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Town rallies to aid Girl Scouts hoaxed out of $24,000

March 21, 2013 at 10:33 AM ET

Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Orego /
These Girl Scouts received a sweet surprise.

There is a sweet ending in store for two troops of Oregon Girl Scouts that were victims of a cookie-ordering hoax.

The prank began when a troop parent was approached by a co-worker with a corporate order, on behalf of a family member’s company, for 6,000 boxes of the famous seasonal cookies.

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Sarah Miller, director of communications at Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington, told TODAY.com that orders that large are rare, but do occasionally happen. Some councils, for example, have supplied airlines with cookies as treats for passengers.

For the scouts, who are between the ages of 7 and 14, the $24,000 sale wildly surpassed the goals they set for the season. The troops would have made $4,200 and some of the proceeds were earmarked to help pay for summer camp and troop projects, including assistance for a Portland-area homeless shelter. When the co-worker revealed the order was a joke, it temporarily dashed the girls’ dreams.

“They had their hearts broken,” Miller said. “We wanted to try and help these girls sell what they thought they had and achieve the goals they thought they achieved.”

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So a Portland Girl Scouts office opened its doors and the troops began selling the cookies last Saturday. Customers waited in line in the parking lot and by day’s end had paid for 4,000 boxes of cookies, including Samoas, Thin Mints and Do-si-dos.

“I think (the support) is because people really care about children and want to make it right for them that this crummy thing happened,” said Miller, who stressed that the troops wouldn’t have been saddled with a bill.

Offers have also poured in from around the world thanks to media reports about the hoax. Miller said they have received more than 800 emails from people who want to purchase cookies or donate to the troops. That includes requests from service members writing from as far away as Kuwait and Afghanistan.

She is confident the remaining boxes will go to good homes. Now the council is telling donors, among a number of options, to consider making a contribution toward its financial assistance program that sends children to summer camp. Each year, Miller said, about 14 percent of the requests for aid go unfulfilled because the organization runs out of funding.

Miller said the girls have been “overwhelmed” by the public support. The council is not seeking legal action against the person responsible for the hoax since no money or cookies were exchanged.

“This is a tough business ethics lesson for them,” she said. “If anything, it’s a lesson in how powerful community is. Seeing this support, they’re going to pay that forward as long they live.”

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