Girl Scouts of the USA Announce Collaboration with AVA

(An article reprinted from the December 1999 issue of "The American Wanderer)


Tim Miner, AVA National Youth Coordinator

On Saturday, September 11, 1999, there was a new look in the American Volkssport Association and the IVV. On that day, twenty-six members of the Girls Scouts of the USA, their adult leaders, and family members joined the leadership of the IVV to walk the IVV President's Walk in Tata, Hungary. These representatives of the world's largest girls' organization were the first to officially participate in a new collaboration between the Girl Scouts and the AVA. GSUSA officially announced the collaboration to its membership at its 48th National Convention held in Kansas City in October 1999.

The Girl Scouts who walked in Hungary belong to the USA Girl Scouts Overseas at the American School in Budapest. They were invited to attend their first volksmarch at the meeting of the IVV Presidium and Congress of Delegates by AVA President, Ted Ballman, and AVA National Youth Coordinators, Tim and Sharleyne Miner.


The girls and their families arrived on Saturday afternoon at 2 o'clock. The Congress of Delegates had just concluded its meeting at the Olympic Training Center in Tata, Hungary. At that morning meeting, the delegates received a short briefing on the new relationship between the AVA and the GSUSA. The delegates were told that these girls would be followed on the trail soon by many of the 2.5 million members of Girl Scouting and by many of the 854,000 adult members of the Girl Scout program. The delegates also saw a list of the more than 80 countries around the world that host the Girl Scout program. IVV President Odd Ivar Ruud commented that this relationship was an important step towards the future of the IVV and its goal to increase youth participation.


The AVA's Youth Coordinators greeted the group and provided introductions to the AVA and IVV Presidents. President Ballman and President Ruud each welcomed the newest volkssporters, and President Ruud presented each girl with an IVV patch with the flags of the member countries.


The day was perfect for a walk. Within several hours every one of the girls and family members including younger siblings--the youngest walker was three years old--had all completed the 10 km walk.  Adults and children each received a certificate from the Hungary's volkssporting association, Hungarian individual achievement books with their first IVV stamp, and they were the first in the world to earn the new AVA Participation Patch for Girl Scout Volkssports.


The scouts who participated in the walk were not all citizens of the United States. One family was from South Africa. One family was from Sweden. There was also a family from Belgium. None of the participants in the scouting program had ever heard of volkssporting until this event. This symbolic first walk by the Girl Scouts set the stage for other events.


On Saturday, September 25, 1999, the AVA Participation Patch for Girl Scouts was the goal for walkers at the Valley Vagabonds' event in Lorain, Ohio. Beth Felina, of the Valley Vagabonds, organized this special walk for the Erie Shores Council of the GSUSA. Girl Scouts, leaders, scout families and volksporters from Northern Ohio came to walk for the participation patch.


The annual AVA Participation Patch for Girl Scouts program has several functions. It promotes unity within the Girl Scout community. It rewards a sporting and fitness lifestyle for Girl Scouts and their families. Finally, it celebrates the fellowship with all volkssporters on the trail. The patch is available to all walkers at events co-sponsored by one of the Girl Scout councils or to Girl Scouts who participate in a sanctioned event as part of a troop or neighborhood service unit program. The AVA will host a contest each year for a Girl Scout to design the next year's patch.


The National Headquarters of the GSUSA announced the collaboration to its councils through its printed "GirlSports Collaboration Guide 1999-2000." The guide, which is distributed to all Girl Scout Councils lists, GirlsSports partners and explains projects offered by these organizations to all Girl Scout troops and groups. The guide was first distributed to attendees at the Girl Scout National Council Session held October 14th through October 17th. The GSUSA announcement is highlighted in the sidebar to this article. Volkssporting is the newest official sport in the GirlsSports initiative. This national program emphasizes a healthy sports-oriented program for girls of all ages. Volkssporting is the first and only noncompetitive sport in the program. It is the only one that all girls can do along with their leaders and families.


At the convention, the GSUSA invited the AVA to have a booth to showcase our sport. The Mid-America Regional Director Ginny Drumm and AVA National Youth Coordinator Tim Miner hosted the booth with help of Barb Walters from the Clay-Platte Trackers of Kansas City. During the convention, which included a fitness fair and sports-theme banquet, senior Girl Scouts and adult leaders from all over the world found out about the AVA. Thousands of the new "Spirit of Walking" brochures were distributed along with information about the two different volkssport programs for Girl Scouts. The two programs are "Council Walk-Togethers" at AVA sanctioned events and a special GSUSA patch for girls who complete the AVA Master Program.


This collaboration with the Girl Scouts of the USA is just the beginning for the AVA's youth program. According to leaders of the AVA's youth effort, there are other youth oriented groups who can benefit from the activities offered by the premier walking and noncompetitive sports organization in the United States. What began in Hungary with literally small steps will grow to become a "march" all over the world.

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