May 1—When Abbigayle Sandquist's brother became an Eagle Scout, she knew she wanted to someday earn the achievement as well.
So when Scouts BSA — previously known as Boy Scouts — opened up to girls in 2019, Sandquist jumped at the chance. The Mankato East senior went on to become the Twin Valley Council BSA's first female Eagle Scout, the highest rank in scouting, in January.
As a founding member of Mankato-based Troop 8, she helped break more new ground Friday and Saturday when the local organization hosted Minnesota's first gathering of all-female troops from across the state.
"It's exciting to see that there are so many young ladies who want to be outdoors and have fun learning new things, having new experiences and taking on leadership roles," Sandquist said.
The "camporee," as it's known in BSA lingo, drew more than 130 scouts from 15 troops to Norseland Scout Camp north of St. Peter. Scoutmaster Becky Sandquist, Abbigayle's mother and camporee organizer, said the event was about bringing female troops together to highlight all the adventures available to them through BSA.
"This camporee is to show the female troops that there are more of us out there and we can do these amazing things," she said.
Becky grew up in a scouting family tagging along to events, but the opportunity to join in wasn't available at the time. Just like her daughter, she was ready to get involved with a local troop from the get-go in 2019.
Knowing how much her daughter wanted to pursue adventures through the organization, Becky said it was an amazing feeling to see Abbigayle and so many others get that opportunity.
For scouts in town with their Prior Lake troop, the chance to camp and explore nature inspired them to join BSA. Jayla, Kara, Nora and Annabelle of Troop 7339 were practicing archery Saturday. (Their troop leader stopped them from fully identifying themselves.)
Kara and Annabelle saw how much fun their brothers had in scouts, while Nora has a sister who joined before her. Jayla joined because she liked camping, cooking and being outdoors with friends.
Along with archery, they and other scouts could work on rank advancement, help with conservation service projects, navigate a disabilities obstacle course and GPS scavenger hunt, and compete in a Dutch oven cook-off.
Hazel Tweten first met Abbigayle at a pancake breakfast hosted by the male BSA Troop 76. Tweten's sister was enthusiastic about it, while Tweten said she wasn't even sure BSA was an option for her at the time.
She ended up joining her sister, and described the decision as well worth it. Now a senior patrol leader, she's tasked with delegating responsibilities, keeping her troop on time for activities and making sure everyone is enjoying themselves.
Seeing her troop and other female troops from around the state connect for the first time over their shared love of adventures, Tweten said, made for a special camporee.
"It makes you feel less alone," she said. "Most of the girl troops are smaller and spread out, so being able to see that other people are having similar experiences and able to do the same things as you, it's so much more exciting."
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