All-girl Scout troop takes first camping trip

All-girl Scout troop takes first camping trip

Girls in Troop 1 Arnold Mills spent last week at Camp Yawgoog, a scouting camp in Rockville. Holding their patrol sign in front of their tent are Ava Richardson, Anona Joshi, Hannah Leonard, Riya Salian, Grace Lavendier and Elleana Crump.

CUMBERLAND – Last week, Troop 1 Arnold Mills in Cumberland, which celebrated its centennial this year, sent its newly formed, first-ever girls troop to Camp Yawgoog for a week of camping and scouting activities.

The all-girls unit, led by Scoutmaster Sheila Leonard of Cumberland, formed in April, after the Boy Scouts, which changed its name to Scouts BSA, began accepting girls into programs across the country, starting earlier this year.

Leonard, whose son is a member of Troop 1 Arnold Mills, said that when she learned that Scouts BSA would allow girls to join, she signed up for training to be a scoutmaster – “whatever I could do to get the ball rolling.”

“My daughter (Hannah) always said if Boy Scouts ever let girls in, she would join,” she told The Valley Breeze, adding that when scouts went camping as a family, girls “were doing things that their brothers were doing but not getting any of the credit for it.”

The six members of the troop are: Hannah Leonard, 17, of Cumberland, senior patrol leader; Anona Joshi, 14, of Cumberland, assistant senior patrol leader; Ava Richardson, 14, of Cumberland, patrol leader; Elleana Crump, 11, of Cumberland; Riya Salian, 14, of North Attleboro, Mass.; and Grace Lavendier, 12, of Cumberland.

Assistant Scoutmasters are Heather Crump, Leonard Bradley, Philip Irons, and William Millette.

Troop 1 Arnold Mills is the third girl unit to attend Camp Yawgoog, the country’s second oldest continuously run scout camp, established in 1916 in Rockville, Dan Friel, director at Yawgoog, told The Breeze.

“It’s really phenomenal to be a part of historical times at Yawgoog,” he said.

To date, more than 17,000 girls have joined Scouts BSA across the country and 77,000 girls have joined Cub Scouts, Friel said, adding that there are many girls who participate in Girl Scouts as well as Scouts BSA or Cub Scouts.

Most of the girls in Troop 1 Arnold Mills said they joined because they wanted to get outside and participate in activities such as camping.

At Yawgoog’s 2,000-acre reservation last week the girls hiked, kayaked, learned how to chop wood, baked cakes in a cast iron Dutch oven, completed a ropes challenge course, and more.

“I do love the camaraderie that I’m seeing,” Leonard said. “Not only within our troop but within Scouts as a whole.”

From when they arrived at the camp on July 7 to last Thursday, July 11, Leonard said she noticed a big change in the girls.

“My favorite part is watching how much they’ve transformed in just a few days,” she said. “They’re confident … they’re so independent. They know where they’re supposed to be. They take on challenges. They’re having fun.”

Hannah Leonard, who lost interest in being a Girl Scout and wanted to participate in more outdoorsy activities like her brother, said Yawgoog is the first time the girls have camped together as an entire troop.

“It’s been awesome,” she said. “There are so many opportunities no matter what you’re interested in.”

Lavendier said, “I’m so excited to be one of the first girls in the troop … Everybody in the troop is so nice and supportive.”

The troop is looking to add more girls, Leonard said. Girls ages 11 to 17 can join and don’t have to live in Cumberland to be a member.

The troop, which offers camaraderie, leadership skills, adventure, and a lot of camping, is “a nice safe places kids can go … and enjoy being together and enjoy a (mostly) non-competitive atmosphere,” she said.

When asking for permission to create the girls unit, Leonard said she received nothing but support from Troop 1 leaders. “They’ve been fantastic,” she said.
Len Bradley, scoutmaster for the Arnold Mills Troop 1 boys troop, said it’s historic to be part of this experience.

“To see how the boys and girls work and interact together is great,” Bradley said. “It’s a real positive experience for both troops … It’s been a lot of fun.”

There’s an awesome mentoring system, Leonard said, with the 19 boys in Troop 1 helping the girls with things like setting up tents, first aid, cooking, and rope tying.

The girls troop meets every Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Arnold Mills United Methodist Church, 690 Nate Whipple Highway, during the school year, Leonard said.

During meetings, the girls work on their merit badges, do various activities, and plan trips. The troop goes camping once a month 10 months out the year, she said.

“It’s nice that the kids get to disconnect from their phones and computers,” she said.

Troop 1 Arnold Mills will host an enrollment rally for Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA on Sept. 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Diamond Hill Park.

For more information, visit or email Sheila Leonard at .

The Troop 1 Arnold Mills girls unit, created in April, and their leaders. From left, in the back row, are Assistant Scoutmasters Heather Crump, Philip Irons, William Millette, Leonard Bradley, and Scoutmaster Sheila Leonard; middle row, Ava Richardson, Grace Lavendier, Hannah Leonard, and Riya Salian; and seated in the front are Elleana Crump and Anona Joshi.