When Kerry Liles registered her daughter Molly for kindergarten at Greens Farms Elementary, Marguerite Rossi encouraged signing up for Girl Scouts too. Remembering her own great 7 years as a Scout in Long Island, Kerry figured, Why not?
As she did, Marguerite said, “You’re on the wrong side of the table. We need volunteers!”
Thirteen years later, Molly is still a Girl Scout. Kerry is still the leader. And though other activities, moves away from Westport — and life — have whittled the numbers down from 21 to 7, that group is still very active. They’re very tight. And the tale of Troop 50048 is very, very cool.
Those first years with Brownies were “like herding kittens,” Kerry recalls. The girls planted daffodils at GFS, did crafts, and — most importantly — became friends.
As they graduated to full Girl Scouts, their horizons widened. Their activities broadened.
“Anything you can think of, my girls have done,” Kerry says proudly. That includes volunteering at Homes for the Brave, Senior Center and Gillespie Center; helping clean up Long Island Sound; collecting items for women in need; sunrise hikes; weeks at Camp Jewell, and learning first aid and CPR.
One of the best connections has been with Norwalk’s Open Doors shelter. From 6th through 10th grade the girls hosted Halloween parties, brought holiday gifts, helped out on special occasions, and created bonds with young kids.
When COVID struck and indoor activities became impossible, the troop headed to Smith Richardson Preserve. In cold, windy weather they weeded, cut vines, mended fences — and grew even tighter.
During the pandemic, activities like these provided important outlets for energy, and a way to stay together. One day, they arrived at the preserve to find their tools had been stolen. They sat for an hour, just talking.
“It’s a very diverse group,” Kerry notes. “But they really take care of each other.”
They take special care of Olivia Ross. She’s in a wheelchair and non-verbal. But from a young age, the Scouts learned sign language to communicate. They’ve literally carried her up a mountain. They admire her, and she loves them.
Olivia’s mother Victoria says that Girl Scouts “opened up a world to her, with no judgments. No mountain would go unclimbed for Olivia.”
She calls Kerry “an extraordinary leader and friend.”
Kerry downplays her role in the troop’s longevity and success. But, parent Stacie Curran says, “she has created a sisterhood with these gals. They may not be best pals at school, but when they get together Kerry has guided them in building great bonds through different life experiences. They’ll carry those bonds through life.
“Kerry has taught them kindness, care, toughness, watching out for each other, doing for others, being there for those in need, and life skills — it’s endless!”
Boy Scouts get plenty of publicity. Girl Scouts — not so much.
They have a reputation that they’re “all about crafts,” Kerry admits. “But I’m rugged. We do a lot more than crafts. And I’m all about volunteering too.”
With all the options available to teenagers today, Girl Scouts may seem like a throwback. Molly’s friends sometimes can’t believe she’s still a Scout.
“I like the people,” she says simply. “And we have a lot of fun.”
In June, Molly and her six Girl Scout troopmates — Olivia Ross, Olivia Pace, Carly Curren, Zoe Kaye, Theresa Vandis and Sofia Palumbo — will graduate. They can remain individual “ambassadors,” but that will be the end of their active Scouting careers.
Until, Kerry notes, they have kindergartners of their own. At which point — just like she did 13 years ago — they may sign up to be Girl Scout leaders too.