FAIRFAX, VT | Helping girls develop courage, confidence and character is a priority for Cathy Larsson, and she has done that through years of service to Girl Scouts, teaching them outdoors, entrepreneurship and leadership skills. This lifetime member also helps adult volunteers to gain new skills themselves as a trainer for the council that supports Girl Scouts across Vermont and New Hampshire. Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is proud to honor Larsson as its July Volunteer of the Month.
Larsson recently worked with a team of volunteers and staff to deliver Ready, Set, Go Camping/Basic Outdoor Living Skills blended training for 65 girls and 26 volunteers in one weekend. She received the council’s Honor Pin in 2016, which recognizes an individual’s exemplary service in support of delivering the Girl Scout Experience in two or more geographic areas of the service unit. She’s received the Torchbearer honor, which recognizes those who have had a significant impact on Girl Scouts’ outdoor experiences. She also spent years as a community product sale coordinator – that’s the person who organizes cookie deliveries for their area.
“Cathy has been a tremendous support to the troops and girls in her area,” said Robin Boyd, product sales manager for Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains. “In her years as a product sales coordinator, she guided the troops in her service unit with details of each sale and how the girls would be successful. More than just sharing details, though, Cathy’s touch as a mentor is genuine and inspirational. She believes in girls, and they believe in themselves. What a gift to our girls!”
Karyn Martin, the council’s assistant director for outdoor programming agrees. “She was excited to be part of this blended training and enthusiastic to see the girls participating while the volunteers practiced their new skills in outdoor cooking, orienteering, whittling, and more.”
Larsson’s dedication to teaching girls and adults about outdoor living strengthened about 10 years ago, when the Vermont and New Hampshire Girl Scout councils merged. She said she teamed up with Suzanna Brown, seeing the need for adult training.
“A lot of women have not had the ability to be connected with things that are more traditionally male,” she said. “I had a phenomenal leader when I was a Junior (Girl Scout) in California. She was tough but loving, had come from an Army background in the ‘60s. She guaranteed you went out camping at least four times a year.”
Today, as co-leader of Troop 58804 in Fairfax, a multi-level troop of Brownies and Juniors, girls in grades 3-5, she joked that her Junior leader Linda Coulombe requires prospective members to be able to put up a tent and start a campfire. “We have a group of girls who are very eager to be outdoors and doing things that are independent,” said Larsson.
That independence is important to Larsson. She likes both the girl and adult volunteers to have hands-on experience and let girls make their own decisions. She’s surprised some parents by requiring girls to carry their own gear from the car when arriving at camp, but the parents get it, she said, and realize it’s good for them all. Teaching girls camping skills is one of her favorites, watching them fumble at first then become experienced and confident.
Larsson began her Girl Scout experience as a Brownie and progressed to Cadette, but then a move kept her from continuing. Once her daughter was old enough to enroll, her daughter started as a Daisy and continued through high school graduation. Larsson became a co-leader of her daughter’s Brownie troop, where she enjoyed seeing the girls take on new responsibilities. Her daughter’s focus on was on travel, and Larsson encouraged her to see the world.
“When my daughter was about ready to go to college,” she said, “it was fun to listen to her organize a hike. She was checking to see who had the first aid, everyone had to have a head lamp, running down the list. She actually learned something!”
As an active member of the council’s Alumnae Association, she took the lead at a pie-iron demo at a campground in Vermont recently. She got the campfire started and helped everyone learn how to use the long-handled devices to cook over a fire.
Volunteering for Girl Scouts is more than a benefit to girls, said Larsson. “The bonds you make along the way can be lifelong.” She said the key to leading a troop is to delegate – find out what skills parents and others can bring. “Don’t do it all, you don’t have to! It will be more fun for you if you don’t. Go find something you want to learn and find someone to teach it. Once the girls are capable, teach them the steps to organize it and help them along. I find that the overall goal is to create independent, confident people.”
It is volunteers like Cathy Larsson who help prepare girls for a lifetime of leadership, unleashing the G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ in every girl. Girl Scouts takes the potential of girls, combines it with robust skill-building programming, and adds caring adult mentors and strong female role models. Find out more about Girl Scouting and how to volunteer at www.girlscoutsgwm.org.
About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains: Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for girls, with proven results. It is based on time-tested methods and research-backed programming that helps girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving more than 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org.