Photo by Sue Suchyta
Dorothy Tank of Lincoln Park celebrated her 50 years of Girl Scout involvement recently. She spent 10 years as a Girl Scout in her youth, and 40 years as an adult leader and volunteer, and continues to serve Girl Scouts of southeast Michigan.
By SUE SUCHYTA
LINCOLN PARK – While s’mores and peanut butter patties make delicious memories, seeing girls grow into purposeful, confident leaders kept Dorothy Tank in Girl Scouts as a member and leader for 50 years.
“It teaches values to the girls, it teaches leadership, it teaches, ‘I can do anything if I try,’” Tank said, “and that philosophy, courage and confidence teaches the girls that they can do anything.”
Tank was a troop leader for her daughters, Cynthia McIlrath and Monica Beaudrie, and for her granddaughters, Elizabeth and Amanda Beaudrie.
Her current troop draws teen girls from Riverview Community and Gabriel Richard and high schools.
She said in today’s environment of constant media images, Scouting gives girls confidence to be themselves, and to know they do not have to emulate the models they see on television and the Internet.
“They can just be themselves and they can do what they want to do, and have confidence that what they are is OK,” Tank said. “Whether you want to be a mom or a professional person, whether you want to be a sports person or whatever. It is OK if you want to do that. It is all right.”
She said she is in Scouting not for what she can get out of it, but for how she can help girls and make a difference in their lives.
She said sometimes girls will talk to their Scout leader about things they are not comfortable talking about to their mothers.
“Sometimes they need to share, especially the age level 14 to 18, it’s a really hard time for young ladies,” Tank said. “They are not women, they are not children. They are developing and there is a lot of peer pressure out there. I think that Scouts allows them to be kids.”
She said high school age Scouts love to do crafts, and weekend campouts are not as important as they once were, because families do not want to give up their weekend time together, especially if both parents are working during the week.
Tank said Title IX Civil Rights Act of 1964, with the Education Amendments of 1972, which ended gender discrimination in programs receiving federal funding, had a major impact on girls gaining access to high school sports, something that had been limited before. Prior to Title IX, Girl Scouting was one of a few activities exclusively for girls, but with many sports programs now available to them, many girls chose school team sports over Scouting.
“Once they hit middle school, once they hit high school, there’s all those sports, all those things they can do, so the interest (in Scouting) falls off,” Tank said. “It is dance, it is theater, it is volleyball, it is basketball and it is soccer. It is baseball in the spring. As a leader of the older girls you have to be very flexible.”
She said she stayed with Girl Scouting for many years because she loves working with children, especially teenage girls.
“Sometimes I think that they are lost and they need direction,” she said. “They need that confidence. They need some encouragement to do what they want to do.”
Her favorite Scout trip memories were to the Smoky Mountains for a two-week camping trip, taking six teenage girls to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and serving as a chaperone for a Wider Opportunity in 2001 to the Girl Guides’ Our Chalet in Switzerland.
She said that sometimes dealing with parents, as with many sports, is more challenging that working with teenagers.
Tank said Scouting taught her organizational skills, gave her a love for the outdoors and taught her patience.
“I try to give that to the girls,” she said. “If they stay in all the way through 12th grade they are dedicated to it, and they don’t care what people think about them anymore. They have found themselves, and they are proud of what they do.”
She said her Scouts take cookies into school and sell to their teachers and other kids without minding that their peers know they are in Scouts.
“They are comfortable with themselves,” she said, “and I think that is what Scouting teaches them: the courage to do things and the confidence that they can have with themselves to be a Scout.”
Monica Beaudrie also is a Girl Scout leader. She said Scouting has provided her with a wonderful journey.
She has many memories of her years in Scouting, and hopes her legacy is half as good as her mother’s legacy.
“Girl Scouts is still important today because it is a safe place for girls to grow and learn and develop into wonderful human beings,” she said. “They practice being a leader, and decision making, and they have a great time.”