By Brittany Fullenkamp

Multimedia Coordinator

VAN WERT - In today's fast-pace society filled with image after image of the "perfect" woman, it's no surprise young girls struggle to find the confidence to pursue their goals. That makes organizations like Girl Scouts that much more important.

"The mission of the Girls Scouts is to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place," says Nikki Beougher, a local Girl Scout leader. "That's our basic thing - to prepare them for the future and to be leaders."

Beougher has been involved with the girl scouts for 12 years. She shares that it was because of her daughter LaNae that she became involved. When her daughter joined, Beougher served only as a volunteer for the first year, but she quickly realized the benefits of the program and has been a leader since.

"The girls learn many valuable skills in the program. They learn people skills and about personalities and how to deal with different personalities. They learn how to work with other people and how to take charge," say Beougher.

Transforming today's young girls into the leaders of tomorrow is the overall goal of the organization. Girls learn to understand themselves and set values and are encouraged to use their knowledge and skills to explore the world. This is done by connecting with other teams locally and globally and by taking action to make the world and local community a better place.

Beougher shares that the girls have been to numerous different places over the years to learn about the world around them.

"We've gone to COSI to learn about science. We've been behind the scenes at the Newport Aquarium to see how they prepare the food for the animals. We learned about different artists at the Wassenberg Arts Center and how water treatment is done at the Water Treatment Plant. We have also toured the pizza places in town and learned about recycling through Century Trading."

The troop has also served the local communities. "With Homestead, we've done crafts and games and threw parties at Christmas time. We've put together flowers and done Christmas caroling at the nursing homes. We send stuff overseas to the soldiers like cookies and Christmas cards. We have also cleaned parks, put flags on the soldiers' graves at the cemetery and cleaned pumpkins at the Fort Wayne zoo," says Beougher.

All of these events help mold the girls into leaders in their communities. Beougher uses her own daughter as an example. "My daughter was in Girls Scouts for 12 years. When she tried to earn her Bronze Award, which is the first big award a scout can earn, she started games for kids at Convoy Days, and they still do that now. For her Silver Award, her and a couple of other girls ran a day camp for all of the girls in Van Wert County. Then last summer, she earned her Gold Award after she started a Safety Day for kids for Convoy Days. Now she's continuing on the committee for Convoy Days, so it's been really cool to see her evolve and use the leadership skills that she gained."

The girls also have to work hard raising money for the organization. "The big thing is cookie sales," says Beougher. "Everybody knows about cookie sales, but nobody really knows about their fall product which is nuts and candy. Actually, the girls make more money on their fall product per item than what they do on their cookies per item, so I've always pushed the fall products."

Aside from those, the girls also hold car washes and bake sales like the one being held at Big Lots today and again on Sunday, July 17.

This coming year will be the organization's 100th year, and troops everywhere are eager to celebrate. "Because of the 100th year for the Civil War, we are doing 'Bonnets to Ball Caps' to help the girls learn about how the women of today have evolved from years ago," explains Beougher. "We are also hoping to get more girls and adults to join."

Adults volunteers are always needed, says Beougher. Whether they are just filling out paperwork or being leaders, the adults play a vital role.

When Beougher first joined, she was happy to spend the extra time with her own daughter and participate in unique events and trips. Now she continues to be a leader because of the response from the girls.

"I think we get more out of it than the girls do sometimes," exclaims Beougher. "You meet so many people and make friends with other women you wouldn't have met otherwise. You also get to see your daughter and the other girls turn into a young woman who can lead others, and the smiles on their faces and the excitement is great."

Joining for girls will happen on September 10 at a Princess Ball. All girls in grades kindergarten to senior are welcome to join, says Beougher. Flyers and information will also be available at the Van Wert County Fair or more information can be found by calling 1-800-96-APPLE or Nikki at (419) 749-4175.

"I would not change any of the experiences I have had with my daughter and other leaders for anything," summarizes Beougher. "I truly believe in this movement and the experiences the girls get out of Girl Scouts."