“I never realized how much I would get out of it,” Maria Frazzini says of leading a Girl Scout troop. (Astrid Riecken/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

My mom was a Girl Scout leader, and I have such happy memories of helping her get ready for meetings and just being with her. So at first, I was just doing it to bond with my little girl and do some fun, creative volunteering. I had no idea what I was getting into or how deeply I would get into it. I never realized how much I would get out of it.

One defining moment was our first overnight camping trip. The girls were 5 and 6. After dinner, the mom chaperones and the girls walked off to the bathhouse to get ready for bed. All of a sudden, I hear this major hysteria — screams from the moms and the girls. I just start running. There’s this frog jumping all over the bathhouse. I have to admit, I’m a little skittish, too. I’m thinking, Who should I call? But everyone is looking at me. And it hits me: I’m the leader. They expect me to do something about this frog. Something came over me. I just grabbed that frog with my bare hands and threw it out of the bathhouse. I realized: I can do this. These little girls are depending on me.

It is rare to have a troop of 15- and 16-year-olds. Seventh grade is usually when it becomes too nerdy or uncool, or other activities take over. When we got to that point, I said to the girls: “Look, I don’t want this to be another thing on your list; I don’t want this to be drudgery. But you gotta start thinking beyond cookies and crafts. Think about how a 10-year commitment to service is going to look on your college application or to employers. I’ll still keep it fun, but you gotta be in it with me.” All of them stayed.

I don’t even like thinking about it ending. I’ve already had one son go off to college, and I can’t imagine what it will be like times 16! I love each of these 16 girls. People always think I’ll be relieved to not have a garage full of cookies or a packed schedule. They’re wrong. I was the primary caregiver for my mom when she had stomach cancer. I was working full time and driving her to all her appointments. Everything was work. Everything was hard. I was about to melt down. My friends suggested I step down from Scouts. I was like: “Are you crazy? What do you think is getting me through this?” Of all the things that were coming at me and being put on me, Girl Scouts was the one thing giving me what I needed.