In times like these, it’s not uncommon to do something nice for someone without looking for a response back. Fishers Brownie Troop 1916 has been very busy for the last year making gifts, selling cookies and sending emails and letters. “I think so many times when you pick a charity, or you do something nice for the community, you don’t get a response and you don’t expect it. But for these girls, their first experience with this, they’re getting that and what a wonderful way to learn,” troop co-leader Jodi Rook described. She’s downplaying the response they have received because it has been truly amazing.
It all started out when co-leader Melissa Bingham was at Dr. Brian Benedict’s local orthodontist office on Olio Road. She overheard another lady talking to the receptionist about her son training to go to Iraq. The Brownie troop was looking for a project and it seemed like a great opportunity to support the other troops, the armed forces, and teach the young girls a few lessons about life.
Although we have over 60,000 residents in Fishers, it’s still a small town. Joyce Crowder was the lady talking to the receptionist. Joyce is the mom of LCPL Brad Scriff, who is now serving in Iraq, and Melissa works at Hamilton Southeastern, where Brad’s younger brother Adam is a freshman this year. They had been looking for a project to work on and it seemed almost too perfect.
The Brownies started out by making Christmas cards for Brad’s parents to send to North Carolina, where he was stationed at the time. They met Joyce and Terry Crowder to give them the cards and it turned out to be a very important day. “That day he called and told us he was going to be deployed, and we just cried like little babies in front of these little girls. They looked at us like we were crazy,” said Terry. “So it was a very emotional night to meet them,” added Brownie co-leader Jodi Rook. “Even from the first day there was some kind of bond formed. Just seeing them that night, as a mom, it was very emotional.”
That bond grew stronger during the year as the Brownies worked on other projects for Brad and other marines all over the world. They went door to door in Fishers selling Girl Scout Cookies, and the girls asked neighbors if they would like to donate a box to the Marines. They sold two hundred extra boxes of cookies, which they sent to Marines all over the world. “The response was just overwhelming,” Jodi confirmed. The Brownies received a picture from some thankful Marines in Iraq holding the cookies with big smiles on their faces. They all wrote their thanks to the Brownie troop with messages such as, “I love cookies” and “I already ate a whole box.” One of the Marines in the picture, LCPL James Oltman, was a fellow Hoosier and had his parents hand deliver the picture and letter to the Brownies. Now all of the girls have a framed picture in their rooms and James quickly became their second adopted Marine.
The girls got a chance to meet both Brad and James in person. They made special shirts for the party they held at Brooks School Elementary when Brad came back before deployment to Iraq. “The girls were just so excited, and Brad walked in and of course they were just stone faced,” Jodi explained. Brad broke the ice by giving all the girls a big group hug. He also kneeled down on one knee and presented each girl with a special pin his father had made. Melissa got approval from the Brownie big-wigs for them to wear it on their vest. “That was just awesome; they were all running to their moms to have them put the pins on their vests so they were on straight. They were just parading around and showing it off. One girl took it to show and tell. It just made a big impact on them,” Joyce said. “They are the only Brownie troop in the whole world that has these special pins,” Terry added.
The Brownies didn’t stop supporting the troops with the party. When Brad was promoted to Lance Corporal, they had a pizza party by themselves and took a picture to send to Brad. They also sent him 200 Tootsie Pops decorated with Kleenexes to look like ghosts. “They wanted to do something special for him, and Brad’s favorite holiday is Halloween. He told me he’s got them already and takes them over to the shop and shares them with the guys,” Joyce said enthusiastically.
The Brownies were recognized for all their efforts last month at the Support Our Troops Rally in downtown Indianapolis. Brad’s parents spent a year organizing the 2nd annual event which brought hundreds of supporters, including over 100 motorcycle riders from the American Legion and Patriot Guard. The Brownies led the Pledge of Allegiance and were later recognized by Joyce for all their hard work. LCPL James Oltman was able to come home from Iraq a day early just to attend the big event. “When they saw James at the rally, they just attacked him; they swarmed him,” Terry said. James described to the girls what it was like to receive the cookies and how the Marines began screaming and jumping for joy. James and many other veterans signed the girls’ shirts they had originally made for Brad’s party. “That was one of the most incredible experiences they’ve had,” Jodi explained. “I don’t know how many of the vets turned to our parents and thanked us. It just blew us away.”
The Brownies call Brad and James “Our Marines,” and they call the girls their little sisters. It’s amazing what a simple Christmas card or box of cookies can do to create relationships that will probably last throughout the girls’ lifetime. “They’re some pretty awesome girls; we just love them to death,” summarized Terry. “It doesn’t hurt that they sent them Girl Scout Cookies. That might have had something to do with it.”
Brad is a long way from Fishers, but he does have internet access in Iraq so leave a comment of encouragement for him and the Brownies to read. They would love it!
You can also visit Terry Crowder’s website, www.usmcfamilies.com, to learn how you can help support his son Brad and the rest of the Marines.