Girl Scout completes Gold Award project

CONDON – Children and adults were seen playing pick up basketball after the Condon Fourth of July parade. This was not the same sight a year ago.

Girl Scout Ambassador Isabella Cruz set a lofty goal to replace the Condon basketball court located behind the Swan Valley Community Hall to earn her Gold Award. The project took over a year to plan and complete due to supply chain issues created by COVID. Part-time Condon resident Isabella, 17, will be a senior at Carrollton School of Sacred Heart in Miami, Florida this fall. She started her Girl Scout journey as a Daisy at age five and will finish this year. Her mother Patricia Cruz has been her troop leader throughout.

"The Gold Award is the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of the USA, earned by Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts," Patricia said. "Only 5.4% of eligible Girl Scouts successfully earn the Gold Award.  Girls must submit a proposal to their local Girl Scout Council and attend an interview for their project to be approved."

A Girl Scout Gold Award candidate must complete two journeys or one journey and receive the silver award requirements in order to apply, Patricia said. Candidates must identify an issue, investigate it thoroughly, build a team, create a plan to address the root cause of the issue, present their plan at the interview, gather feedback, take action and complete a project which educates and inspire others.

When Isabella was searching for a project she reached out to Condon resident Jamie Mathews, who suggested the basketball court. The court had become cracked and unsafe as a playing surface, Isabella said.

"It would have been easier to do this project in Miami," Isabella said adding her family splits time between Miami, Florida and Condon. "[Although] everyone in Montana has been so nice and accommodating."

The supply chain issues and obstacles obtaining concrete for the base would have been simpler to work around in a larger community, Isabella said.

The concrete took a year to get contracted and placed. Isabella met with supply issues when she first started calling in the spring of 2021. At one point she had a commitment for delivery of concrete in October but the date kept being moved. Isabella began calling around the state and finally received a "Yes" response from Seeley Ready Mix owner John Richards for this spring.

The blue and yellow plastic surface originally scheduled for delivery and installation prior to the Condon Fourth of July celebrations, almost didn't happen. As the holiday approached Isabella received notification one of the pallets had arrived in Missoula June 30. The company only delivers to Condon on Wednesdays, next delivery date was July 6.

"She learned a lesson in you don't get what you don't ask for," Patricia said. "The pallets weigh 2,000 pounds so you can't just go pick them up."

Phone calls were made, schedules changed and the pallets were delivered. Nate Weins, of Full Court Athletics, was headed out for a family vacation but detoured with his family in tow to install the SnapSports Court with the help of Isabella and community members.

"Everyone wanted to help to make this happen," Patricia said.

Isabella raised funds for the court by selling her specialty Rum Cakes and other baked goods at the Seeley Lake Market. She continued to sell the cakes and pies in Miami at Girl Scout Fest and online when she returned for the school year. Isabella also received large donations and sold cookies. In total she raised approximately $10,000.

Several people in the Condon community assisted Isabella to complete her project, namely Jonathan and Jamie Mathew, Ronnie Mathew, Steve Cantrell, Steve Garvin, Rhonda Feucht, Grace Siloti and Weins.

There is now a full court with adjustable hoops for younger children along with nets that can be used for pickleball, tennis, volleyball and foursquare. The balls and rackets (for basketball, volleyball, pickleball and tennis) are available any time in the Community Center storage shed located near the back left of the court. The net for the pickleball/volleyball/tennis, cranks and lock key for the basketball hoops can be checked out at the Swan Valley Centre located across the street from the Community Center. There are two adult picnic tables with one child's table. Isabella ordered the tables last spring. She sanded, stained boards and assembled the tables with assistance from Garvin.

Isabella spent 160 hours working to complete her project.

“I feel that my project has inspired people in different ways. I feel I have inspired young girls both in and outside of Girl Scouts," Cruz said. "It is not as common to see a young girl completing a hands-on project as it is for a boy.”

Cruz also impacted her Miami community at age 12 when she took on the board of the Miami Dade County Youth Fair. Her Girl Scout Troop 918 built a 10 foot x 10 foot camp site out of Girl Scout Cookie boxes for the fair. Upon arrival the troop was advised there was not room for their display. Cruz wandered the facility and discovered the Boy Scout troop had a space five times the size offered the Girl Scouts.

When she first questioned the discrepancy, Cruz was advised the Boy Scouts were “grandfathered” in for the space. She went home and got mad. Cruz emailed the fair director and started a petition on the Care2 website. Her petition garnered over 40,000 signatures.

Today the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts get equal space at the Youth Fair.

“This is a non-award, but it's one of my proudest moments,” Cruz said.

She is also active in her school Chess Club, vice president of the Have Hope Chapter, president of Life Share and was recently accepted to the National Student Organ Donation Advocate Chapter.

Promoting awareness around organ donation is important, Isabella said. Her aunt was a transplant recipient.

Isabella has served as a delegate to the Girl Scout Annual Meeting for three years and has earned numerous badges and awards in her 11 years of Girl Scouting. Most recently she has earned: Gold Torch Award, Silver & Gold Torch Award, Ambassador Community Service Patch & Pin, Ambassador Photography Badge, Think Like a Citizen Scientist National Leadership Journey, Love the Outdoors Challenge Award, Outdoor National Leadership Journey, Senior Sky Badge, Senior Space Science Expert Badge, Senior Take Action Award, Senior First Aid Badge, and Red Cross CPR Certification, Senior/Ambassador Car Care Badge, Senior Community Service Patch & Pin.

"I hope that I have inspired, with my project, the Condon community," Isabella said. "Having a new sports court with various new games - basketball, pickleball, volleyball, tennis - will inspire kids and adults to spend more time together outside and also to come together as a community more frequently and have fun."

* Editor's Note July 21: More history of Cruz's Girl Scout Career has been added since publication.


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