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Scouts ‘Help the Kelp’ Fest

Ocean-lover and Girl Scout Tara Coffey with her “Help the Kelp” patch given for participating in Kelp Fest activities.Photo by Jody Tiongco.

Ocean-lover and Girl Scout Tara Coffey with her “Help the Kelp” patch given for participating in Kelp Fest activities.Photo by Jody Tiongco.

More than 300 Girl Scouts from 5 to 18 will descend on Laguna Beach for Kelp Fest on Saturday, April 26, in hopes of having fun in the sun while also earning a popular scout patch.

Tara Coffey, 18, of Huntington Beach, created the new Girl Scout patch with multi-colored kelp leaves that form a wreath with the words “Help the Kelp.”

A Girl Scout most of her life and a swimmer since age 4, Coffey got inspired to create her patch after Nancy Caruso, the Kelp Fest’s organizer, talked to Coffey’s troop and asked them to get involved.

“I was already highly intrigued about kelp forests,” said Coffey.  “I love kelp because I understand its importance on the environment and how the whole forest creates so much oxygen and life for other creatures. This is a really easy way to get a cool patch and it’s a fun day out on the beach.”

In its third year of existence, the patch is a reward for completing five out of seven requirements at Kelp Fest, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Main Beach cobblestones

This year has drawn more girls eager to sew the patch on the back of their Girl Scout vests than ever before. The first year, only 50 girls signed up to earn the patch.

“The patch has just taken off,” said Gail Bebee, Coffey’s troop advisor of the Ohana (Polynesian for family) Troop 701 for the past three years.  “They just love earning patches.  For this one, they’re learning, in the process, about the ocean.”

The criteria include participating in one of the activities at Kelp Fest, picking up five pieces of trash, taking a tour of the tidepools and making a list of the creatures observed, writing a paragraph each about a piece of ocean-related art seen in town and ocean-related music, learning about ocean safety from a lifeguard and talking to five experts on various aspects of ocean health.

Official Girl Scout badges, other than patches, earn awards and Girl Scout Journeys are projects that strengthen leadership and confidence. Older Girl Scouts who volunteered to help Coffey run activities for younger girls on Saturday can earn credits toward higher awards, Bebee said.  Patches are just for fun.

Coffey created the patch as part of a Journey program called Girltopia, which was a prerequisite for earning a higher Girl Scout award.  The Journey program required her to complete a “take action” project that would serve Girl Scouts as well as the community.

Coffey is expanding her patch to appeal to young people as well as Girl Scouts around the world who like to collect patches.  “I’m planning on creating a website for it,” she said.  “I believe if we get children and young folks learning about our ocean environment and the impact that kelp has on it, then there will be less pollution and a healthier ocean for future generations.”

Coffey said her patch criteria can be applied to any body of water.  “It doesn’t necessarily have to include a kelp forest,” she said.  “If you live near a lake, you don’t want to be polluting the lake because that will be disrupting the life within that ecosystem.”

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