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Jan. 19, 2021 | Tuesday
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Guiding family honoured for fortitude after fire damaged home
Shirley Olley, left, presents the Fortitude Award to Samantha Fretz and Amanda Fretz at the Girl Guides advancement ceremony. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Amanda Fretz’s house was badly damaged after a fire at her neighbour’s home in Virgil last September.

But it didn’t stop her or her daughter Samantha from attending all Girl Guides meetings and continuing to participate in their unit’s activities.

“My biggest concern after the fire was keeping life as normal as possible for my children,” said Fretz.

She and Samantha, a Pathfinder, were recipients of the Fortitude Award at the advancement ceremony for NOTL Girl Guides on May 14 at Grace United Church.

Granted by the Girl Guides of Canada’s board of directors, the award is given to a girl or adult members who have “shown great courage and endurance in adversity.” 

The Fretz family lived in a hotel for six weeks after the fire. The renovations have been taking months and are still ongoing, Fretz told The Lake Report.

“I love seeing the girls enjoying, trying new things, pushing their limits,” said Fretz, who has been a Pathfinder leader for two years. “Stuff that makes them feel uncomfortable but they still do it and they really enjoy doing it. I love watching them grow.”

Lord Mayor Betty Disero was also in attendance to present the award to the family and congratulate all the Girl Guides for their achievements.

Another special award, the Lady Baden-Powell Award, was presented to three third-year guides – Ava Geissler, Hannah Gilchrist and Josie St-Onge – who showed dedication to completing program work and participated in patrol and unit activities. The award is the highest award a Guide can earn.

The ceremony also celebrated the Sparks, Brownies, Guides and Pathfinders who moved up to the next level of guiding.

It was a special night for 83-year-old Shirley Olley, who has over 60 years of experience volunteering in Girl Guides. She said she is retiring as a Guide leader but will still provide training and advice for other leaders.

“I get more out of it than I have ever given to it,” she told The Lake Report. “It’s wonderful to have friends all over Canada whom I’ve met with Girl Guides … It’s been a whole world of friendships among the adults.”

After the ceremony, Olley, as the most senior Guider, cut the cake with the youngest Spark in attendance, Maggie Adam.