Girl Scout Megan Wischerath (far left) posed with Cradle Beach campers, after dropping off sporting equipment she had collected for the facility, as her Gold Award project.
HAMBURG — Megan Wischerath always believed in the power of sports, so when it came time to devise her Gold Award project, she decided to combine community service with sports in her endeavor, “Promoting the Participation of Children With Disabilities in Sports.
“I heard about Cradle Beach and the wonderful things they do,” she explained. “They have a strong need for sports equipment, so I decided to collect it to be donated.”
The Nardin Academy graduate is a swimmer, who dove into several events in that sport, all four years of high school. Knowing the impact it had on her life, she wanted to help kids with disabilities feel that, too.
“My heart has always gone out to kids with disabilities,” she said. In eighth grade, she got involved with a program that teaches children with Downs Syndrome how to ride bicycles. “Lose the Training Wheels,” according to Wischerath, takes one week, during which the riders graduate from large rollers as back wheels, which stabilize the bicycle, to smaller and more wobbly rollers, until they are riding a two-wheeler.
Megan Wischerath collected several large bins of equipment, including lawn games such as ladder ball and a volleyball net.
“It’s really cool. Once you start it, you have to love it,” she said, of her first foray into sports and disabled kids. “At first, they can barely get on [the bike] and by the end, they’re riding around in circles. It’s amazing.”
For her Gold Award project, Wischerath met with teachers and administrators at Nardin Academy and her former elementary school, Nativity, to get those schools to help collect equipment. At first, Nardin was less cooperative than she had hoped, but Wischerath did not let that stop her.
“I was counting on them as a main part of my drive, so that my first, real challenge,” she said. “But I kept persevering and asked more people, and eventually, they said yes.”
The Girl Scout Gold Award Ceremony, at which the girls presented their projects and received their awards, was held June 7.
She also sent out flyers to other Girl Scout troops around the area, as well as sporting goods businesses, asking for donations and help collecting materials. In total, she sent solicitations to 15 equipment stores and Olympia Sports came through with eight bins of sporting goods equipment for the Cradle Beach kids.
Wischerath, who has been in Girl Scouts since she was a Brownie, has received her Bronze, Silver and now Gold service awards. The project requires 80 hours of community service and leadership, and a proposal must be submitted to the regional Girl Scout Council before the Scout can begin work. In all, a Gold Award project often takes several years to complete. Wischerath began hers in the beginning of her sophomore year, and finished just before the end of her junior year.
Of the six girls in Wischerath’s troop, three of them received their Gold awards, but all of them helped collect, sort and pick up equipment.
The Scout sent out letters (above), made flyers and emailed other troop leaders, to get donations from organizations and other troops.
“Our leader, Patty Rath, is the best of the best, “Wischerath said. “She’s awesome. She’s the best of the best. When I got the idea, she said to run with it and helped me sent it throughout the council. If I didn’t have her, I don’t think I’d have the encouragement and the strength to carry it through, start to finish.”
Once she collected all of the equipment, Wischerath dropped it off at Cradle Beach, where several campers happened to be at the site.
“They came around with me for a tour and it was very rewarding to see where all of my hard work was going,” the Scout said, of the experience. “It was great seeing the campers and seeing how thankful Cradle Beach was that I did my project.”
In all, the Girl Scout said she learned how to stick with a goal, even if it’s hard, at first. “I love the service aspect. I love giving back to my community,” she said. “If you see a need and have a passion, run with it. The outcome can be very rewarding, not only to you, but to the people who benefit from it. If you hit setbacks, keep going. Persevere.”