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Better Together Day Camp: A Gold Girl Story

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Carolina Sunshine Shank of Chattanooga organized and hosted the Better Together Day Camp to provide fun, educational, and accessible experiences for local girls. Her project earned her a 2022 Girl Scout Gold Award.       

Gold Award Girl Scouts are high schoolers who address issues they’re passionate about by planning and implementing a project that produces lasting change in the community and beyond. It is the Girl Scouts’ highest and most prestigious honor.

“I spoke with lots of girls to determine the top reasons they could not attend camp, and I customized a camp that considered their specific concerns such as COVID-19 safety, being close to home, being affordable, and not staying overnight,” Carolina shared.

Carolina provided a full schedule of events and activities, brought in guest speakers, and partnered with Booker T. Washington State Park to create a safe and welcoming camp environment.

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All the girls had a blast playing racket-ball! It was said to be a favorite activity.

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As part of completing their Agent of Change Journey, girls made Me canvases. We all have great qualities and sometimes need a reminder of that; that is why the Me canvases are so great.

Her camp encouraged the attendees to earn badges, learn life skills and make friends – all to help build their confidence. For girls who thought traditional camp was too outdoorsy or rustic, the Better Together Day Camp was held outdoors in a pavilion area, with indoor restrooms and in an air-conditioned space.

“By the end of camp, the girls knew everyone’s name and were comfortable speaking in front of the group,” Carolina said. “A Gold Award recipient attended and shared her experience and advice on her Gold Award project; and this really encouraged the girls to earn their high awards with some deciding to partner to pursue a Bronze Award.”

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2021 Gold Award Girl Scout Carson Bock (back row, second from right) spoke to the girls attending the camp about earning her award.

Carolina spent a lot of time preparing for her camp and even earned a Website Design badge while building a website for her project. She had to navigate carefully when some campers and a chaperone canceled on short notice, but she reworked her budget, and the camp ran smoothly.

In the end, she took from the experience enthusiasm for hosting more day camps in the future and improved dynamic speaking skills. Carolina learned just how much she enjoys public speaking and the great value that comes from teamwork. “We really are better together.”

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A park ranger, Ranger Robert Thomas, hosted a class for girls about birds of prey and plants in the area. 

Perhaps most of all, she learned a new level of patience. “There were moments in camp when I was aggravated, hot, and tired. I had to learn to be patient and understanding always – as the saying goes, ‘Anything worth having is worth working for!’ ”

Carolina describes herself as determined, innovative, and intelligent, and she has fond memories of Girl Scouts. Among her favorites are cookie booths – especially a certain one at Bass Pro Shops when it started snowing – but they persevered and created dances to keep warm. Carolina noted: “Snow can’t stop a Girl Scout!”

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Girls are all smiles as they work on a craft involding melted crayons.

Today, she’s a junior in high school and in her second year of dual enrollment classes at Chattanooga State Community College. She wants to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and University of Tennessee at Knoxville and hopes to someday be an orthodontist.

She enjoys time with her family outdoors. “I have awesome siblings who I genuinely consider to be my best friends. We love to go kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding!” Carolina also has two dogs and three cats. She loves to paint and even teaches painting through canvas painting parties. 

Congratulations, Caroline! Visit to learn more about the Girl Scouts.  

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An EMT came to camp and taught the girls basic first-aid including: CPR, heimlich maneuver, how to handle emergencies, choking hazards, how to treat burns, broken bones, splints. She also shared her experiences on the job. Girls practiced their new skills on each other.