Winslow Township resident receives the Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting

Fourteen-year-old Stephanie Kohler created an “Adopt Don’t Shop” program at the Animal Welfare Association and has written a book titled “Going Home” about a homeless dog who finds a home.

Stephanie Kohler with the goodie bags she made for the “Adopt Don’t Shop” program at the Animal Welfare Association

For most of her life, Stephanie Kohler has been extremely passionate about animals. She has two rescue pets of her own, a dog named Molly and a cat named George, so when she had to come up with a project for the Girl Scouts, it didn’t take her long to come up with an idea.

The fourteen-year-old created an “Adopt Don’t Shop!” program at the Animal Welfare Association in Voorhees to encourage people to take home rescue dogs. The program, which took place in August, had to be approved by the Girl Scouts.

“I wanted to make people aware about the animals in the shelters and encourage them to adopt instead of going to a pet store and buying a pet,” the Winslow Township resident explained.

The project was so successful, the shelter reached their adoption quota for the day and Kohler earned the Gold Award in Girl Scouts, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Kohler was ecstatic about reaching it and her mother Barbara said that award is equivalent to achieving an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts. Kohler will be honored at a ceremony in May.

Kohler made 20 goodie bags and brochures for the animals and would-be pet owners. The bags contained toys, treats, and “Adopt Don’t Shop!” t-shirts. She also made bandanas for the dogs that said “Adopt, Don’t Shop!” on them.

“It definitely made the experience a lot happier for the individual that got the gift,” said Nancy Keklak, Shelter Manager at the Animal Welfare Association. “It was something was that was surprising to them and they loved it. It was nice of her to take the time to do it. It added to the overall happy environment on adoption day and made it a very festive environment in the front lobby.”

In order to qualify for the Gold Award, a Girl Scout’s project has to be ongoing. Besides the event at the Animal Welfare Association, Kohler put her writing and drawing skills to use by writing a book, “Going Home.” She also drew all the illustrations for the book, which she said took her a year.

“It’s about a homeless dog who goes to a shelter, makes a friend and he finds a home,” said Kohler. “It’s nice getting to let people know there are homeless pets and they deserve a home.”

Kohler has learned life skills from being a Girl Scout member since the age of six — leadership, responsibility and the meaning of hard work, and she gets so much enjoyment from it, too.

“I love being a Girl Scout,” said Kohler. “I made new friends and we go places like camping. It’s so much fun.”

Kohler’s mom is very pleased with her daughter’s achievement.

“Most teenage girls when they reach 15 or 16, they have high school and activities and most of them leave the girl scouts,” said Barbara. “They don’t follow through and I’m very proud of her.”