MARYSVILLE – Young girls with special needs had a magical dream-come-true day swimming with mermaids at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School pool.
The Junior Girl Scouts of Arlington Troop 40737 hosted a “Swim with a Mermaid” pool party for local girls with developmental disabilities who may not be invited as often to parties that typical kids take for granted.
Two mermaids from Seattle Mermaids were waiting in the water when girls from Arlington Public School’s Developmental Preschool Life Skills and Early Learning and Categorical programs arrived. Through bake sales and other fundraising, the junior scouts were able to make the event free for families, with some extra goodies thrown in.
Mara Boober of Arlington brought her 11-year-old daughter, Grace.
“My daughter loves being in the pool,” Boober said. “She was a little nervous at first, but she’s getting to swim with a mermaid, and her teacher, and she’s really excited about that.”
The look on Grace’s face – and the faces of other swimmers – said it all.
“She’s non-verbal, but I can see it in her smile and the way her eyes light up,” Boober said.
The day of splish-splashing may not have happened if not for two energetic junior scouts taking the plunge.
Fifth-grader Danica Jensen and fourth-grader Avery Cagle last March took charge of planning the event as part of their Bronze Award project, with help from their troop leader and fellow scouts.
“We’re giving the Life Skills girls and other girls a chance to swim with mermaids,” said Danica, a Pioneer Elementary student in her Girls Scout vest who walked the pool with clipboard in hand signing in families.
She couldn’t wait to get into her own bathing suit and join in. “It’s amazing that this many girls actually get to have fun with mermaids…”
Avery said she felt good about making a difference.
“We’re helping special education girls feel like they’re just like us, and it’s actually making our hearts feel really warm because they get to have fun,” said Avery, who was wearing an “I’d Rather be a Mermaid” t-shirt before jumping into the pool.
The event was extra meaningful for Avery, whose mom worked with disabled kids at a school in Maryville, Tenn., before the family moved to Arlington last summer, where they have relatives. “I’d go there, get to be with them and help out in the mornings.”
Troop leader Christie Britton, a Life Skills teacher at Pioneer, said their older scouts had a money-raising swim with the Seattle Mermaids where they had 100 girls come out.
“Danica and Avery wanted to plan an event where girls with special needs would feel like typical kids and their whole family would feel welcome,” Britton said. “They were thoughtful and intentional in their planning, and it was touching to see all the special touches they came up with.”
The girls each got a goodie bag containing an Ariel doll from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” a Club Mermaid necklace and a mermaid swim patch. The girls also got their pictures taken in a marine photo display, which will be mounted in hand-made frames being designed by the Girl Scouts as a memento for the occasion.
Avery’s mom, Cinnamon Rader, said of the two girls, “They’re really psyched about their project.”
Danica’s mom, Becky said they rose to the occasion. “They’re feeling that responsibility, that leadership role of having something they can take charge of,” Jensen said.
The pair were happy with the turnout, which attracted about 18 girls.
Danica said, “We should do this again, but maybe with the boys, and Star Wars.”
Avery added, “Have Darth Vader sit in the water.”
They want to help everyone equally. “Boys are people, too,” Danica said.