The spirit of scouting

Girl scouts strive for bronze medal -- one of the highest honors they can earn -- and help one of their own in the process

Local members of the Girl Scout 201 troop worked all afternoon Sunday collecting money, dipping chili, serving drinks and clearing tables.

The girls hosted a chili feed for the community of Craig and the work they put in Sunday and the weeks leading up to the event will earn them a bronze community service award -- one of the highest honors a girl scout can receive.

But the girls will tell you the award they will receive is secondary in what they really wanted to accomplish through their fund-raising efforts.

The real reward will be to see their fellow girl scout, Ashleigh Santisteven, with a new service dog that will help her participate in all of the activities that girl scouts do.

Ashleigh Santisteven, a 10-year-old third grader at Sunset Elementary School, has cerebral palsy, a disorder that impacts the nervous system and does not allow her muscles to function as well as other 10-year-olds.

The dog the girls are working to purchase costs $6,000, and will help Santisteven in her day-to-day life.

Santisteven's mother, JoAnna Santisteven, said any place that her daughter goes, the dog will accompany her.

The dog will be a great companion and will make her more independent -- not that she needs much help.

"She's very strong willed," her mother said. "She's very happy, and doesn't get frustrated."

Her fellow girl scouts said Ashleigh does everything with the girl scout troop, whether it be group over nighters, camping trips or hikes.

"She goes everywhere with us and does everything," said sixth grader Kirsten McAlexander.

Ashleigh said her dog Hannah, which is still being trained, will go everywhere with her -- to school, the library and girl scout outings.

The dog will help her do everything, she said.

"If I drop a pencil, she'll get it," Ashleigh said.

The rest of the girl scouts already have plans to get Hannah, a female chocolate lab, a green girl scout vest.

"It will be like having another girl scout with us," said sixth grader Megan Trujillo.

Troop leader Bobbi McAlexander said she has been impressed with the effort put forth by her scouts.

"When I first presented the girls with the idea, they were gung ho," she said. "They've done an excellent job."

The past three years that Santisteven has been a girl scout has been a good experience for both Santisteven and the other girls, McAlexander said.

"The girls have learned a lot because Ashleigh goes everywhere with them," she said. "Anyone of the girls can help her with anything."

Going into Sunday, the girls already had raised more than $1,000 in ticket sales.

Local residents and businesses donated all of the chili ingredients.

"The community has really come together on this," McAlexander said. "We've done a lot better than I expected."

JoAnna Santisteven said helping her daughter now will pay off in the long run because when Ashleigh grows up, she wants to help people.

Ashleigh doesn't hesitate when asked what she wants to do when she grows up.

"I want to be a doctor and help save lives," she said. "I want to help other kids, too."

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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