As Girl Scouting celebrates its first 100 years, Lacey Township Girl Scout Troop 476 is celebrating its first year together.
Troop leader Maryann Pietruska formed the troop in an effort to attract girls who might not have considered being a Girl Scout otherwise.
"Four of the girls joined as first-time Girl Scouts," said Pietruska, a retired teacher who taught every type of class from honors to special needs. "Our girls work at their own pace as to what their interests and abilities are."
The five members of the Junior-level troop have various disabilities, ranging from physical to developmental.
"They're teaching us as much as we're teaching them," said Pietruska. "They're learning life and social skills, selling Girl Scout cookies and giving change. We have one girl with limited speech who's teaching us sign language."
Pietruska said the troop is the only one in the area that caters exclusively to girls with special needs. She said there are special needs girl scouts that are integrated into other troops.
"We have gotten so much gratification," she said. "Their look of accomplishment and their smiles are the reward."
The troop is currently planning a program from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 31 at Bamber Lake for about 100 girls from troops all over Ocean County. The girls will cross the bridge at the beach in celebration of the centennial of the founding of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.
Pietruska said they organized the event to accommodate troops that could not join a larger bridging ceremony last November when 2,500 Girl Scouts crossed the George Washington Bridge in New York to symbolize crossing into the next century of scouting.
The event will include opening and closing ceremonies, a sing-a-long and a swap. Any girl interested in being a scout may attend that day and register to be placed in a troop.
Troop 476 meets Friday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Elks Lodge on Beach Boulevard, which is handicapped accessible. To join, call Pietruska at 609-693-8291.