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Girl Scouts celebrate 85 years of camaraderie


May 31, 1997
Web posted at: 10:05 p.m. EDT (2205 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Thousands of Girl Scouts took the nation's capital by storm Saturday, dancing the Macarena on the Mall to mark the organization's 85th anniversary.

Scouts, both in and out of uniform in the hazy heat, swapped stories, remembered their heritage and, of course, sang at the gathering billed: "Still singing after all these years."

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"The idea behind it is to, number one, celebrate this extraordinary 85th anniversary of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., where the values are just as good today as they were in 1912," said Ellie Ferdon, national president of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.

Inspired by the Girl Guides of England, Juliette Gordon Low of Savannah, Georgia, started the Girl Scouts with a troop of 18 members. Since then, more than 50 million girls have been Scouts, among them a number who grew up to hold prominent positions.


"It's fun, because you get to do all kinds of projects," said one girl with a broad smile, proudly wearing her sash.

The Scouts have evolved over time, with merit badges for baby care, and flag signaling giving way to areas such as computer science. Group talks are now held on subjects such as sexual harassment, AIDS and peer pressure.

"If your friends don't agree with what you're doing, they're not really your friends," explained one girl with bangs and braces. "You make the right choice that you know is right, and your heart will tell you that it's right."

The idea behind the programs and fun is to help girls learn to make sound choices.

"The challenges facing girls today are monumental," said Melinda Carroll, a Scout leader and professional musician. "In Girl Scouting, we prepare our girls for life."


Among those participating in the commemorations was Alma Knox, who at age 85 can trace her start to the same point as the Girl Scouts. She's been one herself for 72 years, and still exhibits their can-do spirit.

"We can't keep knowledge away from them," said Knox, of Silver Spring, Maryland. "You have to keep up with the computers nowadays. I have a computer, because I didn't want my grandchildren to get ahead of me."

The more things change, of course, the more things stay the same. On their honor, a chorus of cheerful sprites offered this reminder: "Be prepared!"

Reporter Louise Schiavone contributed to this report.


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