It is said that if you want a project done, give it to a busy woman. If you want a law passed in Florida, get six young women involved. These busy Girl Scouts from troop 20244 have been working toward a cleaner environment in the parks for the citizens of the Village of Wellington for over 14 months. And it all started with a day on the beach over a year ago.
At the time, the girls – (above, from L-R) Tabatha L, Jill R, Emma R, Alexis B, Haley J, and Gabrielle T, – were fourth and fifth graders at Panther Run Elementary school, and had volunteered for a beach clean-up in the City of Lake Worth. The girls were surprised that so much of the trash contained cigarette butts, and knew it was unhealthy to have cigarettes where kids play.
During their clean-up the girls met Janiece Davis, Health Education Consultant of the Palm Beach County Department of Health. Ms. Davis explained the work she was doing with the City of Lake Worth to create tobacco-free parks, and invited the girls to her office to learn about her work. The girls learned about the pollution and the health issues of smoking, the marketing of tobacco, how local governments run and how laws are passed.
The girls discussed the clean-up and how important it was for them to have a clean place to play, and decided they wanted to do something to help create smoke-free parks. They started out by making posters for their school to let people know it was bad idea to smoke in parks. Panther Run Principal Scott Blake allowed the girls to hang the posters in the school and helped them arrange a meeting with Wellington Parks and Recreation Department Director Bruce Delaney and Wellington’s Operations Manager Jim Barnes. At their meeting, the girls were surprised to learn that Wellington already had restricted smoking areas in the parks, but had no signs telling people not to smoke. The posters they made were used as part of the public awareness campaign in the parks for a safe, healthy environment for kids to play.
The girls presented their idea before the Wellington City Council in May and were given the go-ahead to decide where they wanted signs placed. They worked with the Health Department to develop the signs and met over this past summer to decide where to place them. The campaign started out small, but in the end more than 75 “Healthy Lungs at Play” signs were placed throughout Wellington. They were honored October 11 by the Wellington council for their efforts to curb smoking in the Village’s parks. Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Carmine Priore hopes the message reaches younger residents who might consider taking up smoking.
The girls worked for over a year to bring smoke-free parks to Wellington, and each girl has earned several new badges along the way. They also earned a Bronze Award pin, showing a commitment to community service. It is the highest award given to junior Girl Scouts and an award they truly earned and deserve. On November 8, each girl received another award when they were honored at a meeting with the Tobacco Free Partnership of Palm Beach.
Congratulations girls for your hard work and commitment to the Village of Wellington in making your community a healthier place for kids to play.