Girls Scouts honor 8 killed in school tragedy

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU --  Shelby Chapman, 4; Cynthia Boyd, 7; Catherine Boyd, 8; Irenee Knighten, 9, from left, launch balloons with Girl Scout troops 10118 and 10448 at the Girl Scout Program Center in Baton Rouge on Saturday. The Baton Rouge Scouts held a memorial for victims of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., and created mementos to send to Girl Scouts in Connecticut,
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Shelby Chapman, 4; Cynthia Boyd, 7; Catherine Boyd, 8; Irenee Knighten, 9, from left, launch balloons with Girl Scout troops 10118 and 10448 at the Girl Scout Program Center in Baton Rouge on Saturday. The Baton Rouge Scouts held a memorial for victims of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., and created mementos to send to Girl Scouts in Connecticut,

Two Girl Scout troops, moved to action following a mid-December shooting tragedy that claimed the lives of eight of their fellow Daisy Scouts, organized a day for remembrance, service and celebrated their “sisterhood” Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge.

Daisies, Brownies, Cadets and Junior Scouts recited “The Girl Scout Promise,” sang songs and gathered around a table containing eight green candles glowing in memory of each Sandy Hook Elementary School Girl Scout who died on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 students and six adults.

“Be a sister to every Girl Scout,” the girls said in unison before blowing out the candles inside the Girl Scout Program Center on Colonial Drive. They also lit two white candles in memory of the sons of two Girl Scout families who died in the shootings.

Girl Scout troop leader Marleen Truehill said the girls were anxious to organize the event shortly after learning about the tragedy. “We’re letting them know that they have friends in Louisiana and we’re sending words of encouragement and inspiration,” said Truehill, who leads troops 10118 and 10448 of Louisiana East.

Truehill initially was unaware that some shooting victims were Scouts until the Girl Scouts of Connecticut Branch released information about the deaths of eight Daisy Scout members and then “it kind of hit home,” Truehill said.

Her troop members’ cards and artwork will be delivered to the Girl Scouts of Connecticut organization, which is planning to conduct a memorial service for the Newtown service unit in mid-January, she said.

Following Saturday’s candle lighting, the memorial continued outside the Girl Scout office where the 18 girls participating launched green balloons in memory of their fellow Scouts.

“The circle is round, it has no end. That’s how long I will be your friend,” the Scouts intoned before releasing the balloons.

Prior to the balloon launch, Scouts shared their messages and well-wishes on trefoil-patterned art and hand-decorated friendship bracelets.

Irenee Knighten, 8, a Brownie Scout, created a pink, floral bracelet and wrote the message, “I love you.”

Knighten wanted to help the families suffering losses, she said. “We are helping the people of the children who can’t do the things we are doing now, anymore,” Knighten said.

The community service work was important for Emily Sobek, 6, a Daisy Scout.“I’m happy when I do fun stuff for people,” said Sobek, who goes bowling with some of the Scouts, visits movie theaters and hands out fruit baskets to nursing home residents.

Several Girl Scouts said they remembered what they were doing when they initially heard about the Sandy Hook tragedy.

“I was at school and I was scared when they announced it,” said Haven Franklin, 11, a cadet Scout for two years. “I feel like the ones who died were sisters to me.”

Franklin’s sister, Harley, 5, a Daisy Scout, explained why she wanted to attend the memorial. “Eight Girl Scouts died,” she said.

Harley said the memorial gave her a chance to make something for friends and families of the shooting victims. “We’re sharing with them and telling them we love them,” Harley said.

Mya Stewart, 7, a Brownie, recalled the moment when her mother, Truehill, the troop leader, told her about the Sandy Hook shootings. “I asked her how they got killed and I asked her why and I asked her about their friends and families. It made me feel sad,” Stewart said.

Girl Scout co-leader Shata Chapman said Saturday’s activity helped girls feel more connected to the victims and to their families involved in the Sandy Hook tragedy.

“As a mother of four, it hit too close to home,” Chapman said. “Showing our support for the families of the victims means the world to me.”

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