Teri Smith's white Chevy Tahoe stands out not because it's clean and detailed, but because its windows are emblazoned with shoe polish messages only the mother of a Girl Scout would appreciate.
Samoas — What A Body Needs?
Don't Just Tagalong — Buy Thin Mints, Too.
You see, your Tahoe becomes a mobile cookie booth when your daughter and her best friend aim to sell 2,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.
For Kinsey Smith and Rene Rosengard, Randall Middle School eighth-graders, the ambitious goal is rooted in unwavering support for the positive values of Girl Scouts — and a desire to see what life is like beyond the homey confines of the Brandon area.
Destinations is a Girl Scouts program that allows members to take fun-filled national and international trips. Both Kinsey and Rene have earned approval for separate trips, but they come with an estimated price tag of $2,100, including spending money.
So Smith and Lynn Wagner, Rene's mother, decided their daughters should help cover costs by raising 30 percent of the money. When Kinsey and Rene suggested selling Girl Scout cookies — 65 cents from each sale can go toward Destination trip expenses — it sounded like a great idea.
At the time.
"I didn't want to give her something," Smith said. "They get everything given to them. I wanted her to feel like she earned this trip."
When you're talking about 2,000 boxes, you just don't send Mom and Dad to work with an order sheet or spend a couple of hours in front of a store.
Most Girl Scouts will work one or two booths during the four-week sales period. Kinsey and Rene will work close to 20 by the final weekend of March 20-21. And each sales effort, be it at Publix or Ace Hardware, requires parental supervision.
"I didn't realize it would take up so much of my time," Smith added with a laugh.
Right now, the girls' sales total stands at 800 heading into the third weekend. Kinsey says it helps to look customers in the eye when you ask. Proper clothing also is key.
"You can rent cookie costumes from the Girl Scouts for $5," Kinsey explained. "I was dressed up as a big Thin Mint, and that's probably what got us the most cookies."
"People walk by and say, 'Ahhh, you're a cute cookie. I'll buy a cookie from you,' " added Rene, who has donned both Samoa and Tagalong outfits.
The costumes may sound corny, but sometimes that's what it takes when you're maturing young women in Girl Scout uniforms instead of cute little Brownies.
The age difference helps Kinsey and Rene draw my admiration. They're sticking with Girl Scouts while others their age fade out of the program amid cries that it's "nerdy" and "weird."
"They're not seeing Girl Scouts clearly," Kinsey said. "Girl Scouts teaches you so much."
This summer, Kinsey will embark on a three-week adventure in the southwestern United States that will include rafting down the Colorado River, gasping at the rim of the Grand Canyon, taking in the awesome sights of Arches National Park and catching a Broadway show in Las Vegas.
Rene's 10-day journey goes to Costa Rica, where she will backpack from village to village, navigate a jungle river, surf the gulf and zip-line across a waterfall.
If that's weird and nerdy, my 8-year-old daughter, who is a Brownie, is going to need a pocket protector and some horn-rimmed glasses.
"I don't particularly care what other people think," Rene said.
Kinsey and Rene's involvement goes beyond cool trips and cookie costumes. The sales efforts develop confidence, professionalism and a sense of accomplishment.
"Things seem more rewarding when you have to work for it," Kinsey said.
They also take away lessons on leadership and entrepreneurship.
Last spring, the pair taught 120 younger girls how to start a fire and in the process created a new "Spark" badge that they now proudly wear.
Equipped with a fully developed lesson plan, they've been booked to teach the course again in May, in the hopes of earning a few extra dollars.
The efforts of these two enterprising kids may not result in 2,000 boxes sold, but the can-do spirit enveloping their personalities will pay off for years to come.
That's all I'm saying.