By Dan Winegar, Ranger at Starwoods Outdoor Center
This summer, we had a group of Cadettes and older utilize our climbing tower. I, along with Program Director Jen Arnold and Miriam Fiering of Girl Experience, facilitated the zip line for the girls. We had sent 10 or so girls down when this little girl came up the stairs. Rachel was about 4 feet tall with dark hair and glasses. As Jen clipped her into the lifeline tether at the top of the stairs, we could tell she was a bit nervous. Jen instructed her to take her time and just enjoy the view for a bit.
When she was ready, Jen told her, “Ok, look at Dan and walk over to him, and he will take care of you." She gripped her trolley tightly and slowly shuffled her feet toward me. I asked, "What is your name?" She replied with a whimper in her voice, "I'm Rachel." I said, "Rachel, it's nice to meet you. I'm Dan." I asked for her trolley and told her to hang onto the railing and I would be right back with her after I attached her trolley to the zip cable.
As I turned back to her, I asked her if she was ready to step out to me on the platform. As we stood there, I told her if she wanted to, she could change her mind and go back down. I told her we were already proud of her for making it this far!
Rachel told me she still wanted to do it. I told her at this point I would need her help. With her only being 4 feet tall, I told her I would need her to reach up to the trolley and help me lift her up so I could clip her into the trolley. As she strained to pull herself up, I was able to clip her back-up tether and main tether into the trolley. I could tell this process had rattled her a bit, and I reassured her she was completely safe. I joked and told her we could send an elephant down this line if we had a harness big enough. She half-smiled.
Rachel's legs weren't long enough to reach the platform. She said, "Please don't let me go yet." I said, “Rachel, I'm not letting you go until you tell me you are ready. Remember, at any time, you can go back down the stairs instead of zipping." She said in a soft voice, "I just want to take a few minutes." I told her to take as much time as she needed. I radioed down to Miriam and made sure she was ready at the landing deck. Rachel was still visibly rattled as I went through my final checks.
As I looked at Rachel’s face, a single tear rolled down her cheek. I said, "Rachel, remember you don't have to do this. It is completely your choice."
She looked back at me and said, "I'm ready. Let me go."
I let go of her trolley, and she was off. I was so proud of her. I have never seen such courage in such a little girl. I found Rachel as she came back from the landing deck and asked her how her ride was. She said triumphantly, "That was so much fun!"
These opportunities we offer through Girl Scouts truly have an impact on the girls we serve. I know Rachel's courage had an impact on me I will never forget.