By Joanne Degnan as featured in The Robbinsville Sun on February 13.
The superb sales skills of three local Girl Scouts recently landed them on two national television talk shows, where they served Thin Mints to Kathie Lee Gifford on “Today” and competed against the hosts of “Good Morning America” in a friendly game-show-style contest testing their cookie trivia knowledge.
Pond Road Middle School eighth-graders Kaeleigh Sturgeon and Jessie Kelly, along with Hamilton eighth-grader Samantha Manz, are recognized super cookie-sellers for having sold more than 1,600 boxes of cookies for two years in a row for Troop 70431 of the Allentown-Robbinsville Girl Scouts service unit. All three girls are on track to repeat that feat this year before cookie-selling season ends Feb. 24.
Their entrepreneurial prowess made them the obvious go-to girls when the New York City-based television morning shows were looking to book Girl Scouts to promote National Girl Scout Cookie Day on Feb. 8. NBC-TV sent a car to pick up Kaeleigh and Jessie for a pre-taped interview with “Today” hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, and, two days later, Samantha and Kaeleigh were part of a team of New York and New Jersey Girl Scouts who faced off against Sam Champion and Amy Robach in the Smart Cookie trivia game on “Good Morning America.”
On the set of the “Today,” Kotb and Gifford munched on a plate of Samoas and Thin Mints as they asked Kaeleigh and Jessie for the secret to their entrepreneurial success as cookie-sellers.
“How do you do that? Does your mother take them to work?” Kotb asked.
Kaeleigh politely set the record straight, saying she relies on “lots and lots of booth sales,” which means setting up tables stacked with cookies outside local businesses.
The girls have been a familiar sight in the Robbinsville-Hamilton area with their cookie boxes and hand-made posters that urge calorie-conscious passersby to buy a box or two for U.S. servicemen and servicewomen. The girls personally deliver all donated cookies to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Customers have responded generously to this patriotic sales pitch. Kaeleigh’s mom, Kathleen Sturgeon, said in a phone interview that 946 of the 5,105 boxes of cookies Troop 70431 sold last year were donations for the military.
Selling cookies teaches the girls important life skills such as developing budgets and money management, setting goals, making decisions, and developing effective people skills, Mrs. Sturgeon said. The profit the girls earn after paying the baker stays with their local Girl Scout council and troop that sponsors them.
At the “Good Morning America” observance of National Girl Scout Cookie Day, host Josh Elliot played the role of emcee for the Smart Cookie trivia contest. A team of 20 or so Scouts, including Samantha and Kaeleigh, stood behind one podium and the team of Champion and Robach were behind the other, with both sides ready to slap the buzzer and respond to the emcee’s cookie questions.
After Champion and Robach muffed the first two questions – “What year were Girl Scout cookies first sold?” (1917), and “What did the Girl Scouts sell instead of cookies during World War II?” (Calendars) – the Girl Scouts scored again by being the first to name the most popular Girl Scout cookie (Thin Mints).
Robach, however, displayed lightning-fast reflexes by hitting the buzzer before the girls could to correctly identify the cookie with the caramel and coconut topping (Samoas), which finally put Team Good Morning America on the board.
The Girl Scouts knew the answer to the next question: “Why do some Girl Scouts sell Samoas and some Girl Scouts sell Caramel deLites?” (Answer: The cookie is made by two different bakers, thus two different names), but Robach was the one who knew the answer to the final question: “Who is the honorary president of the Girl Scouts of America?” (First Lady Michelle Obama).
Final score: Girl Scouts 4, Good Morning America 2.
Girl Scout cookies cost $4 a box and can be purchased locally from any Girl Scout through Feb. 24. To find a local Scout who is selling cookies, go online to www.girlscoutcookies.org and type your ZIP code in the “Find Cookies” box to see a list of nearby locations where Scouts have set up cookie booths. There is also a free “Girl Scout Cookie Finder” app that can be downloaded from the iTunes store.