In 1978 Sandy Yearwood became a Girl Scout leader. Little did she know the legacy she would leave behind. To me, she was just my mom, but to the rest of the girls in our troop, she was a friend, a mentor and a champion. She pushed us to step outside our comfort zones and challenge ourselves. By the time we were in high school she lead 7 us to our Gold Awards, the highest award available in Girl Scouts. She taught us that everything was worth learning about and that acts of kindness and community service should be part of our everyday lives.
Sandy believed in collecting experiences, the more the better. She got her pilot’s license at age 16 and learned to surf while attending college in Hawaii. She rode quads across the desert, ziplined in Yellowstone, whale watched in Mexico, explored caverns in Ireland, and even had the chance to sing at Carnegie Hall. Her careers were as varied as her activities. Sandy was an elementary school teacher, a flight attendant, a travel agent, a real estate broker, and finally retired as the top trainer for American Airlines.
My mom was a voracious reader, loved music of all varieties, and thought it was fun to jump in the car and deliberately get lost just to see where she ended up. She raised us with the advice that if it was moral, legal, and we could afford it, we should do it. We were constantly encouraged to take risks and think outside the box.
A New Program
By the time I had children of my own, Girl Scouts had dramatically changed their program and while I was a troop leader for a few years, it simply wasn’t what I was looking for. At that time I also began homeschooling my daughters and my mother suggested combining my two passions to create a badge based program that would allow kids to learn about anything that piqued their interest. Frontier Girls was created in 2007 for just that purpose.
By 2010, we had so many boy siblings wish to earn our badges that we created Quest Clubs. This flexible co-ed option allowed groups to create scouting style clubs that reflected their own beliefs and goals. This was also the year that my mother’s Alzheimer’s got suddenly worse and by early 2011 she moved back to California so I could care for her.
The Eternal Optimist
Sandy Yearwood was an eternal optimist. She rarely let things get her down and even approached her worsening memory with a positive outlook. Her desire to learn and to experience life never dimmed. She used to tell me that it was important concentrate on the blessings of Alzheimer’s. Thanks to a deteriorating memory, pain and frustration were quickly forgotten as though they never existed. When I had good news to share, she loved that she got to get excited over and over again since she would forget that I had already told her and each time I mentioned it it was like the first time all over again.
Even when no longer able to drive or care for herself, Mom still loved to go find new experiences with me. We hiked nearly every local trail we could find. She traveled with my family and went snorkeling off the coast of the Turks and Caicos. When the B1 bomber came to town she couldn’t wait to take a ride. Sandy hula danced and sang with a Hawaiian singing group up until the last year of her life.
Mom never got to see Curiosity Untamed. She passed away in December 2018. Her legacy continues however. Rather than a funeral, she asked to have friends and family go out and collect experiences in her name instead. I passed this request on to all of our Frontier Girls and Quest members and to this day, they still search for experiences to collect in honor of Sandy Yearwood.
Curiosity Untamed is the culmination of everything my mother taught me to be. It takes badge earning past just being for scouting style groups and encourages both kids and adults to explore what interests them. Mom believed that anything and everything could be fun and educational and encouraged me to never stop writing badges. There is always something new to experience and that is why I add new badges to the program every month.
So in honor of Sandy Yearwood, go collect a new experience today. Learn something new. Visit somewhere you have never been. Eat something you have never tried. Become proficient in a new skill. It isn’t about what you do, but that you are doing something new. Step outside your comfort zone. What experience will YOU collect?