If the future is female, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas — and the organization as a whole — deserves a big thank you. The group is dedicated to the instilling strength and confidence in young girls, and works to provide programming that focuses on life skills, STEM, entrepreneurship, and the outdoors.
Women, men, and girls filled the Omni Hotel ballroom on October 18 for the 15th annual Women of Distinction Luncheon, co-chaired by Candace Winslow and Venise Stuart, and emceed by Fox 4 news anchor Clarice Tinsley.
“Girl Scouts are twice as likely to exhibit community problem-solving skills than non-Girl Scouts," stated Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. "Each year we are proud to recognize our Young Women of Distinction and show that community engagement — whether local or global — can start at any age.”
Mary Katherine Futrell and Gauri Nukala, both long-time Girl Scouts, received this year's honors. Futrell partnered with the NOAA and the National Park Service to create Project ReefLove, an awareness campaign about the negative effects of chemical sunscreens on coral reefs.
Nukala was honored for her drive to encourage girls and minorities to explore STEM options by creating and teaching workshops at Boys and Girls Clubs and elementary schools.
Sabrina Martinez Harrison and Roslyn Dawson Thompson were recognized as Woman of Distinction for their roles as leaders to girls and women, and within the community as a whole.
But it wasn't just women who were honored at the luncheon. Jorge Baldor received the Man Enough to be a Girl Scout Award for his drive to ensure that Northeast Texas communities are a place for everyone to thrive. Chairman of the Sammons Center for the Arts, Mary Anne Sammons Cree, received the Lifetime Achievement award.
ESPN host Victoria Arlen delivered the entertaining — and touching — keynote address. As a former Girl Scout, Arlen embodies the strength and perseverance of the organization, which was clear as she shared her inspiring life story.
She described her journey since the day she was diagnosed with a a rare viral disease called Transverse Myelitis. The disease left her paralyzed and unable to speak for four years, and she was forced to relearn even the most basic day-to-day functions. Arlen however, went on to win a gold medal and three silver medals at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, and in 2017, she was a semifinalist on Dancing With the Stars.
But perhaps everyone's favorite part of the luncheon came in the form of cookies. Each guest was treated to a Girl Scout cookie-inspired dessert, including a Thin Mint ganache tart and a s'mores panna cotta. Plus everyone walked away with a box of their very own Girl Scout cookies.
Among the notable guests and patrons were Matt Barnes, Tiffany Barnes, Kit Addleman, Lisa Cooley, Ciara Cooley, Mari Epperson, and Kimberly Yamaguchi.
Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas serves more than 25,000 girls and 12,000 adult volunteers across 32 counties.