“Most girls have never had this opportunity,” said Suzie Dills. “I have heard ‘this is awesome’ or ‘this is the best night I ever had.’ To see the look on their faces is priceless!”Girl Scouts of North East Ohio (GSNEO) STEM Program Specialist Suzie Dills has been involved in both facilitating Girl Scout astronomy programs and expanding them. Her contributions helped secure a grant from The Hershey Foundation for $15,000 to build a new observatory at Camp Ledgewood in Peninsula. In addition to the new observatory at Camp Ledgewood, GSNEO has observatories at Camp Timberlane in Wakeman and Camp Sugarbush in Kinsman as well as portable equipment that is used for Stargazing parties and service unit trainings.
Since 2008, the observatory at Camp Timberlane has been used by nearly 3,000 girls and adults for council programs, residence camps, service unit events, and troop events. About 500 girls have viewed the night sky through the observatory at Camp Sugarbush.About 40,000 Girl Scouts from across 18 counties in Northeast Ohio will have access to the new observatory at Camp Ledgewood.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the grand opening of the observatory on November 5, 2010 at Camp Ledgewood. The Hershey Foundation President Debra Hershey Guren and her sister, who is also an amateur astronomer, Carole Walters, and GSNEO Chief Executive Officer Daisy Alford-Smith had the honor of cutting the ribbon. GSNEO Board member Theresa S. Beyerle, Ph.D. spoke at the event about her memories of Camp Ledgewood and the significance of having an observatory at Girl Scout camp. The GSNEO Astronomy Club members led by Suzie Dills demonstrated how to use the telescope inside the observatory.