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S'mores, Songs And Pandemic Stories

Yvonne Boose
Container for time capsules.

Chicago-area Girl Scouts took a trip down memory lane during a pre-celebration of National S’mores Day this past Saturday.

Colored markers and white sheets of paper greeted the girls as they came together at Camp Greene Wood in Naperville. These art supplies kept these youngsters occupied while they shared stories and documented their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were also tasked with adding how things were before the pandemic and what they envision things will be like after the pandemic ends.

Candice Schaefer is the senior director of corporate partnerships with Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. She said in addition to celebrating National S’mores Day -- something the group often does -- they are also encapsulating the pandemic through the Girl Scouts’ eyes.

She said the parents will play a role in the celebration by sharing their own stories.

“And bond over some of the things that have happened in their lives,” she explained, "and how it's altered them and moved them forward as leaders and as girls of courage, confidence and character.”

Girl Scouts partnered with Once Upon Our Time Capsule to help capture these pandemic memories that the children have.

The organization was created several months ago when co-founders Stacey Gillett and Stephanie Hodges realized there weren’t a lot of platforms for children to voice and process the impact of the pandemic.

This duo helps children capture these moments and put them into things that can be used as a time capsule, anything from a shoebox to a mason jar.

“So as an example, you might see a kid who was talking about, you know, they were stuck at home a lot, they decided to learn guitar for the first time,” Gillett said. “And so, then they include their first guitar pick, you know, as an example of what we're seeing come through.”

Michelle Harbeck was there with her 11-year-old daughter Chloe. She said Chloe became a Girl Scout this past October.

“One of the reasons we joined was because being at home and sort of in quarantine, she didn't have a lot of contact with other children,” Harbeck said. “And so I wanted her to be able to have some opportunities to socialize.”

Yvonne Boose
Chloe drawing during the event.

Chloe drew animals and listened in as her mother spoke, and then she shared why she liked the virtual experience.

“So, I get to meet with other people, other girls and do fun activities.”

Now, you may not have seen Girl Scouts in front of stores with boxes of cookies, but that doesn’t mean sales weren’t happening.

Schaefer said, like many other institutions, the group started reaching out to customers virtually.

“Girls were able to sell through email, through social media, through their virtual cookie booths, things like that. Super fun,” she said. “But our goal really through all of this was to be that solid organization for girls to lean back into and be there for when they were ready for us.”

Harbeck said her daughter had a goal to sell 50 boxes when she first joined but ended up doubling that -- without leaving her home.

Yvonne Boose

Once the scouts finished their art projects, they dropped them into a big bin along with other capsules they created. These will be sealed, and five years from now, the girls will be able to look back on them.

The parents joined in on the fun by putting sticky tabs with their memorable events on a huge timeline pasted on the side of the building. Some of the small notes showed things like the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the 1992 Los Angeles race riots and the 1993 Chicago Bulls Championship.

Afterwards, groups of girls stood around a fire pit toasting marshmallows for their graham crackers and Hershey’s chocolates. The evening ended with everyone standing in a circle and singing Girl Scout songs.

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.