Far-reaching Embrace of Girl Scouts’ Sisterhood

November 13, 2018

LOWELL -- Despite the frigid temperature and harsh gusts of wind, more than 50 area Girl Scouts and their loved ones gathered in a massive circle outside Lowell City Hall late Saturday afternoon.

Bundled up in winter jackets, and their Girl Scout sashes, many held candles and some held signs. Liberty Faretra, 6, of Methuen, held one stating “I love you Girl Scouts.”

When addressing the crowd, Brandi Jong, the service unit coordinator for the Girl Scouts in Lowell, referenced the final line of the Girl Scout Law: “Be a sister to every Girl Scout.”

The Scout’s promise was what brought the group together Saturday.

Three Girl Scouts and a mother from Troop 3055, based in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, were struck and killed by a vehicle as they collected trash along a highway on Nov. 3. The group had been collecting litter as part of a community service project in Lake Hallie when a black pickup truck went off the road and struck them, according to the Associated Press.

Killed were fourth-graders Jayne Kelley, 9, and 10-year-olds Autumn Helgeson and Haylee Hickle. Haylee’s 32-year-old mother Sara Jo Schneider was also among the victims. A fourth Girl Scout, Madalyn Zwiefelhofer, was struck but survived. She remains hospitalized with severe injuries.

“These fourth-grade girls are out there trying to do something for their community and they were taken away too early in life,” Jong said. “It’s hard, but the outpouring of love everyone has been providing: It’s amazing.”

Girl scouts from all over the nation came together to hold similar events in honor of the Scouts who were killed, Jong said.

AvaMay Casaubon, of Girl Scout Troop 75443 of Lowell -- wearing a sash covered in patches, pins and buttons -- was among those who attended the event in Lowell. The 12-year-old recalled feeling sadness when she heard news of the tragedy -- not just for the victims, but for the parents of the Scouts who were killed, she said.

AvaMay also recalled feeling nervous, realizing the tragedy is proof this could happen anywhere.

“They were just trying to help the city, and keep it clean,” AvaMay said. “We should honor them. People should be more careful.”

To close Saturday’s vigil the group created a “Friendship Circle.” Each person crossed their right arm over their left and clasped hands with the person on either side. Everyone then sent a “silent wish or prayer” through the circle.

After the event, Girl Scouts Hayley Joyce, 11, and Aria Clough, 12, both of Lowell, said they both used the Friendship Circle to wish for Madalyn to get better.

“I also wished everyone’s parents would get through it and they would be OK,” Aria said.

Vehicular homicide charges have been filed against 21-year-old Colten Treu, the driver of the truck involved in the fatal crash. According to the AP, the criminal complaint states Treu, of Chippewa Falls, and his passenger had been getting high by inhaling a computer keyboard cleaner shortly before the truck went off the highway.

Treu is being held in the Chippewa County Jail on $250,000.

Madalyn, hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, suffered an aortic rupture and injuries to her spleen, kidney and brain.

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis

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