A Texas mother has started a new Girl Scout troop in North Texas specifically for LGBTQ youth.
Richel Newborg of Fort Worth, Texas, told "Good Morning America" the idea for the new troop came about after she started hearing from other mothers who were looking for activities for their transgender daughters and also from young LGBTQ girls and teens who were interested in scouting. Newborg, a former Girl Scout-turned-volunteer, knew she wanted to do something.
"A couple of the girls said, 'Gosh, I have some friends that are LGBTQ but they don't know like, is Girl Scouts friendly to that community?' … and a few of our girls in our troop had come out to me and it just sort of started this really great conversation about how do we communicate to people when something is accepting, welcoming -- and Girl Scouting is most definitely welcoming to all girls," the mom of three recalled.
Newborg said her two daughters, who were already Girl Scouts, teamed up with other girls in the area to start an informal group dubbed the "Pride Crew," which laid the foundation for what is now Troop 02777, part of the Girl Scouts of Texas Oklahoma Plains.
"We formed a Pride Crew, which is made up of a number of different Girl Scout troops, and I sort of let them set the tone for what this brand new LGBTQ troop was going to do," Newborg explained.
Troop 02777, which began on June 1, the first day of Pride Month, is now a scout-led troop that's open to any LGBTQ girl or teen between kindergarten and 12th grade, according to Newborg.
"There's lots of different kinds of Girl Scout troops. Some Girl Scout troops just focus on the outdoors, some just do crafts. There are Hispanic/Latina Girl Scout troops. In our area, I know we have Muslim troops ... It's one of the things that's really cool about it -- once you establish your troop, then the girls take charge of the direction," Newborg said.
"The reason why we have this troop is it's a safe space. Any kid can join it," Newborg added. "From all of the kids that we have talked to and all the parents that we've talked to, it's that safe space, right? They have troop leaders that have LGBT kids. A lot of us have gone through extra training, mental health awareness training ... so it truly is that safe space for these kids when they join."
Tori McDonald has been a Girl Scout for 11 years, but when she heard about the idea for a "Pride Crew" and a troop specifically for LGBTQ youth, she jumped at the chance to join.
"For me, personally, I kind of have to feel out what adults and people I can talk about that aspect of my identity around, so it was nice to just have somewhere I didn't have to worry about and have kids who feel the same things that I do or maybe have some of the same experiences so we can kind of just stick together with that," the 15-year-old high school student told "GMA."
Girl Scouts of the USA declined to comment to "GMA" about the new troop but the organization states on its website that it "is proud to be the premiere leadership organization for girls in the country" and that "placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis, with the welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the troop/group in question a top priority."
The organization notes that "if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe."
Girl Scouts also offers a patch option for members to celebrate Pride Month.
Although it has only been a month since the troop formally started, Tori and four other troop members, along with the Pride Crew, have quickly started to build a supportive community, holding meetings and attending the LGBTQ SAVES Annual Youth Pride Picnic in Fort Worth.
"[The] troop means a lot to me because it provides a space where I can talk with people my age about those experiences of our family and stuff," Tori said.
For other LGBTQ girls and teens who are interested in joining, Tori said she encourages them to step out of their comfort zone.
"Even though it's always going to be a risk putting yourself out there into a safe space, it is so worth it once you get in there because you're so happy and you have so much fun, and it's just like a breath of fresh air stepping into a space like that," she said. "It's worth it."