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You don’t have to be a girl to be a Girl Scout

Jeremy Rollur and Amelia, Cory Weisner and Marissa, Howard Shalinsky and Ariana, Matt Pressnall and Ella of Girl Scout Troop 680 which is primarily led by fathers. (Kim Shepard, KIRO Radio)
LISTEN: You don't have to be a Girl to be a Girl Scout

The Girl Scouts are all about tradition: reciting the Girl Scout Law, learning to post the colors, selling cookies and earning badges.

“We did a lot of crafts and tying knots, and basically we spent all our time earning badges,” said 4th grader Ella.

Ella and her dad, Matt Pressnall, agree she had a great time in her first year with the scouts. But Pressnall’s wife wasn’t as keen.

“My wife was involved with it, but found that she wasn’t super interested in going off and doing it,” he said.

But, they really liked the organization’s message of building girls of courage, confidence and character. They soon discovered there was another option — dad stepped in.

“My dad was blown away that there’s a Girl Scout Troop that was led by dads,” Pressnall said. “That was unheard of in his day.”

Troop 680 is primarily led by men. Cory Weisner is in his second year of being the Assistant Troop Leader.

“When you have a daughter, especially when they’re younger, it seems that your time with them is built more around events,” Weisner said. “They may go to dance class, and then you’re there for recital. You check in with what they’re doing, but then you check back out.”

After taking a minor volunteer role in his first year with the troop, Weisner was offered a leadership position. He was excited to take advantage of the opportunity to spend more time with his daughters. At the time, both were part of the troop which encompasses the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades.

The volunteer dads proudly proclaim the title of “Girl Scout” themselves. Weisner even has a shirt with that message.

Ella says it’s nothing like her old troop, and that’s exactly why she likes it.

“Today, we’re building rockets!” Ella shared. “One time we built a roller coaster.”

The dads have the added bonus of being around other guys who are also trying connect with their girls. Howard Shalinsky’s daughter, Ariana, is in her second year with the troop.

“We love our wives, but they’re doing their own thing, and this gives us a chance to be with our daughters,” Shalinsky said.

The troop has become so popular they now have more than 30 members. They are the fourth largest troop in King County and the third largest in Seattle. It’s no easy task. The girls are split into “patrols” based on their grade. There is a “patrol dad” in charge of each of these smaller groups. They also have specialists including a treasurer, camp cook and rocket master. All of those jobs are filled by men.

The popularity of Troop 680 might have something to do with the fact that even the girls recognize what a unique group they have.

“I get to spend a lot of time with my dad, and it’s just me and him. None of my siblings are around,” Girl Scout Amelia said of her father Jeremy Rollur.

Though it might seem like a non-traditional troop — not so. They take part in all the Girl Scout traditions, such as selling cookies. Ella sold 1,800 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies this year. Her secret weapon?

“You have to have an awesome dad who takes you to the UW in front of the library during finals week,” grinned Ella.

All that cookie money funds a lot of activities. The troop goes camping three times a year. One of those trips usually involves tent camping in the snow.

“She and I share a tent, just like we do when we go backpacking or any other sort of camping. I would say probably 60 to 70 percent of the dads and daughters do it that way,” Pressnall said.

Moms are also welcome to volunteer. On camping trips, some girls choose to sleep in a cabin where the “camp mom” is the chaperone.

Both the men and women go through background checks before going on a trip with the girls. Pressnall says safety has never really been an issue.

“Everybody’s intentions here are good. They just want to spend time with their daughters. There’s nothing suspect going on,” Pressnall said.

After three years in Girl Scouts, Amelia is ready to cross the bridge from Junior to Cadette. That means she’ll be leaving troop 680.

She hasn’t yet decided what she’ll do next year, but both Amelia and her dad hope their journey with the Girl Scouts will continue.

“It’s been great. I’m sad this troop is winding up for Amelia. I mean, this troop is pretty special in what they do,” Rollur said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it. A lot of fun for the parents, too.”

If you’re a dad ready to be a Girl Scout, you can find out more about volunteering here.

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