Girl Scouts go gaga at Zimmer Park

Pictured are the soon-to-be Silver Award recipients, from left to right, Samantha Sabo, Norah Kettler, Corinne Nolte and Maliha Kloth standing in front of their project.

There’s a new game at Waterloo’s Zimmer Park, and word on the street is it’s all the rage. 

Four eighth graders in Girl Scout Troop 576, along with community support, installed a gaga ball pit at the popular park a few weekends ago. 

The project, along with a fully recycled bench that’s coming soon, was part of a Silver Award project. 

For the girls, building a gaga pit for their Silver Award – a project that requires 50 hours of community service – was a natural choice. They had grown up playing the game, a dodgeball of sorts played in an octagonal pit where players avoid being struck below the knees,  at Girl Scout camps. 

“Gaga ball is a sport for all ages, and my Girl Scout troop has played gaga ball since kindergarten,” Corinne Nolte, one of the scouts, said. “The girls and I are hoping that the gaga pit will get tons of use this summer. I also hope it brings more people to help each other and help others to learn the game.” 

As Corinne’s mother Jennifer said, deciding on a location was fairly easy. She described Zimmer as the “up and coming” park in town, yet Corrine and the scouts saw it was missing something. 

“I hope that the gaga pit will bring more people out to the park,” Corrine said. “There’s tons of things for the younger kids to do, but older kids sometimes feel out of place at the park.” 

With Corrine’s father Mike on the Waterloo Park District Board, the girls approached the board for permission. Soon, they were met with an outpouring of support. 

The Zimmer Foundation heard about the project and reached out with a substantial monetary donation, as did the Waterloo Odd Fellows, Waterloo Optimists, K&D Printing, Waterloo Lumber Company and Buettner Electric. The park district helped level the ground to house the pit, among other labor.

“The amazing thing is everyone contacted us to ask about helping,” Jennifer said, adding the community covered the full cost of the project. “We are very blessed by this community.”

The troop will be installing a bench by the gaga pit that is made from collected bottle caps. The bench, made by Green Tree Plastics of Indiana, is also an all-hands-on-deck effort. 

“We thought it would take months and months to get these caps, and we collected 250 pounds of caps in like a month. It was absolutely incredible,” Jennifer said.

Corrine said she hopes the project will give back to the community that welcomed it. 

“A Silver Award is a ton of work, but it’s worth it when you see the community using your project year after year,” she said. “I want to thank (those who donated) so, so much. They really helped us get our project in motion. I also want to say an even bigger thank you to the people who helped us during COVID. It was rough to get a project this large off the ground during a worldwide pandemic, but we did it.” 

And with the pit not even being there long, it is already well-loved. 

“They were there (last week) just to show a younger Girl Scout troop how to play, and there were a ton of kids playing in it when we pulled up. It was really great to see,” Jennifer said. 

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Madison Lammert

Madison is a reporter at the Republic-Times. She has over six years of experience in journalistic writing. Madison is a recent graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in mass communications. Before graduating and working at the Republic-Times, Madison worked for SIUE’s student newspaper, The Alestle, for many years. During her time there she filled many roles, including editor-in-chief. When she is not working, she likes to spend time with her dog and try new restaurants across the river.
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