face off in events such as archery, orienteering, canoeing, tent pitching, log sawing, knots and lashing, and field sports.
Grimes explained, “Points earned are based more on common sense and safety than speed. It’s about understanding what’s required to be safe if you use these skills while camping. We’re out here to make sure they enjoy it and can act as leaders to be able to light a fire or perform first aid. Team building and communication are important for the girls to learn and use, too.”
Teresa Buchner of troop 70400 said that her troop didn’t have access to canoes to practice, but came up with an alternate plan instead. They got paddles and set up dining room chairs to practice on, pretending they were in a canoe and working on skills such as turning and stopping momentum. She and teammate Josie Ostrowski earned second place in the canoe skills competition showing that a little Girl Scout ingenuity holds great value.
Dayonna Tester from troop 70923 said, “Today, I did archery, first aid, knots and lashing, and compass. My troop practices every week as part of our troop meetings. First aid was my best event. We had to wrap an arm with an ace bandage and make a splint. My team worked really well together.”
Tester had to step in for a troop member that was unable to make it to the competition. The girl that couldn’t attend the event had been signed up for archery. Tester had never touched a bow before, but was willing to do her best. Afterward, although she didn’t score any points, she said, “I want to take archery lessons! That was really fun!”
At the end of the evening, all the points were totaled and award ribbons were given out. Volunteers beamed with pride as all the girls cheered on the winners.
Grimes said, “Part of why this is a success is we keep doing what the girls need. This is about these kids having fun and having an experience they won’t forget.”