The prize for a Brownie scout who sold at least 2,000 boxes of cookies? A MacBook laptop computer.
When 8-year-old Callie Olson hit the sidewalks in Fox Point to hawk her Girl Scout cookies door-to-door, she was determined at hitting that mark and winning the prize.
But she didn't plan on using it to surf the web, or download games or music. Callie wanted to give it away.
During the fall, Callie's uncle Josh VanLoon began feeling weak and started losing sight in one eye. Doctors diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis, a debilitating brain and spinal cord disease.
“He didn’t know what was wrong until he was diagnosed,” Callie's mother Julie Olson said. “Callie would hear us talking to the neurologist or to Josh, and I guess I didn’t know that it mattered to her. He is very sick and having a hard time.”
But it did matter to the Maple Dale third grader.
“I wanted to win it for my uncle, because I love him and because he has MS, I wanted to do something special for him,” Callie said.
Hitting the mark would be a challenge, though. The troop's sale average was about 150 boxes per child, Julie Olson said. To win the laptop, Callie would need to sell at least 2,000 boxes.
Callie, with Brownie Troop 3041, started selling cookies door-to-door, hitting up extended family — the typical cookie-selling avenues. But, as the word spread about the cause behind her cookie selling, people wanted to get involved.
Soon, they started getting orders from people they didn't even know.
“People I don’t even know were buying 80 boxes of cookies,” Julie said. “We had friends from all over the world buying cookies.”
It eventually turned into an all-out cookie selling operation.
“It took on a life of its own,” said Julie Olson.
A Maple Dale family traveling to Minneapolis for a trip delivered 13 cases for Callie. The Olsons were delivering cookies all over the Milwaukee suburbs. Callie even delivered cookies door-to-door when the temperature dipped to four below zero.
Julie said she felt the pressure to reach 2,000, after so many people got involved in helping Callie reach her goal.
“We had people from all over asking, ‘Where is she at? How close is she (to the goal)?’ so I felt that we couldn’t fail,” Julie said. “At one point I thought, we’ve exhausted every resource, you can only go around the block so many times, and that’s when the community really stepped up and old friends stepped up.”
When Callie ran out of Thin Mints and Caramel deLites, and the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast said it wouldn’t have a new batch available until the following week, the Olsons got a tip that there were cookies available in Glendale. Callie's father Craig Olson raced to Glendale and “fought for those cookies.”
“It was a huge labor of love for everyone involved, and I still can’t believe we pulled it off,” Julie said. “We couldn’t have done it without the help of so many people."
After seven weeks of marketing cookies, Callie had hit the 2,000 mark, and some, a full week before the deadline.
“I almost cried, I was really happy,” Callie said of selling 2,075 boxes.
Julie immediately posted it to Facebook, getting an enormous response from the community. Josh also saw the post.
"... He (Josh) wrote, 'I don't even know what to say,'" Julie said.
As the MS has progressed, Josh has lost some feeling in his fingers making it difficult to continue his passion of playing violin. Julie said he has used the program Garage Band in the past to mix music, and the new laptop will help him to continue his passion.
The laptop will arrive in early April, and the Olsons plan on putting Josh on a train to Wisconsin, so Callie can present him with the MacBook.
“I haven’t seen him in a long time, so I’ll be nervous,” Callie said. “I may start to cry; actually he’s the one that is going to start crying.”
The money raised by Callie and her fellow scouts will help pay for the troop's trips, expenses and other activities.