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World Thinking Day takes Girl Scouts around the globe

Kaitlyn Search, 13, from Troop 40218, shows some of the Japanese foods to sample, including homemade sushi, during the Girl Scouts World Thinking Day event at Park Forest Baptist Church on Friday, April 1, 2016.
Kaitlyn Search, 13, from Troop 40218, shows some of the Japanese foods to sample, including homemade sushi, during the Girl Scouts World Thinking Day event at Park Forest Baptist Church on Friday, April 1, 2016. adrey@centredaily.com

Girl Scouts from the State College area took a trip around the world Friday — all without leaving the Park Forest Baptist Church.

More than 200 girls — from Daisies to Cadettes — gathered at the church to celebrate the 2016 World Thinking Day, an event organized to help Girl Scouts learn about other cultures.

The girls were given paper passports and sent off to explore booths representing 18 countries from around the world, from Australia to Sweden.

Beth Maybee, event organizer and Cadette Troop 40412 leader, said the event’s focus has always been to draw attention to international concerns. This year, the theme was connecting with others.

And the girls were clearly making connections as they traveled around the room collecting passport stamps, trading nation pins and learning about the world.

“It raises awareness about how other people live,” Maybee said. “And celebrates different cultures. … I think there’s a lot of excitement today.”

One of the most popular booths, touting sushi, wasabi and spicy seaweed, was Japan.

April Staab and Beth Clark went above and beyond in attracting to attention to their booth. April , 13, was dressed in a traditional kimono, while Beth, 13, was dressed in a handmade costume of a character from a Japanese video game.

They said their troop chose to represent Japan because many of their members were interested in Japanese culture.

“Most people have reacted positively to (our display),” Beth said.

“A lot of the little kids have been staring at us!” April added.

Daisies Kaitlyn, 6, Stella, 6, and Paige, 7, said they were most excited to taste all the ethnic foods, collect pins representing each country and get their faces painted.

Daisies, the youngest of the Girl Scouts, acted as the “tourists” for the event.

But the event was not just for youngsters — and neither is Girl Scouts.

Representatives from Penn State’s on-campus Girl Scout organization, On My Honor, were on hand to help with the event — and serve as role models.

Emma Clement, president of On My Honor, said the group assists with community Girl Scout events several times per semester. They also host service events on campus and host “badge events” to help younger Girl Scouts earn various badges.

“I’ve always loved volunteering and Girl Scouts,” Clement said. “We can help provide in put and make a good impression on the girls and convince them to stay in Scouting longer.”

Maybee said they are “really pushing the idea of older girls participating” in Girl Scouts.

Denise Rill, a member of the church and a Girl Scouts volunteer, said having older Girl Scouts around has a huge benefit for both older and younger Scouts.

“As you get older it opens up opportunities to develop leadership skills,” Rill, whose daughter is a Cadette, said. “There are so many opportunities to broaden your network as you get older.”

While World Thinking Day is an opportunity for girls to learn about other cultures and connect with other Girl Scouts, the event also raises funds for charity.

Part of the proceeds will be donated to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The rest will be divided between two local charities selected by the Girl Scouts who attended. Each girl was given a ballot to vote on which charity they’d prefer to donate to.

“It’s great because it gives the girls a say in what they support,” Rill said.

At the close of the event, the emcee asked the all-important question, “Did everybody have fun?”

To which 200 young voices answered with a resounding “Yes!”

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