It's a rare thing when one member of a Girl Scout troop earns a Gold Award, the organization's highest honor.

It's a rare thing when one member of a Girl Scout troop earns a Gold Award, the organization's highest honor.

For a troop to have two Gold Award recipients is extremely rare, according to the Seal of Ohio Girl Scout Council.

To have 10 members of the same group earn Gold Awards -- as Westerville's Girl Scout Troop 1011 did this year -- is a feat the council calls unprecedented.

"I don't know of any other troops that have achieved this," said W. Shawna Gibbs, public relations manager for the Seal of Ohio Girl Scout Council. "There have been others getting the Gold Award, but not like this. This is a stand-out group."

Altogether, 30 scouts from central and southern Ohio earned their Gold Awards this year, 12 of them hailing from Westerville.

Gold Award recipients from Troop 1011 include Michelle Schultheis, Jessica Mann, Ashley O'Neil, Brittany Hyde, Alise Connell, Rachel Amato, Erin Wilson, Katrina Baumann, Jensen Brush and Emily Killeya. Making the total an even dozen are Amber Nowell from Troop 1770 and Colleen Yusko from Troop 2351.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is only attainable by senior scouts age 14-18; it is considered the equivalent of the Boy Scout Eagle Scout designation, according to the Seal of Ohio Girl Scout Council.

To earn this award, each girl must devote at least 65 hours of time creating and carrying out a service project. The project must fulfill a need within the girl's community, create change with long-term possibilities, and must include a plan for use and maintenance by other members of the community, according to the council.

About 5,500 Girl Scouts received the award in 2007, about 5.4 percent of the eligible registered scouts in grades 10-12, according to the council.

Working on the requirements for the Gold Award was time-intensive, exhausting and ultimately rewarding, the girls said.

"We didn't sleep at all. We did our project in two weeks," Mann said. "We saw each other constantly."

"I began working on the project (creating a mosaic for a senior housing center) in the beginning of 2006, and it took eight months to complete the whole thing," Schultheis said. "It depends on the project, but you really have to stay devoted for the entire project"

Some of the girls had a little extra incentive to earn Gold Awards, courtesy of their parents.

"I wasn't allowed to drive people around until I got all the badges finished, so I didn't have much trouble being motivated," Nowell laughed.

The hard work was not without its rewards, the girls said. Several Girl Scouts from Troop 1011 chose to coordinate a fashion show for 30 homeless and at-risk girls through the Homeless Families Foundation and Southeast Inc. counseling services as their project.

Naming the project "Operation HFF Runway," Amato, Mann and O'Neil collected or bought stylish clothing, shoes, makeup and hair care products for girls age 6-17. The young girls who participated in the fashion show were then able to keep all the items after the show.

"We really learned how similar the kids and we are," Amato said. "They don't really have anything, but they didn't know it. They're just kids like we were."

"The kids were really amazing, I didn't expect them to be so grateful for what we did, but they were," said Connell, who taught second-graders how to make no-sew pillows and blankets.

Helping the Girl Scouts with their projects were co-leaders Shelley Schultheis, Carol Killeya, Mariann Brush and Sheryl O'Neil.

Shelley Schultheis, who has been advising the troop for 13 years, said she first began working with the girls when many of them were in kindergarten.

"I never thought this group could blossom like it has -- it sounds corny, but I love them like my own daughters," she said. "The love for their community that these girls have, they really see the value of helping others, and you just don't see that any more."

She recounted how one little girl who took part in the fashion show said she wished she didn't have to wear pants with holes in them.

"The girls jumped in and told her, 'Well, we buy them that way!' so she wouldn't feel so bad, make her feel like one of the 'big girls.' I think these girls could lead a group of Scouts themselves some day."

lrice@thisweeknews.com