Author Nancy Wright Beasley with Abigail Reasor (left) and Kaitlyn Sorensen Photo by Anne Sorensen
When Kaitlyn Sorensen and Abigail "Abby" Reasor became friends at the age of 3, they couldn't have imagined their friendship eventually might have national significance. Their Sunday School class at Fairfield Presbyterian Church in Mechanicsville became a touchstone for their early lives, along with their decision to join a Daisy troop, the beginning level of Girl Scouts.
This month, during the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia (GSCV), Kaitlyn and Abby, now 13, are set to try to make history by developing a program that will result in a Girl Scout patch in Holocaust education. The idea was born after they and their mothers, who are their troop leaders, visited the Virginia Holocaust Museum and read Izzy's Fire, the book I wrote about 13 Jews, including one family who journeyed from the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania to Richmond after the war.
I spoke to the girls' troops recently when Anne Sorensen, Kaitlyn's mother, asked me to do a presentation on Izzy's Fire for Troop 280, whose members were working on their "Once Upon a Story" badge. The members of Troop 793, which Mrs. Reasor leads, also attended. After more than 50 years, I couldn't believe I still remembered the Girl Scout Promise, which I recited as a Scout.
"After reading Izzy's Fire, I found it interesting that somebody would want to get rid of a group of people just because he didn't like them," says Abby, an eighth-grader at Chickahominy Middle School.
Kaitlyn, who attends Oak Knoll Middle School, will assist her best friend in developing the model for the patch, which Abby will use to earn her Silver Award, the highest level a Cadet Girl Scout can earn.
After a school field trip to the Virginia Holocaust Museum, Kaitlyn was headed to a sleepover at Abby's house. "When I got into her car, Izzy's Fire was on the seat. I learned that Mrs. Reasor and I were both reading it. I was really interested in it because my mother's grandparents came from Lithuania.
"I've heard some people believe the Holocaust was a hoax," Kaitlyn continues. "The patch will help prove that it wasn't. All my life, I've heard how I should treat others like I want to be treated. I would like to think that I would have been one of the rescuers."
Abby adds, "We learned there was only one Holocaust patch, in Texas. We wanted one that could be earned in Virginia, so we contacted our council."
Their goal is for any Girl Scout, regardless of where she lives, to be able to attain the patch. Information will be available at comgirlscouts.org .
"We'll make a list of objectives that must be done to earn the patch, like visiting the Virginia Holocaust Museum," says Kaitlyn.
The girls will concentrate on what scouts can learn about the Holocaust, how it relates to their lives today (i.e. tolerance, bullying), and what they can do to further the message. The Girl Scout Council must approve the plan for the patch, while partnering with the museum. One of the requirements for the Silver Award is that a project must be sustainable and have longevity. Kaitlyn has already earned her Silver Award.
Viola Baskerville, executive officer of the GSCV, is not surprised at Kaitlyn and Abby's determination. "This was the dream of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts, to have an organization that is inclusive, helps the girls find their voice and take courageous actions to make the world a better place."
© Nancy Wright Beasley 2013. All rights reserved.