Being a Girl Scout troop leader has its rewards and, after more than 20 years of leading troops, Mary Gedelian thought she had experienced most of them. That is until the “big adventure” of 2021.
Gedelian and her Troop 10772 have been together since the girls were Daisies. So, when the girls said they wanted to go on a big adventure together in 2019, Gedelian saw it as a fantastic way to celebrate their years of sisterhood. It would be a trip they would cherish forever.
With her support and guidance, the girls began researching places to enjoy the outdoors, specifically the mountains. In true Girl Scout fashion, the girls were eager to do activities that tested their courage, confidence, and character.
“They wanted to go white water rafting, overnight backpacking, rock climbing, and fly fishing,” says Gedelian. “I love to travel, and I try to share that with the girls.”
The troop selected AEI Base Camp, a faith-based organization in Almont, Colorado. The camp promised to provide all the wilderness experiences they were seeking. Plus, they would have the opportunity to earn the new Girl Scout outdoor badges – primitive and climbing. The enthusiastic girls meticulously followed the required Girl Scout protocols and received approval to take their trip in summer 2020.
Then COVID-19 hit. Everything in the world came to a halt, and so did the troop’s big adventure.
Months passed with everyone on lockdown. It looked like the trip might be doomed. As COVID-19 cases began to decline the following year, the troop revived their plans and received the green light to take their trip in June.
Then cancer struck. Gedelian learned her cancer, once in remission, had come back. She began chemotherapy treatments in the spring.
“Honestly, it was touch and go,” says Gedelian. “I thought if we don’t go this summer, it’s probably not going to happen. I felt if I didn’t go, I would lose them.”
Gedelian finished her third round of treatments just in time for the girls to go on their big adventure. The troop loaded up in cars and drove to Colorado, with Gedelian traveling separately in her car. Her condition required her to make frequent stops to stretch.
The girls set out for an overnight backpacking experience on the fourth day of the seven-day trip. As they prepared for the hike with another troop leader and a guide, Gedelian says she noticed some small rocks on the ground.
“I knew I couldn’t do the overnight backpacking,’’ she said. “Before they left, I found little rocks and gave one to each of them. I said, ‘Take one with you. It represents my heart; so, I will be with you.’”
The girls had a special gift for Gedelian when they returned to the base camp. They showed her a smartphone photo they had taken during their hike. It was a picture of them on a mountain, standing around the rocks shaped like a heart on the ground. Next to the heart were sticks forming the letters M (for Mary) and T (for Theresa Fusaro), the other troop leader on the trip).
“It was the most meaningful thing to me,” says Gedelian. “It was a really special experience. I cried.”
In the fall, the girls bridged to Ambassador. The troop is the third troop that Gedelian has led to this level. Gedelian, who started as a camp mom with her daughter’s troop in 1998, says she likes Girl Scouting and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“I don’t just like Girl Scouts, I’m passionate about Girl Scouting,” she says. “Being a troop leader is the most important volunteer role you can have. Because without troop leaders, there are no Girl Scouts.”