Two lifetime members from Adams and York counties demonstrate the strength of friendships forged in Girl Scouting.
By Catherine Amoriello
If you’re a Girl Scout or volunteer, you probably know the “Make New Friends” Girl Scout song. It describes friendships made in Girl Scouts like a circle – having no end and lasting a lifetime. Joan Miller, a 71-year-old full-time grandma from Adams County, and Lynn Bixler, a 54-year-old middle school teacher from York County, show girls just how true the meaning of “Make New Friends” is.
Miller and Bixler are both lifetime members and have been involved in Girl Scouts for 64 and 47 years, respectively. They both joined as Brownies nearly two decades apart and later discovered their friendship at Hanover, Pa.’s former Girl Scout camp, Camp Gi-Sco-Ha. Miller was leading her daughters’ troop and serving as assistant director at the camp before she stepped in as director. Knowing she would need help running camps, Miller recruited then 18-year-old program aid Bixler.
“I can kind of pick out a personality and say, ‘Oh, she likes the same things I do,’” Miller said of the beginning of their friendship.
Under Miller and Bixler, Camp Gi-Sco-Ha’s day camp was expanded to two weeks because so many girls were signing up to participate. They went on to run two-week day camps for 11 years.
“We worked together and made a new team,” Bixler said.
Miller and Bixler proved a very successful team with multiple Girl Scout events and programs under their belts, the largest being Rainbow Connection. A weekend-long camp out event for older girls, the duo got involved with Rainbow Connection as facilitators before taking over the event from 2000 to 2013. In their first year leading the event, approximately 1,200 girls attended to camp out, participate in activities, and make new Girl Scout connections.
The pair also led a troop together. From horseback riding to whitewater rafting, they worked hard to provide a dynamic Girl Scout experience for their girls. An annual highlight for their troop was a “Hope it Snows a Lot” camping weekend when they would camp over Presidents’ Day weekend at Camp Gi-Sco-Ha. Girls had to bring their own sleds to travel down to the troop house, and Miller and Bixler used a toboggan “as long as a mini-van” to haul supplies to their headquarters. They hosted at least 15 of these winter weekend camping trips.
Miller and Bixler also hosted a Thanksgiving weekend event for their troop where they would teach girls how to make an entire Thanksgiving dinner from scratch – including washing a full-sized turkey.
“I just had a girl [a former Girl Scout] reach out recently asking for the recipe card for the ‘pink stuff,’” Miller said while recounting all the different foods she taught girls how to make for Thanksgiving.
But what might be the most memorable Girl Scout experience for the two was their 2018 trip to Our Chalet in Switzerland. It was Miller’s lifelong dream to visit the international Girl Guide/Girl Scout center ever since she learned about it as a girl.
“When I was a Brownie, they taught us all the songs. One of the songs was the ‘Our Chalet’ song. Our troop leader explained what it was and where it was and I thought, wow, I want to go there some day,” Miller said.
Miller’s dream came true when Bixler and Miller’s family surprised her with tickets for the trip for her birthday. Miller, Bixler, and Miller’s daughter Karen Blankinsop traveled to Adelboden to spend two nights at Our Chalet, explore the center, and tour as much as they could in Switzerland.
“I had thought about this my whole life – there was no way I was closing my eyes!” Miller said when recounting her excitement of finally seeing Our Chalet in person.
To say these two women have done a lot for the Girl Scout Movement is an understatement. Decades later, they both remain active in Girl Scouts, Miller through her granddaughters who are Girl Scouts now, and Bixler as a member of a troop committee. Their passion for Girl Scouts burns just as bright as it did when they first joined as Brownies, and they are intent on making sure the circle of friends continues for all girls.
Scouting – A Family Affair
“It’s important for girls to get out and be with girls where they feel comfortable. Juliette came back from Europe and said, ‘Hey, they got a good thing going over there, we need to do it too.’ She did a good thing. She gave girls a chance,” Miller said.
“Girl Scouts gives girls the opportunity to use their voice,” Bixler said. “Scouting creates girl leaders. It’s that sisterhood we talk about. Girl Scouts is 110 years old now – they’re doing something right.”