In the midst of tragedy, Chippewa Falls and surrounding communities poured out their support for the Scouts. Their donations built the Girl Scout Troop #3055 Memorial Fund.
"We are still getting donations. People are still thinking of us," said Robin Kelley, leader of Troop #3055 and one of the fundholders. "That's very humbling."
The fund honors Jayna Kelley, Autumn Helgeson, Haylee Hickle, and Haylee's mother, Sara Jo Schneider. Sadly, they were engaged in community service, picking up litter along a road, when they died in a vehicle crash.
Each year, the fund will award a scholarship to one Chippewa Falls Senior High School senior who was a Girl Scout at some point. Jillian Raschke, a 2020 Chi-Hi graduate, received the first scholarship, totaling about $1,900.
"It reminds the community who gave so much in 2018 that we can give back in a positive way," Kelley said.
That means a lot to Kelley and her husband, Brian. "It is important to Brian and me that Jayna's death was not in vain," she said.
"We want the little girls and mother to be remembered. The fund gives back, and we won't forget them," said fundholder Paula Gerrish of Chippewa Falls. She is the leader of Troops #3345 and #3101; Madalyn Zwiefelhofer, who was severely injured in the accident, belonged to Troop #3345 last year.
"So many people, organizations, and businesses showed their support during and throughout this very difficult time. Giving back is central to the Foundation's work, and we are grateful to have been able to assist with the process to forever honor Troop #3055 through the creation of an endowed fund," said Jill Herriges, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Chippewa County.
"The fund spreads awareness of Girl Scouts," Kelley said. Scholarship applicants write about how Scouting has influenced them. They need to be college-bound, whether to a technical or four-year school. "When the girls are writing the essay, it helps them reflect on what Girl Scouts gave them," Kelley said. "Some you could tell had green blood."
This year's applicants wrote about building friendships, developing leadership skills, and helping others in the essays.
Girl Scouts allows girls to try new activities, learn business management skills, set and complete goals, and build confidence, these leaders said.
"It gives them a safe place to be a girl," Kelley said, noting Haylee Hickle stayed with her troop even after moving to a different area.
"It gives them something to be part of," added Gerrish, the mother of three Scouts.
Their troops have participated in service activities such as preparing meals at Agnes' Table, making cards and ornaments for nursing home residents, and earning money to buy Christmas gifts for children who wouldn't get any otherwise.
"Girls in Troop #3055 have become a close-knit group. While girls often drop out as they grow older, these Scouts are staying involved as they move on to middle school," Kelley said. "I think the girls are going to do a lot of great things. They're motivated. They want to keep giving back."
Kelley, who teaches Art at Halmstad Elementary School, has decided to leave Scouting, but she, Brian, and their daughter Terra remain close with the troop's families.
"The families are doing as well as can be expected. The support helps. You just find ways to move forward," Kelley said. "I hope the fund reminds people to think about what could happen with the choices they make. Every time we remind people of the tragedy, we remind people to make better decisions."
grants provide scholarships through the Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District Foundation for students who participated in Girl Scouts and wish to pursue secondary education.