Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Volunteer Helped Shape My Life

Who are they? That’s easy. Ed Coll. 

Volunteer Kimbol Soques
Kimbol at the redwoods near Santa Cruz.
Ed’s career was spent training SWAT teams and stunt actors. When he made the decision to retire to the Pittsburgh area, it was the 1980’s and he was in his early 60’s. He approached the local Girl Scout council, GSSWPA, and told them, “You need a high adventure program for girls. I’ll build you one.” Word was that the local Boy Scout asked him to run a similar program for boys, but he turned them down. “Boys have lots of these opportunities. Girls don’t have any. The girls need some.” That’s what I heard he said. It sounds like him.

I was 14 at the time and a stealth Girl Scout in junior high school. One of my close friends had signed up for a rappelling weekend, but got sick and couldn’t go. Her mom who was also my troop leader pushed me to take the open slot. “It’s paid for! You can use Kell’s hiking boots!” she said and so I went. It was January in the northeast. Did I mention I’ve always been afraid of heights? And falling?

This trip is where I met Ed. He showed us how to wrap the webbing to make our harnesses, how to check that we were safe and ready and all the technical sides to it. More importantly, he radiated care and confidence in us! “You don’t have to do it, but I would like you to try. You won’t fall. I’ll show you!” And he belayed each of us over the edge, showing us how he could stop us on a dime. He encouraged us to walk the face, then bounce a little, and maybe bounce some more. Safely down on the ground below, I couldn’t believe how much fun it was! And I did it. I was so hooked – I ran back to the top and rappelled down as many times as he would let me, swinging wider and farther each time.

The next day, as Ed was hugging as all goodbye, Ed’s maxim was 10 hugs a day kept off starvation – he pulled me to the side and said, “Any trip of mine you want go on, you’re welcome to come. You’ve been great.”

So, I went. As often as I could, all the way until I graduated high school and moved away.

When I was finding my grown up feet, scared about presenting to vice presidents or running projects where I was the youngest team member, I would remember that I climbed Mount Placid. I rafted the Youghigheny. I went up and down Seneca Rocks more times than I can count. This is easier than that and I did that.

-Kimbol Soques

Kimbol is a Gold Award recipient and recently celebrated her 25th year as a Girl Scout. She currently leads a Cadette troop and is planning a trip to Savannah with them for this summer.


  1. A well written reflection of adolescent courage in the making. Thank you.

  2. Ed Coll was my cousin.. I went on many adventures with him before he started with the Girl Scouts.. You got that part right, he instilled confidence !! I would have never believed all the things I did.. I look back with memories I would have never had without Ed.. Caving, repelling, hiking 15 miles through deep woods among others.. I love and miss Ed..