Each year before “cookie season,” Girl Scout Troop #44307, in Peyton, Colorado, located some 30 miles east of Colorado Springs, creates a list of things they’d like to do as a troop and which “community service project” they want to do for their “hometown hero.”
This year, one of the Scout Leaders, Shannon Kimball, challenged the girls, ages 9-12, to think more broadly about the community project, and they researched various happenings around Colorado. Donkey Derby Days in Cripple Creek was one such event that received the Scouts’ attention.
Donkey Derby Days is an annual celebration of the history of mining and the donkeys’ significance. A herd of wild donkeys is cared for by the Two Mile High Club, a nonprofit entity that relies on grants, donations, and fundraising at events such as Donkey Derby Days, its largest fundraiser.
Initially, the troops chose to work on a town water park. Then, news emerged that the 92nd annual Donkey Derby Days may not occur due to a lack of funding. During the next Girl Scout meeting, the leaders discussed this with the Girl Scouts. On their own, the girls, all in 4th-6th grade, voted to donate $500 of their cookie money toward the donkeys of Cripple Creek for their maintenance and celebration.
The reasons are many and best stated in quotes gathered from the girls:
“The donkeys are important because they make people happy, and we want to make the world a better place, which means keeping the donkeys around for a long time.”
“The donkeys are wonderful creatures, and I don’t want them to die. They are very kind creatures who need our help.”
“I like the donkeys because they have soft fur and long ears, they are cute, and they remind me of Donkey from Shrek.”
“Donkeys are nice animals. It’s important for them to have a home and to stay warm and safe in the winter.”
“Donkeys are cute, sweet, and funny to be around.”
“It is important to help the donkeys so they survive.”
Now the girls are hoping to earn a Bronze Award in Scouting alongside the donkeys of Cripple Creek. Recently, the girls and their scout leaders conducted a visit to the winter pasture of the donkeys, where their hosts, the Two Mile High Club, caretakers of the donkeys, spent the afternoon teaching them about these curious animals. The Scouts got close and personal with these fuzzy mascots of Cripple Creek, whose history begins with the original donkey herd back to the beginning of gold mining in the region in the early 1900s when the donkeys were used to bring the iron ore up to the surface.
Legend has it that President Teddy Roosevelt convinced the gold mine owners to release the donkeys to the city of Cripple Creek in 1931. At that time, the Two Mile High Club was formed to provide continuous care to these lovable beasts of burden.
Today’s donkey herd numbers 15, and they receive daily food, shelter, and medication, as needed, by the devoted volunteers of the Two Mile High Club.
“These little girls saw a need, and they filled it,” said Brandon Westhoff, President of the Two Mile High Club. They worked hard and gave their efforts to benefit animals that live more than 70 miles away, high up in the mountains, and touch all of our hearts. They are an example of what it means to give.”
The Troop of 12, formed five years ago, follows the creed “On my honor, I will try To serve God and my country, To help people at all times, And to live by the Girl Scout Law. I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”
“The world could use more Girl Scout honor right now,” said Wendy Wood, vicd-president of the Two Mile High Club, “and we and the donkeys are grateful to be recipients of their kindness and beneficiaries of their hard work.”