Growing up, Naperville mom Cathy Riehs loved being a Girl Scout and she wanted her daughter Emma, who has been diagnosed with autism, to be able to do the same. So Riehs created Troop 200 for girls with special needs to meet up twice a month in the Sportsman's Lodge in Naperville.
Riehs, who is now a co-leader for the troop, has helped the girls earn patches, work on service projects and attend events together as a group. The girls range in age from 6 to 17 and have various disabilities, including autism and Down syndrome. But Riehs and fellow parents do their best to adapt to each girl's needs.
At one meeting, for instance, the troop invited a female soldier who had just returned from Afghanistan as a guest speaker. Riehs wanted each troop member to be able to ask a question, but because some of the girls are nonverbal, she had them prepare note cards at home for someone else to read at the meeting.
"Being a special needs mom, I'm right there with them. I'm very sensitive to different things, just like every other special needs mom," Riehs says. "We don't stop and stare, we just keep moving forward."
For more information about joining the troop, contact Jessica Griffin at the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, (630) 681-0962, ext. 120.