Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gold Award Spotlight: 5k for a Paws

Girl Scout Ambassador Madison from Virginia Beach has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor and achievement a girl can earn in Girl Scouting. 

Madison’s project focused on raising awareness about getting help for veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), specifically when it comes to providing service animals for these veterans. Currently, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs does not financially assist veterans to get service dogs, so for her project, Madison worked with Paws and Stripes, a nonprofit organization that rescues dogs from shelters and trains them to be service animals to offer emotional support for veterans.

Madison, with the help of volunteers from her fellow members of the cross country team at Princess Anne High School, hosted a 5k and 1 mile run/walk event to raise money to purchase supplies for Paws and Stripes. At the event, she had educational booths and displays in order to inform people about TBI and PTSD. Madison’s cross country team has taken on the responsibility to continue to host this event to support Paws and Stripes in the future.

“Few people know the truly devastating effects of PTSD and TBI and how service dogs can help,” Madison said. “Many members of my family are veterans, and I also love dogs. I like how Paws and Stripes is an organization that helps both of these groups, so I wanted to help them.”

As part of her project, Madison also created an online petition to urge the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to cover the cost of service dogs for veterans with PTSD and TBI. Through the petition, Madison’s goal was to unite people from across the country to bring awareness to the issue and bring change to the government to get help for veterans who need it.

The Gold Award requires girls to identify an issue in their community and carry out a Take Action project to address the matter through leadership work. Nationwide, less than 6 percent of eligible Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award, which adds Madison to an elite group of female leaders across the country with the honor.