Hamlin girl receives Girl Scoutings’ Gold Award

By on June 30, 2013

Kristina D’Agostino, 17, of Hamlin, received the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting. She was recognized along with more than 60 girls from Western New York during a ceremony Saturday, June 8.

Kristina completed a Gold Award project titled “Music Therapy for the Elderly” in which she provided music therapy at nursing homes in Hilton and Brockport. She recorded a CD of holiday music and organized caroling events at the nursing homes, performing those songs live. The daughter of Lori D’Agostino, Kristina attends Kendall Junior Senior High School with plans to study medicine, social work or go into the Army.

To earn the Gold Award, girls identify, research and take action to solve a community problem. These projects have long-lasting effects on the girls’ communities and on the world. Besides being required to demonstrate leadership, girls must dedicate a minimum of 80 hours toward their projects.

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Brockport teen rolls to Soap Box victory

by Kristina Gabalski

Mackenzie with her car and trophies and her support staff – mom Tammie Miller and dad Tom Blood. Twelve-year-old Mackenzie Blood of Brockport is preparing to head to Akron, Ohio July 21 through 27 for the World Championship Race of the All-American Soap Box Derby.

Mackenzie, who just finished 7th grade at Brockport Central School, qualified for the competition by taking first place in the 2013 Greater Rochester Soap Box Derby Super Stock West Division .

“Mackenzie had never taken a first place,” her dad, Tom, says of the Greater Rochester win, held on Lakeshore Boulevard. “There were 66 entries and she never lost a race. We are so excited.”

In addition to qualifying for the World Championship Race, Mackenzie won a $5,000 scholarship to RIT and a trophy for her victory.

Mackenzie and her family are thrilled she qualified for the championship race, but Mackenzie keeps a very mature perspective in regards to her participation in the sport.

“Even if I lose, I still feel like I accomplished something,” she says.

She began Soap Box Derby racing when she was ten and competes in about 29 races each year, her parents say.

She got her soap box derby super stock car from Akron, Ohio.

“It comes as a kit,” Tom says. The car is assembled and then it’s up to the racer to decide how to paint and decorate the exterior.

Mackenzie needs to sit and bend forward as low as she possibly can to drive the car – with her eyes just peering over the top. Soap Box Derby cars are powered only by gravity, but can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

Each road where Mackenzie races and rallies has a different pitch, Tom says, and must be approached with a different strategy.

“You need to find the sweet spot in the road,” he explains. Drivers also need “to learn the different tracks – different cars will also have different sweet spots,” he says.

Mackenzie takes it all in stride, saying that even though there are dangers involved, “It’s scary only at first, going off the ramps,” she says.

She races locally and travels to places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Jamestown for races and rallies.

Both Mackenzie and her parents say participating in the Soap Box Derby has many rewards. “It’s more than a competition,” mom Tammie Miller says. “It’s family oriented. Mackenzie gets to meet kids from all over.”

In fact, meeting new people is the best part of the experience, Mackenzie says. “I like the social part – it’s nice to get away from the drama at school.”

Soap Box Derby also gives Mackenzie and other racers a chance to learn about sportsmanship, Tom says. “They’re learning life lessons they will take with them the rest of their lives.”

“It’s a feel-good kind of thing,” Tammie notes. “They are really great kids and they all get along. Everybody wants to help everybody.”

She encourages other young people to get involved.

The All-American Soap Box Derby assists participants who need financial backing in order to race, Tammie explains, and there are also opportunities for community service. A special double-car is used by racers to take other kids for rides – members of the Boys and Girls Clubs, for example.

Mackenzie has gotten to know actor Corbin Bernsen through her racing experiences.

“He’s very supportive,” Tom says. Bernsen was in Rochester for a premier of his 2011 movie, “25 Hill,” which is a drama about the All-American Soap Box Derby. “Mackenzie got to meet him here in Rochester,” Tom adds, and the two families continue to stay in contact.

Mackenzie and her family will travel to Akron for the race at Derby Downs Track the week of July 21. There are a number of preparatory events and activities planned all week and the big race takes place July 27.

“It’s a special track,” Tom says. “We’ve never seen it before – we’re really looking forward to it.”