Over the river and through the woods, Shamong’s Girl Scouts have hiked nearly 500 miles in the past four months.
Troop 24713’s fifth and seventh graders turned their restless pandemic energy into a campaign to hike for hunger. For every 50 miles the Scouts hiked, pledges donated non-perishable food items to Families Helping Families, the food pantry at Indian Mills School.
“We go hiking almost every weekend,” said Girl Scout Junior Hope Durham. “It’s really fun to get the miles and give back to the school and everything.”
Last week, Troop 24713 was able to donate about 700 food items to the pantry.
“This far exceeded what we thought we were going to get,” said Stacey Boyler-Weller, a counselor at Indian Mills. “We weren’t getting a lot before, but we never really worry about it because something always works out.”
Their Hike for Hunger campaign took Troop 24713 on a walking tour of South Jersey — from Historic Smithville to Parker Preserve and the Ocean City boardwalk and bridge. Troop leader Melissa Durham said the girls can now walk a mile in 18 minutes.
“All these girls just went through the elementary school, so why not give back to the food pantry?” Durham said. “The girls were really determined to make as many miles as we possibly could.”
Along their route, the troop learned about history and nature, handled chiggers and developed a fan base of local hikers.
“Sometimes they recognize us and they’re like, ‘Hey, that’s the Girl Scouts!” Durham said.
“This was a lot of fun,” she added. “The girls were getting a lot of exercise, getting to see outdoor places, building that camaraderie and at the same time helping the community.”
Troop 24713 won’t stop now — they plan to Bike for Hunger next and support other local pantries.
The Scouts are also working on projects for the Bronze Award, the highest honor Scout Juniors can achieve. The troop decided to try two projects: building a contemplation bench at a local cemetery and placing easels at Smithville to encourage artists to visit and create.
“We always try to add like some form of giving back with everything that we do,” Durham explained. “We’re going to continue to spread the love.”