Renton native Kelsie Gardner just moved away from home for her first semester at college. She also moved away from Troop 42681, the Girl Scout troop she’s been with since first grade, that her mother leads.
At Boise State University, she’s joined Zeta Tau Alpha, the sorority at Boise State that’s philanthropy centers around breast cancer awareness. For Kelsie, she’s excited to continue spreading awareness about cancer to other women. She’s done this work before.
Kelsie earned a Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouts, her senior year of high school through her use of marketing and social media for the Ovarian and Breast Cancer Alliance. She was celebrated June 2018 at the Museum of Flight with other Gold earners from this past year.
Many steps and approval points are involved in the Gold award, which has existed since 1916, Program Manager for Highest Awards for Girl Scouts of Western Washington Amanda Aldous said. It may be for this reason that about 5 percent of eligible Girl Scouts complete the award nationwide, Amanda said. The Gold Award asks scouts to look into their community for a problem, identify the root cause of that problem and create a goal towards solving it.
“As long as they have done the project they proposed and complete it as best they can then, yes, they will earn their gold award ultimately,” Amanda said.
The Silver and Bronze awards are similar awards offered as well for younger scouts, which Kelsie completed before going for gold.
Kelsie not only used social media, email marketing and local ads to get the word out about the alliance’s annual fundraiser walk, but also the symptoms of Ovarian cancer.
“A lot of people don’t know the symptoms of ovarian cancer. When you have them you don’t think it’s cancer because its like bloating, loss of appetite, so I think it’s really important to spread the word. Even if you don’t think it’s cancer you should check just in case because 95 percent of women, if found early, will survive,” Kelsie said. “So if they see this on social media hopefully they can ask themselves: ‘Do I have these symptoms?’ and they can let their friends and family know. It’s just super important.”
Kelsie volunteered more than 100 hours of her time collaborating with Joan Elvin, executive director of the alliance based in Seattle, to get the word out about their annual Teal and Toe Walk, which funds the awareness materials the alliance offers about early warning signs. She used Facebook, Twitter, created an email marketing system for the alliance and got a team together to create direct mail marketing to hundreds. She passed out flyers at a local mall and contacted local newspapers to place ads for the walk.
After Kelsie’s grandmother had ovarian cancer, she knew it was something she wanted to be more involved in. She’d been assisting the Teal and Toe walk during the run with her troop for several years, and Joan was happy to work with her to do more with the alliance for her Gold Award.
Surpassing her goal to get more people signed up for the walk, Kelsie’s work doubled the number of participants of any previous year, Joan said. But for Kelsie, any work she was able to take off Joan’s shoulders felt rewarding.
“I loved working with Joan because this is a nonprofit organization so she’s not getting paid to do any of the work she’s doing and she works so hard, does so much and I feel like it goes underappreciated,” Kelsie said. “If I could do a couple things for her then it was things she didn’t have to do. So I felt really good about myself, like I was making a difference and helping out the organization.”
Joan has known Kelsie for a long time, since her troop first volunteered with them passing out comfort packages for a women’s shelter. Year after year, Joan said she could count on her to check that people were having a good time at the walk as the troop helped with day-of preparations. Even though the subject matter was serious, Joan said that Kelsie understood it was also a chance to celebrate the woman who had been affected by ovarian cancer.
According to an 2012 alumnae impact study from Girl Scouts USA, women who had been gold award earners spoke to it benefiting them in the future with higher success in life skills, community and career advancement. Amanda said the process of taking ownership of a project from start to finish, from application to budgeting to implementation, puts girls in the position of truly being a leader.
“Having those skills by the time they finished high school or during high school definitely sets girls up for success later on and gives them confidence to know they have what it takes to take on a big project,” Amanda said.
The mission of the alliance is to promote early detection of ovarian and breast cancer, and Joan said Kelsie furthered that goal in a huge way with social media. She said Kelsie probably reached thousands of women who are now aware of the symptoms.
“What was remarkable as a young woman wanting to truly make sure everyone there had an enjoyable walk and spread the awareness and learn the information themselves. She showed kind of an enthusiasm for all of that which you seldom see in young people going after their endeavors, and she went way above and beyond that,” Joan said.
Kelsie said she learned people skills and more professional communication skills as she worked with the alliance. Joan said she watched the shy young lady eager to help turn into a self-confident young woman who was able to give a poised, well-spoken power point presentation to its board of directors.
For Amanda, the inspiring results of the Gold Award warm her heart.
“It’s one of those moments where our girls are living out the mission of our organization, which is that we’re building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place,” Amanda said. “And that’s exactly what they do with every one of their projects cause making the world a better place start small and goes beyond, through being thoughtful.”
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer: Bloating or increased abdomen size, abdominal or pelvic pain, feeling full quickly or unable to eat normally, and urinary symptoms of urgency or frequency. Please see your healthcare professional if your symptoms are new or unusual for you, persistent, become more severe, or occur almost daily for more than a few weeks.
More information is at www.KnowTheSymptoms.org.