Heather Linehan is well-known in the local scouting community. Her commitment to ensuring that kids get to experience the friendships, service opportunities and outdoor education that scouting provides hits the 26-year mark this fall. From Daisy Scouts to Brownies and beyond, and even a stint with the Boy Scouts, Linehan has graciously volunteered her time and talents with area boys and girls.
Linehan fondly recalls her time in scouting as a child. She engaged in the program through high school, and participated in the Explorers, a career-based offshoot of the Boy Scouts, where she learned skills that led to a 35-year career as a paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department.
“I’ve always been a little over-involved,” Linehan admits. Aside from her work with kids, she also trains adults scout leaders and is a co-manager for the local service unit that encompasses all neighborhood Girl Scout troops.
Her leadership role in the organization began when her daughter, Meghan, was five years old. Linehan started the Daisy troop that is still thriving out of the St. Barnabas location 26 years later. Since settling into her role as the prolific Daisy troop leader, Linehan encourages the girls’ parents to get involved in their own troops as the girls move through the ranks, which go from Daisy to Brownie to Junior to Cadet to Senior, and finally, during the last two years of high school, Ambassador.
“We’re a volunteer-led organization, so I encourage moms to get together to organize a troop,” Linehan said. “I decided to start the Daisy troop because it’s a simple program and it’s a lot of fun for everyone. I kept the troop as my daughter grew up, and then I just kept going! It seems intimidating to begin a new troop. My advice is to stay organized and really anyone can do it.”
Linehan encourages people interested in starting a group to leap into it. “The Girl Scouts offers so much support to troop leaders. There’s training and background checks and always someone to call with questions. It can be overwhelming because there are so many badges and opportunities, but I always let the girls decide what they wanted to work on, which is Juliette Low’s [Girl Scouts founder] philosophy,” she said.
Linehan has organized numerous outings for her troop over the years, and offered first aid classes, firehouse field trips, arts and crafts, service projects, and of course, outdoor education.
“I’ve taken my troops on outings that I probably would never have done on my own. You can try so many things in Girl Scouts. I’ve taken my daughter’s troops camping in Kentucky and canoe trips on the Wisconsin River. I also hosted overnight camping trips for the younger girls,” she said.
Linehan’s philosophy is to empower the Daisies to try new things, from cooking over an open fire to making crafts as gifts for senior citizens. “We practice the three Cs: Cooking, Camping and Crafts. Crafts are great for developing small motor skills and instilling creativity. Recently, we’re getting involved in STEM-related activities, and there’s even a robotics badge to earn. Brownies are starting to learn coding, and we also do some science experiments,” Linehan said. “Raising girls of courage, confidence, and character will make the world a better place.”
To find out how to start a Girl Scout troop, or find one to join, visit GirlScoutsGCNWI.org.