For the Girl Scouts, preparing a girl for a lifetime of leadership is vital. The leadership development program has allowed Rustburg Girl Scout, Sydney Nolley, both the ability and passion for service to make a difference in the Campbell County community.
Since 1916, the Girl Scouts have undertaken projects to improve their communities and even the world. There are many awards a Girl Scout can receive for helping improve the community. The Gold Award is the most prestigious award a Girl Scout can earn. To earn the award, Girl Scouts need to identify an issue that affects their relative community, and dedicate eighty hours of service towards developing a resolution.
For Nolley, addressing the issue of healing after loss was most important. As a young person, Nolley witnessed the tragedies of losing those you love to a horrific disease – cancer. In eighth grade, she lost both grandfathers to the disease, and just two years ago, a beloved aunt passed from pancreatic cancer.
When brainstorming ideas for her Gold Award project, she recognized in sharing her pain, cancer is a disease that has tragically affected all, in one way, shape or form.
"It's been a very difficult thing in my life and I wished I had a place to go, and so I thought that I'd solve the problem in my community and create a place in nature for people to rest and reflect and grieve their loved ones," she said.
She decided to take action.
Nolley partnered with Campbell County Recreation Department to build a cancer awareness garden; a place of reflection and remembrance where those needing to heal, or reflect could come in nature to find peace and comfort.
Mary Pascale, Director of Campbell County Recreation Department, said, "I thought what a wonderful project for our community! We’ve all been touched in some way by cancer, and Sydney’s ideas were so inviting. The more she shared her vision, I could see it, too, and I knew we [Campbell County] had to help support her goal."
It was no easy task; Nolley had to fundraise to help support her project, as well as move the earth – quite literally.
Nolley's mother, Sharon, supported Sydney every step of the way, as did her father, George.
"It's absolutely fascinating, and completely selfless of her. We all deal with our grief in different ways, but Sydney recognized when I lost my sister just how devastating it was,” said Sharon, who is likewise Nolley’s Girl Scout Leader. “It was at that time this idea really cemented for her, and she felt the need to do something to kind of pull it in, and it means the world that our family that she’s provided our community – our family – such a place. A beautiful place to feel the warmth on your face, and remember the ones you love."
The awareness and reflection garden has several unique features, which are quite indicative of the personality of its creator. There was a rock nearby in the park, which after Nolley saw it, she knew it would be a perfect reflection spot.
“It was all but completely covered underground, and required a ton of help to move,” said Nolley. “Mr. Pribble, and the Public Works construction crew helped to relocate it so our guests could have another place to sit and reflect.”
The garden is sprinkled with symbolic touches, such as butterflies – which represent endurance, new life, and hope. The most humbling touch; however, is the visitor’s journal, which is housed in a welcoming white receptacle as you first approach the garden.
“Writing is a huge part of my spirit,” notes Nolley. “I thought how lovely would it be to have a journal for guests to share notes of encouragement, or just the date of their visit? Part of building community is for all of us to find commonality, so through our words, the telling of our stories, we can build that.”
Whether you want to think about a lost loved one or just take a breath, Nolley hopes her space will be a true place of reflection, true comfort, and peace for the community.
For her efforts in providing a place of natural compassion and comfort, she received a Gold Award.
“It was a rewarding feeling,” Nolley said about receiving the Gold Award. “My dream is for other young women to see this spot and realize their hopes are also attainable. It’s especially important for young girls to make a difference. We are the new voice. We have to learn how to speak and how to be powerful, and the Girl Scouts helped to teach me that. Along with my wonderful parents, of course.”
Nolley said the Girl Scouts program taught her the importance of leadership. Receiving the Gold Award motivated her to keep working towards raising cancer awareness, and promoting the importance of reflection in the healing process.
Campbell County Board Member, Eddie Gunter (Concord District) said he couldn’t help but feel inspired by Nolley’s efforts, and her lasting contributions to Long Mountain Park.
“The work that Sydney [Nolley] put into her project is bringing about positive growth, and healthy change for many that are affected by such a terrible, terrible disease,” Gunter said. “She has already made such an impact in the lives of many, and there is no doubt in my mind that this Gold Award Girl Scout is going to keep changing the world. She’s already changed ours, and for the better.”
ABOUT SYDNEY NOLLEY’S GOLD AWARD Sydney Nolley launched a Facebook social media page where supporters could track her status as she accomplished this project, as well as share encouragement. If interested, you may visit the page here: https://www.facebook.com/Sydneys-Girl-Scout-Gold-Award-Garden-2248434022092248/
ABOUT GSVSC Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Council serves girls and young women throughout Central Virginia and is committed to making the Girl Scout Leadership Experience available to girls in ways that impact their lives both in the moment and into the future. Girls participate in troops, individual projects, council events, day camps, resident camps and more. A variety of leadership, outdoor skills, and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) based programs and events provide girls with opportunities to learn and explore in fun and informative ways. To join or volunteer, please visit: http://www.gsvsc.org/.