- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

She is bright-eyed, pig-tailed and resplendent in Girl Scout green and a multitude of merit badges.

Wild Freeborn — adorable and age 8 — has caused considerable hubbub with entrepreneurial spirit and a little homemade video.

“Help me help others. Buy cookies. They’re yummy,” little Wild says in her one-minute sales pitch for Thin Mints, Samoas and other traditional mainstays of Girl Scout cookie cuisine.

The modest message included an online order form, was videotaped by her father, Bryan Freeborn, in the family living room in Brevard, N.C., and posted at YouTube.com

But not for long.

Click here for the Newsweek link to the video

The Girl Scouts were not pleased with Wild’s intention to sell 12,000 boxes of cookies and help send her troop to summer camp. The organization ordered the video removed from the social-networking site on the grounds that it violated a policy that bars online sales of Girl Scout cookies. Officials were also concerned that Wild’s methods could put less techno-enabled young ladies at a disadvantage.

The collective outrage among perplexed cookie fans went viral — and global — once a hungry news media got its choppers into the situation.

“Cookie monster,” proclaimed Newsweek. “U.S. Girl Scout video scandal,” blared a headline at the Guardian, a British newspaper.

“Cookie controversy,” said NBC, which managed to corral Wild, her father, and Denise Pesich, a Girl Scouts of the USA representative, for a sitdown interview Friday.

“It’s girl safety at its core,” Ms. Pesich said.

But Mr. Freeborn said he and his daughter “weren’t out to test any policy or break any rules. We just wanted to help my daughter meet her sales using up-to-date technology and marketing.”

Wild smiled demurely during the encounter, which included the nervous smiles of adults who couldn’t quite believe they were in such a situation.

But the little girl’s charm won out. Asked whether she would make her ambitious sales goal, Wild had a quick answer:

“Probably,” she said, and smiled again.

The Girl Scouts garnered little sympathy from critics, bloggers and the press in the aftermath. In an editorial, Woman’s Day magazine, for example, was pro-Wild in no uncertain terms.

“Not only did her video sales pitch display a sense of creativity and salesmanship, it proved her independence. That it was banned for its possibility of robbing the other Girl Scouts of a fair chance makes sense, but it also sort of suggests a fear of the unknown,” the magazine said Friday.

Even the New York Times chimed in, offering a lengthy argument over whether subjecting Girl Scouts to outdoor cookie sales in nasty weather was more hazardous than online sales.

Approaching the organization’s centennial anniversary, the Girl Scouts have struggled for more than two decades to update their image without offending those who revere the traditions of virtue and service.

Changes in the uniform, increased attention to feminist ideas and a foray into morality irked many Americans who hoped the organization could remain free of modern entanglements. A 1990 survey of Girl Scouts that included girls’ views on sex, drugs, alcohol and abortion was particularly controversial.

The group has found a happy medium during Girl Scout Week — which ends Saturday and marks the Girl Scouts’ 97th birthday. Young ladies around the nation have been asked to wear pearls — yes, classic white pearls — to honor founder Juliette Gordon Low, who pawned her pearls in 1912 to fund the fledgling organization.

Still, the Girl Scouts are very clear when it comes to their Internet policies, offering a special “Be Prepared” pledge to girls to avoid risky behavior when they are online.

“I will not give out personal information,” the pledge states. “I will tell an adult right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.”

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