Girl Scout project brings gaga ball to church

After a day of labor, Ava Scherle stands proudly in the middle of her Silver Award project.

A popular game at a St. Paul United Church of Christ camp has arrived in Waterloo thanks to one Girl Scout earning her Silver Award.

Ava Scherle, an eighth grader at Waterloo Junior High School and longtime Girl Scout, was first introduced to gaga ball at the church’s camp in DuBois. 

Players gather in an octagonal pit, where they then try to hit their opponents below the knees with a foam ball. 

From there, she partnered with Jillian Mayer, the church’s director of Christian education, to construct a pit in the church parking lot to earn her Silver Award. 

“We first played it at the church camp and we thought it would be something cool to build for older kids at church so they would have something else to do,” Ava said. 

As it turned out, Mayer had been wanting to bring the sport to the Waterloo church for quite awhile, and so Ava’s project was the perfect platform to do so. This, along with the fact that Mayer had previously helped Ava earn her Bronze Award, made Mayer the perfect fit to be Ava’s project adviser. 

“She helps with the youth and so Ava is close to her and was able to work with her,” Alaina Scherle, Ava’s mother, explained. 

From there, Ava started the long process of earning her Silver Award. She explained lots of paperwork regarding the proposed project had to be approved by the troop and council. 

She received approval in early May and then began collecting the materials. 

“There was a lot of work before the building (like) asking for donations,” Alaina noted, later adding, “Normally with the Silver Award you have to ask for donations, but Ava was lucky enough that the church was willing to fund … a kit that you then go buy the lumber for.” 

The church not only paid for the Coach Cliffs Gaga Ball Pit Kit, but also for the lumber. For Ava, it was very important to source all supplies as local as possible. She bought the wood from RP Lumber in Waterloo, collected the turf from Waterloo High School’s old turf field as it was being replaced, and Moore Recycling Concrete and Asphalt donated the sand.

“The sand was just our idea because we were putting it on the parking lot, (it was) so no one scraped their knees or knuckles on what used to be paved at one time,” Alaina explained. 

Ava, along with helpers, constructed the pit all in one day in September. She is now preparing to host two open houses of sorts, one for the youth group and one for Girl Scouts, to teach them how to play. She is also finishing up some final paperwork so she can officially obtain her Silver Award. 

For Ava, getting her Silver Award was a no-brainer. 

“I got my Bronze Award and I want to be able to get my Gold Award, and so you have to have your Silver Award to be able to do that,” she said. “(Also), it was just a cool opportunity to help others.” 

She acknowledged that troop leaders Teresa Bushong and Deann Wallace, who she has been with since kindergarten, played a large role in helping her work towards the honor. 

As Alaina explained, Bushong and Wallace are currently helping many other girls with their awards and even took the troop to a class on the Silver Award process. 

“They really support the girls and cheer the girls on in all areas, since they’ve been with them since they were so little,” Alaina said. 

To learn more about Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, visit 

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