Girl Scouts earn badges at mall party

March 08, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

It's a teen-age girl's fantasy come true: staying up all night at the mall with hundreds of your friends at a big slumber party.

That was the scene at Columbia Mall last weekend, as 1,600 Girl Scouts from Howard and Carroll counties turned out for the 10th annual Columbia Mall Sleep-In.

The marathon slumber party gives girls ages 9 to 18 a chance to earn proficiency badges, make friends and, for the youngest, take a few first steps toward independence.

The event also gives a chance for "letting loose, having time to socialize with other troops," said Adrian Humphreys, a parent volunteer with Troop No. 703 from Fulton.

From 11 p.m. Saturday until 4:45 a.m. Sunday, the girls took part in merit badge and crafts activities, and exchanged "swaps," handmade items created from feathers, beads, and other odds and ends.

They had begun gathering on the mall's upper level earlier in the evening, waiting for the official 11 p.m. start to head down to the lower level, where the activities took place.

Jenna Bost and 10 other girls from Lisbon's Troop No. 1654 dropped off their sleeping bags and jackets. It was their first time at the sleep-in and they weren't sure what to make of it.

"We'll know at the end of the night," said parent volunteer Brenda Mundy.

Thirty minutes into the evening, however, the girls seemed quite at home in what would ordinarily be an empty mall on a Saturday night.

In one of the food courts, nearly 20 scouts from Fulton's Troop No. 703 were holding an impromptu birthday celebration for Scout Annie Ward. Singing loudly and trailing balloons in their wake, they clustered around a set of tables to eat a jumbo-sized cookie and pizza.

"It's a complete sleepover, and I don't have to do anything," said Annie's mother, Patricia Ward.

Janis Battle, leader of East Columbia's Troop No. 235, said the event gives girls a chance to develop independence without worry.

"They're on their own," Ms. Battle said. "We have security, but they have their own money. There's no adults telling them to stop doing something.

"You don't have to worry about drugs," she continued. "It's good, clean fun. You feel safe."

Bob Polinsky, who participated in the event with his 11-year-old daughter, said Scouting also fosters self-esteem.

"It's real important to remind thekids, especially the girls, that they have self-esteem," Mr. Polinsky said. "These events remind them. This is not just a girls' activity, we're raising self-esteem."

The girls also take special delight in the event "because it's the mall and we get to stay here all night," said 10-year-old Erica Brotzman, a fifth-grader at Laurel Woods Elementary.

Among the Scouting-related activities that night were orienteering and first aid. The events gave girls a chance to earn in one night a merit badge that usually take months of work.

At 12:45 a.m., for example, Annie and her friends were learning about orienteering to earn their bridging badges, which enable them to advance from Juniors to Cadettes.

During a break, they stop by a nail-care booth, but decide the line is too long to get their fingernails painted hot pink. They finally settle on making buttons on their clothing.

At 1:35 a.m., after working on her merit badge for a while longer, Annie and her friends decided to head for the food court once again.

"I need some more sugar," said Annie.

Food stores were the only ones open in the mall that night, offering the girls a chance to snack on soda, cookies, cinnamon rolls, cotton candy, french fries, ice cream and pizza until 3:30 a.m.

When they weren't eating or working on a merit badge, the girls discussed boys. At the face-painting booth, boys' names were a popular request.

Girl Scout Julie Hill, of Troop No. 703 in Fulton, has considered -- and rejected -- having her face painted with the name of a young man she dubbed the "Cinnabon Man," after watching him at work at the mall's Cinnabon bakery.

Julie, an 11-year-old Clarksville Middle School student, decides the moniker is too long for her cheek, but muses over the possibility of a future relationship.

"Maybe the 'Cinnabon Man' will find me," she joked to her girlfriends.The frivolity rolled to a close at 4:45 a.m. as the girls headed back upstairs for about an hour of quiet time before leaving the mall for home.

Jenna Bost, of Troop No. 1654 in Lisbon, sprawled on her sleeping bag after earning her first merit badge by making a bracelet, necklace, a friendship pin, a bookmark and a piece of clay jewelry.

The first-year Scout already was thinking about next year's sleep-in.

"I didn't expect my feet to hurt as much as they did," she said. "I'll wear high tops next time."

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