HILLSBOROUGH, NJ — A couple of New Jersey moms couldn’t find a Girl Scout troop for kids with special needs, so they started their own.
The idea began six years ago when a little girl with autism wanted to join the Scouts.
"All these years later, who it was actually Kathy who reached out to me back then," said Karen Briegs, co-leader of troop #60561.
Kathy Kafka of Hillsborough wanted to find a Girl Scout troop for her daughter Maya.
"As a mom with a girl with autism, it's important to me because it's something I enjoyed when I was Maya's age," said Kafka, who also co-leads the troop.
Maya ended up joining special Olympics. Then recently, Karen Briegs called.
"When my troop had grown and gone off to college I started the idea of getting this troop going," she said.
The two moms got together and today their troop of three young girls with special needs meets regularly. They started in November. Maya is now 13.
The troop is one of the few Girl Scout troops in the area - and the country - to serve girls with special needs.
They tailor typical Scout activities, like singing songs, to include each of the girls.
"If you put Maya in a troop of other 13-year-olds, she won’t keep up and she'd be bored frankly," said Briegs.
Mina, 10, another girl in the troop, is not especially verbal. So as the girls sing songs, Mina bangs along on a drum.
They are hoping the troop will grow. They run it out of Gigi's Playhouse in Hillsborough, which serves children with special needs.
"My daughter loves it," said Kafka. "It's been a great experience for her."