By Carol Hemeyer and
for the News
A great deal of ongoing dedication and enthusiasm by generations of leaders and volunteers, and the keen support of the parents and community have enabled the Wolf Willow Guiding District of Ponoka and Rimbey to offer a unique and exciting experience of learning and fun to hundreds of young ladies ages five to 15 years.
From humble beginnings in England in 1909, Scouting movement founder Lord Baden-Powell encouraged his wife Olave Lady Baden Powell to create a similar program just for girls. Mrs. Powell avidly toured the country promoting Girl Guides and by 1910 the rapidly growing youth movement had reached Canada and throughout the world. Since 1912 and throughout the years both the national and provincial councils began to develop, with the Alberta council organizing the province into various districts and areas.
Ponoka units have been affiliated at various times with other towns such as Lacombe, Rimbey, Alix, Blackfalds and Red Deer. Today we are now in the Wolf Willow District, which includes Rimbey, Aspen Beach, Gull Lake, Morningside and Ponoka; with the main units operating out of Rimbey and Ponoka. Wolf Willow is one of 10 districts affiliated with the Parkland Area, whose boundaries extend from Ponoka in the north to Airdrie in the south, then Rocky Mountain House in the west to Stettler in the east. Girl Guides of Canada is an international organization; in fact it is the largest girls only organization in the world, with centres in England, India, Switzerland and Mexico. The keen tradition of Guiding presently has over five million young ladies enrolled in the worldwide organization.
Wolf Willow District is currently very active, with approximately 100 girls and volunteers taking part in the year round programs. Rimbey has three units, including Sparks (ages five to six), Brownies (seven to eight), and Guides (nine to 12 years); all who meet in the new Seniors’ Drop In Centre in Rimbey. Ponoka has the same units as Rimbey, as well as a Pathfinders unit of 12 to15 year old girls; all who meet in the Christian School. Both Rimbey and Ponoka are involved in many community service projects throughout the year. Some of these projects include helping with banquets, cleaning the river valley, selling programs at the Stampede, visiting and cheer at Northcott Lodge, celebrating birthday parties for seniors at the Auxiliary Hospital and on and on.
In the Guiding programs the girls are encouraged to have fun and make lasting friendships; while learning to develop life skills in leadership, important first aid and outdoors skills, and enjoying camping and singing. Their leaders and mentors benefit in the same ways as the girls, and grow themselves as the organization provides the excellent training programs.
Shared events of the past Guiding year have featured: A trip to the Drumheller Museum in October 2007 for girls, leaders, and family members to sleep with the dinosaurs and learn more about them; a mother/daughter banquet in Rimbey in March; and a district campout at Camp Sherbino near Sylvan Lake in May; only to mention a few. Girls, particular the older Guide and Pathfinder groups are given many opportunities to travel provincially, nationally, and internationally. As an example, in August of this year there will be a group of girls and leaders travelling, camping, and hostelling throughout Alberta while visiting such renowned Heritage sights as the Dinosaur Provincial Park, Writing On Stone Provincial Park, Waterton International Peace Park, and Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. Two years ago one group of girls and their leaders went to British Columbia to experience both the Vancouver aquarium and the ferry to Victoria; while another were thrilled to visit England to see the sights and stay at the Girl Guides World Center in London.
These programs could not be carried out without the kindly aid of both our numerous volunteers and the donations made by our local service clubs, which have formed countless community partnerships that have carried on for decades. To keep costs as low as possible the Rimbey/Ponoka Guiding group hosts two main fundraisers per year. These include selling their famous and delicious boxes of cookies in the spring and fall, as well as selling programs in partnership with the scouts at the annual Ponoka Stampede, for which they received a donation. At present each girl’s registration fee is $90 a year.
Looking back to the May 1929 beginning of Guiding in Ponoka, it was the gracious support of the local Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire that got the youth group growing. This wonderful connection still carries on to this day, along with many other long-standing and new donations, for which they are most grateful.
In closing the Wolf Willow Ponoka and Rimbey Guiding group would like to focus on a special tribute to one of their long-standing and outstanding volunteers, namely Hazel Snyder. Amazingly Hazel has been faithfully and diligently involved in all facets of the local Girl Guide movement for over 50 years. No matter what title she currently holds, this congenial lady has always been there to lend a helping hand, and for this Hazel was honoured in 1997 with a Life Membership in Girl Guides of Canada, a prestigious National Award. The highlights of her magnificent service to Guides have been countless, but what will stand out is likely the trip to England with the girls in July 2006, and the key roll that she plays in the selling of programs at many Ponoka Stampedes. Her focus has always been to put the girls first, as well as being totally involved in helping them grow into wonderful citizens of our fine community, province, and nation. For all this, and for so much more Hazel Snyder is very much respected and appreciated by her group members, her fellow leaders, and her community.
Those wishing to find out more about or join in on the many adventures of our local Girl Guide movement for ages five to 15 are welcome to attend the annual registration on Sept. 3, between 5 and 8 p.m. at the Ponoka Arena Complex, Phone Carol Hemeyer at 403-783-2137, or visit the Alberta website at www.girlguides.ca. It is a youthful experience that young ladies will surely remember for a lifetime.