WILKES-BARRE — About 450 Girl Scouts gathered at Kirby Park on Sunday for the kick-off of a councilwide commitment to walk a million miles in a year.
The event was part of the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania council’s “Healthy Promise” initiative to increase activity and healthy food choices among girls in grades k-12.
The event included a variety of games and activities, organized in partnership with Wilkes University, Live Well Luzerne and the YMCA.
The Girl Scouts and their families joined two-time Olympic softball gold and silver medalist and current ESPN commentator Jessica Mendoza for a one-mile loop around the park. Several girls were chosen by raffle to represent each level of Girl Scouts to walk alongside Mendoza as they led the huge crowd, carrying an Olympic-style torch.
Before the walk started, Mendoza shared her life story. She said her motto, “Love It, Dream It, Live It,” guided her through life’s choices and helped her achieve success in scholastically, professionally and in personally.
Mendoza played on the women’s softball team at Stanford University in 1999-2002. She went on to become a member of the U.S. Women’s Softball Team from 2004-2010 and was an outfielder in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and 2008 in Beijing.
She plays for the women’s professional team, USSSA Pride, in Florida. She currently lives in Southern California with her husband and 3-year-old son.
Mendoza said she played a variety of sports while growing up and began playing softball when she was 7. She recalled watching videos her parents recorded at her first softball games.
“It was pretty ugly,” she laughed. “Nobody was saying, ‘There’s an Olympic gold medalist.’ The ball was going between my legs and through my mitt. I was all arms and legs,” she said. “I wasn’t very good, but I had fun.”
Mendoza urged the girls to follow their dreams and do what they love to do, even if their friends don’t think it’s cool.
“To me, the success part of any goal is how you feel when you achieve something,” she said. “I had fifteen to twenty years of small goals that turned into bigger and bigger ones.”
Once a Girl Scout herself, Mendoza urged the girls to make decisions based on what they’re passionate about and to never settle for the easy path in life.
“Whether you’re a Daisy Girl Scout or an ambassador, the fact is, you’re making decisions every day. You can go out and be a ‘kick-butt girl’ or you can be like everyone else,” she said.