We’ve all had to do some adjusting since the Covid-19 pandemic started in the spring.
For a pair of eighth grade (now ninth grade) Girl Scouts, the pandemic meant that they faced obstacle after obstacle while trying to earn their Silver Awards, which is the highest award given by Girl Scouts to its Cadettes, who are girls in sixth through eighth grade.
Fortunately for Isabela DuBois, who lives in Cory Lake Isles, and her project partner, Amelia Beanland, who lives in Cross Creek, they learned how to be flexible, adapt and persevere when things don’t go as planned.
The girls earned their Silver Awards before bridging to Seniors at the end of July.
Isabela has been a member of Girl Scout Troop 32801, which typically meets at Benito Middle School, since Daisies, when she was just six years old. Amelia joined the troop when she was in sixth grade. Currently, Troop 32801 has been meeting through Skype.
That’s just one of the changes the girls faced in trying to complete their project.
“Our project is called ‘Don’t shop, adopt,’” Isabela says. “We came up with it because we both have a passion for dogs.”
She says they researched puppy mills and worked to educate people about what they learned. They made a flier and created Instagram and Facebook accounts to educate people about the importance of adopting a pet, rather than shopping for one.
Then, they put their research into action by partnering with Pasco County Animal Services to support its efforts to rescue and find homes for dogs in need.
The girls made “snuffle mats”, which are used to hide food or treats for dogs. “We raised the money, bought the supplies, made them, and donated them,” Isabela says.
However, that wasn’t their original plan.
Isabela’s mom, Crystal, who is the assistant leader for the troop, says she was impressed with the girls’ ability to adapt.
Crystal explains that the project originally included three girls and was going to focus on awareness of pre-teen and teen anxiety. When one of the girls was diagnosed with anxiety, they thought it was too sensitive and came up with the new idea, focusing on helping dogs. Then, the third girl chose to do a different project, and Isabela and Amelia moved forward without her.
They started by organizing a volunteer day at the Pasco County Animal Services shelter in Land O’Lakes when Covid-19 caused the shelter to close its doors to volunteers. The girls had to figure out what to do next.
They called the shelter, which recommended they make the snuffle mats. The girls then raised the money to get supplies by hosting a “virtual bake sale,” where they delivered goodies to people who bought them online.
Isabela and Amelia then bought the supplies for the snuffle mats, including fabric and rubber mats with holes in them, and a representative of the shelter taught the troop how to make the mats via a Zoom meeting.
“They kind of got hit up against a wall and figured out a different way around it,” says Crystal. “They learned some strategy skills.”
The girls were each required to contribute 50 hours to the project, and both Isabela and Amelia exceeded that requirement.
“This took a lot of work,” says Isabela. “We had to change our project from our original plan, then we also had Covid, and we had to change it again. It got harder at the end because we couldn’t meet to do stuff. It was very difficult and stressful.”
Isabela says she is happy to have received the award, given by the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, but she is more proud of her efforts and says she learned a lot during the process. “I want people to know how to find a proper breeder, kind of like a background check, and how to adopt properly and make sure the pet they adopt is healthy,” she says. “And, if you don’t want a dog, you can still help. You can donate to shelters or volunteer at a shelter.”
Isabela says she and Amelia had money left over from their fund-raising efforts after they made the snuffle mats, so they asked the shelter what kind of food was used, then ordered it and had it delivered.
“People can do that, too,” Isabela says, “and it’s not super expensive.” She says her journey in Girl Scouts is far from over, as she plans to earn her Gold Award, too.
“We’ve done archery, camping, gone canoeing, paddleboarding, ziplining and horseback riding,” she says. “They teach you First-Aid and life skills you won’t learn anywhere else. And, you make friends. I’ve learned so many things that I never would have if it wasn’t for Girl Scouts.”
Search “Florida Girl Scouts against Puppy Mills” on Facebook and on Instagram at “Dont.Shop.Adopt.”