Sometimes seeing a need in the community and helping out is its own reward. Sometimes it gets you the highest award in Girl Scouts.

Madeleine Drake-Metzger, a Girl Scout from Wilton, saw a need to address mental health needs in her community and began training a therapy dog to help them. Her hard work has earned her the highest honors from the Girl Scouts, their Gold Award.

Madeleine Drake-Metzger and her dog, Isa, accept the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois Gold Award Scholarship from Board Chair, Jill Dashner, and CEO, Diane Nelson. (Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois)

The Gold Award is the highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn. It’s open to girls in high school who create sustainable change on a community or world issue. Gold Award Girl Scouts find the root cause of a problem, design and implement innovative solutions to create change, and lead a team of people to success. Gold Award Girl Scouts gain tangible skills as they work to change their world and prove they are the leaders communities and the world need.

“By helping to train and certify a dog for therapy, there are now 30-50 children and adults a week that will benefit from having a support animal with them during difficult times in our community,” saidys Madeleine.

She first began working with Buddy, a sweet tempered Mastiff, with the goal of training him and creating a guide for future foster families who wanted to train a rescue dog to be a therapy dog.

“About 5 months into fostering and training Buddy to be a therapy dog, the rescue decided to euthanize him due to medical issues. After spending some time dreading having to finish this project without him, I decided I was going to do this for him, whatever that takes,” says Madeleine.

After taking some time to grieve Buddy’s death, Madeleine began training her mom’s three-year-old Saint Bernard, Isa, who has an excellent temperament to be a therapy dog. Isa spends at least two days a week in various classrooms at local schools.

“I learned how to persevere even when navigating the grieving process. I learned that I am much stronger than I think I am and not to doubt myself,” said Madeleine. “I also learned that it is okay to take care of yourself. I took a break for my mental health, and that was really beneficial.”

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