GRANITE CITY — Almost 100 years ago, the Girl Scouts started recognizing girls who made a difference in their communities.
The organization gave out the Golden Eagle of Merit award. After five name changes, the Girl Scouts decided in 1980 to name it the Gold Award.
Only 6 percent of eligible girls receive the prestigious award, Girl Scouting’s highest honor.
After 11 years with the Girl Scouts, Granite City High School senior Bailee Warsing was determined to get the award this year.
“She started this years ago in this particular journey,” said Jodie Warsing, Bailee’s mother and Girl Scout leader. “She stuck with it. She said all along I want that gold award and I’m going to earn it.”
Warsing earned the Girl Scouts Gold Award by doing something she loves — helping animals.
“I always liked animals,” Warsing said. “My parents let me have animals. I decided that I wanted to do my project with animals. I did 4-H as a kid and I met Dr. Allan Spector and he’s a vet here in Granite City and he works at Creekwood Animal Hospital. He would let me come in and shadow him. From there, I decided that I really like animals, so it was something I really wanted to continue working with.”
Warsing created a project called Raptor Residence, a large residential cage for birds at Tree House Wildlife Center in the Jersey County town of Elsah.
“They needed a new permanent residential cage,” Warsing said. “So I fundraised the money. I also talked to some classes at Granite City High School about my project. I organized a construction team and we built a project in about two days.”
As part of her project, Warsing spoke to groups about TreeHouse Wildlife Center and its efforts to rehabilitate injured birds. She also spoke to the students at GCHS as well as the younger Girl Scouts and community members.
“There was a lot of planning,” Warsing said. “I think the entire project took over a year to plan because we had to do the fundraising and figure out what materials we needed and we had to order the materials and get a large group to come out.”
Warsing raised $3,000 for her project. She said she sold cookies and created a GoFundMe website.
“This could not have happened without the help of our community,” Warsing said. “It was amazing. People from all over our community were coming together and donating and they were people I really didn’t know who came to help build just because they wanted to.”
To earn the award, a Girl Scout must design a project that fulfills a need within a girl’s community, creates change and is sustainable. It also must be completed with a minimum of 80 hours of work.
Warsing said before making the project, she had to get approval from the Girl Scouts.
“The way the Girl Scouts Gold Award project works is you can do two other projects and you get your Gold Award,” she said. “What you do is you come up with a project and you have to do a project proposal ... you have an over-the-phone conference call with four or five other people, which is called the Gold Award board, and they basically can tell you if you can do your project or not.”
While making the project, Warsing had to find a home for an osprey named Bandit who was hit by a car in Granite City.
“We had this bird who had been injured,” Jodie Warsing said. “He was found here in Granite City. It was not his normal flight pattern. He was injured and they needed a cage for him. The pieces were all there and she started putting them together. She spent long hours and a lot of work put into it from my supervisory role because when the girls do the Gold Award, part of that is leadership and taking control and being the front person.”
Jodie Warsing said she was thrilled to see her daughter make a big project.
“She was very creative with that,” she said. “She sought donors, but she also did individual fundraising on her own. She raised a lot of money through the community and through the high school and the support from the teachers as well. Once she got that into place, it was a matter of getting materials and putting a building team together and actually constructing it. At first, I was concerned because it was a large project that she wanted to do.”
By winning the Gold Award, Bailee Warsing earned the trifecta award, when a Girl Scout wins an award in all three levels – gold, silver and bronze.
“Bailee earned a bronze award when was in juniors by helping community care center with donations,” Jodie Warsing said. “When she was a cadet, she earned a silver award by rehabbing the front and landscaping at the Animal Center here in Granite City.”
Warsing joined the Girl Scouts when she was in first grade. Jodie has been her leader all 11 years.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Warsing said. “Being a Girl Scout taught me how to be a leader. It exposes me to so many different things.”
Warsing was a member of the GCHS girls’ tennis team for four years. She is also the president of the school’s National Honor Society.
So far, Warsing is enjoying an outstanding senior year. Besides winning the Girl Scout award, Warsing earned all-Southwestern Conference honors in girls’ tennis for the second year in a row and was named on the GCHS Homecoming Court.
“I’m hoping 2016 is even better,” said Warsing, who plans to major in bioengineering in college next year. “I don’t know if anything can top this year.”
Jodie Warsing said she was thrilled to see her daughter receive the Gold Award, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.
“Her dad and I are extremely proud of her,” she said. “She’s been in Girl Scouts for a long time. She has succeeded on so many levels in academics, sports and Girl Scouts. We couldn’t be happier for her.”