A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Mother, daughter share fond, lifetime memories of their own and shared Girl Scouts experience

“Watching my daughter grow up in Girl Scouts was one of the most meaningful experiences in my entire life,” said Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road alumni and Lifetime Member, Debbie Dase. In 1980, Debbie’s daughter, Rhonda Ritzi, came home from school with a sign-up sheet for the Girl Scouts. On that day, Debbie began her journey as a Girl Scout volunteer, a passion that still flourishes today.

Rhonda, as a Brownie in 1981

Debbie was born in Covington, where she joined the Girl Scouts at Saint Ann School. When Debbie reflected on her independence as a child she said, “I liked to be helpful. I would help my neighbors’ water their plants and babysit. Selling cookies in the Girl Scouts always felt natural to me.”

Debbie’s caring and helpful spirit would go on to make her a great mother. Debbie’s daughter, Rhonda, was born on March 12 and raised near Crescent Springs. This date is not only Rhonda’s birthday, but it also marks the day the Girl Scouts were founded. “March 12 commemorates the day in 1912 when Juliette Gordon Low (founder of Girl Scouts) officially registered the organization’s first 18 members in Savannah, Georgia. I like to think of this as fate,” Rhonda said.

After switching schools from Crescent Springs Elementary to Saint Joseph Elementary, Debbie continued to volunteer for Rhonda’s troop. Rhonda reflected on local trips to the Center of Science and Industry Museum in Columbus and attending Girl Scout Camp.

“Starting in the second grade, I attended Campbell Mountain Girl Scout Camp each summer. I loved hiking, swimming, canoeing and sleeping in tents,” Rhonda said.

In the sixth grade, she began attending Resident Camp, a one-week overnight camp, at Campbell Mountain. “I enjoyed resident camp so much that I wanted to become a Camp Aide,” Rhonda said.

Rhonda, as a Girl Scout in 1992

Following one week of training, the new Camp Aides, or Counselors in Training, were expected to sign up to volunteer for two weeks of summer camp. At the ripe age of 14, Rhonda insisted she should work for two months.

“In 1988 when I became a Camp Aide, each staff member had a camp name – I was always called Twiggy,” Rhonda said. At the age of 16, “Twiggy” was the first paid Junior Counselor.

Rhonda continued to move up through the ranks at Campbell Mountain – from Camp Counselor to Unit Leader and then Assistant Camp Director. After graduating from Morehead State University in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Recreation and a minor in Health, Rhonda was hired by Licking Valley Girl Scout Council as Membership Marketing/Outdoor Program Manager. Even at this point, she felt her work at Campbell Mountain wasn’t done.

“I became the Camp Director at Campbell Mountain and served as the director until the property was sold in 2006,” Rhonda said.

Rhonda and Debbie’s dedication and passion with the Girl Scout organization has not gone unrecognized.

In 1992, Rhonda was awarded the Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, which her mother was very proud to see her earn. In 2003, Rhonda received the Girl Scout Appreciation Pin for her outstanding service to multiple troops and camps. Due to her volunteer efforts for the organization, Debbie also received the Honor Pin in 2016.

“To this day, I volunteer with the Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road. When it comes to cookie season, they know to call me,” Debbie said.

Joining Rhonda and her husband Bob Ritzi at her Campbell Mountain wedding in 2003 — a special guest, Chipper

In 2010, Rhonda was awarded the Girl Scout Honor Pin for her support in delivering the Girl Scout Leadership experience to girls throughout Kentucky.

As it turned out, “fate” is the most accurate way to describe Rhonda’s lifelong involvement in the organization.

“I met my husband, Bob Ritzi, in 2000. His birthday is February 22 which is another Girl Scout holiday – World Thinking Day – a day dedicated toward standing up to issues that impact the lives of our community,” Rhonda said.

In 2003, the couple were married at the very place Rhonda called home for so many summers – Campbell Mountain.

“My wedding at Campbell Mountain felt so special to me. The Girl Scout Staff surprised me by having Chipper, the chipmunk camp mascot, carry my train down the aisle,” Rhonda said.

“From watching Rhonda make crafts, to running her own programs, to walking down the aisle on her wedding day, I can honestly say that Girl Scouts has changed my family for the better,” Debbie said.

Rhonda and Debbie recognize that the organization has greatly improved their lives, yet they have also created an ever-lasting legacy on the entire organization and each Girl Scout they come across.

“The organization was the catalyst to my entire career and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it,” Rhonda said.

Rhonda and Debbie hope other young girls will join the Girl Scouts where they can connect with like-minded individuals and develop passion.

When asked what advice they would give to future Girl Scouts, Debbie responded confidently — “Never quit trying, learning, or experiencing new things. You are special and the world needs dedicated leaders, just like my daughter.”

Girl Scouts of Wilderness Road

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