Savannah Ervin from Bettendorf has earned the Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can achieve, for creating and teaching a series of clinics for kids with special needs to learn tumbling skills at their own pace.

“I’ve been on the Pleasant Valley Sparkles team for three years, and I’ve seen the need for the kids to learn tumbling,” Ervin said in a Monday release from Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. “We don’t have enough time in practice to tumble, which is why I knew I needed to create these clinics. I have created long-lasting friendships with the kids on this team.”

Ervin developed the program with Bettendorf-based Hand in Hand, which provides inclusive opportunities for children and adults of all abilities. She found out what the kids wanted to learn and then set up a space, developed lesson plans, and adjusted the activities for each kids’ abilities.

“The most successful part of these clinics was seeing kids change over time. They got so comfortable with their own bodies and talking to people they wouldn’t usually talk to,” Ervin said. “Every kid was able to come out with a new skill. Kids got social and physical skills just over four weeks that they didn’t have going into it.”

In 2008, students at Pleasant Valley created the nation’s first inclusive cheerleading team, the Spartan Sparkles. Building on that PV pride, students created “PV Pals,” a club that brings together students with and without disabilities for social activities

The tumbling clinics have not stopped since Ervin’s high school graduation this past spring — she now attends Drake University in Des Moines. She created guidelines containing everything necessary to create and carry out new clinics, which she left with her cheerleading coach to be passed from captain to captain. There is a second round of clinics planned for this December.

The Gold Award is the highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn, available to girls in high school who create sustainable change on a community or world issue. Gold Award Girl Scouts address the root cause of a problem, plan and implement innovative solutions to drive change, and lead a team of people to success. As they take action to transform their world, Gold Award Girl Scouts gain tangible skills and prove they are the leaders our community and the world need.

Through the Girl Scout Program, girls learn to face challenges head-on, embrace failure as a learning opportunity, create lasting relationships, and find dynamic solutions to social issues—all while building the skills and courage they need to take the lead every day and empower themselves for life. To join or volunteer, visit