CAPE ELIZABETH — They sold cookies and held bake sales, visited a nursing home and toured an organic farm. They mailed care packages to U.S. troops overseas and spent a night in sleeping bags at the Museum of Science in Boston. They skated at Rockefeller Center in New York City and attended leadership conferences at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island.

Through it all, from kindergarten to their graduation Sunday from Cape Elizabeth High School, the nine stalwart members of Girl Scout Troop 2222 have grown from little kids into young women who are about to head off to Harvard College, Columbia University and other schools.

It’s a bittersweet moment for Troop 2222 – one of 11 Girl Scout troops in town and 767 troops across Maine – as they head out into the world and the group structure that held them together for more than a decade dissolves.

Troop 2222 started as a cluster of 13 blue-smocked, bright-faced Daisies in the fall of 2004. Some dropped out along the way, leaving six of the original members and three who joined in later grades. The remaining nine say they stuck with it because they formed a sisterly bond that they hope to maintain for the rest of their lives.

Daisy Troop 2222 in 2004, when they were in kindergarten. Front: Liv Clifford, Natalie Gale, Ellie Garfield, Maggie Gleason, Grace Carignan and Hannah Bosworth. Rear: Casey Kelly, Lily Mackenzie, Kathryn Grennon, Katie Zajkowski, Kate Ginder, Caroline Coburn and Taylor Young. Courtesy of Troop 2222

“We’re not all in the same friend groups or all the same school activities now, but we have compatible interests,” said Kinnon McGrath, 17, who joined in second grade and will attend the University of Miami. “When we’re together, it’s like a break from everything else because we love being together.”

Troop 2222 is unusual because it’s such a large group of high school-age girls, but its members aren’t alone in their longstanding dedication to the 105-year-old organization, which has 7,900 girl members in Maine and 1.8 million worldwide. There are 72 high school age-troops in the state, including 270 girls in grades 9 and 10, and 150 girls in grades 11 and 12. Among them, 87 seniors are graduating this month.

“Troop 2222 is unusual but not unique,” said Joanne Crepeau, chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of Maine. “Each year we have six to 12 troops where the Girl Scout bond has lasted through all grades.”

Crepeau said some Girl Scouts maintain the friendships they form as young women and remain active in the organization throughout their lives.

Betsey Timm of Falmouth, retired president of Bank of America in Maine and current board president of Girl Scouts of Maine, is still in touch with the friends she made in Girl Scout Troop 500 in Manchester, Crepeau said. When Girl Scouts of Maine named Timm its 2010 Woman of Distinction, those friends and her former troop leader attended the celebration dinner.

“It was another testament to the lifelong connections that girls make when they’re involved in Girl Scouts,” Crepeau said.

Troop longevity often depends on the dedication of adult leaders, who in many cases are mothers of members.

“If you have great leaders and the girls have fun, they stick with it,” Crepeau said. “The best leaders provide a continuum of activities and experiences that keep the girls interested and engaged.”

That certainly has been the case for Troop 2222, headed by Christine Mackenzie, Leslie Young and Claire Ginder, all mothers of troop members. Under their leadership, the troop wrote and presented a play, tutored children at Reiche Community School in Portland, filled food baskets at Thanksgiving and bought gifts for the needy at Christmas. They held sleepovers and went on camping trips and roasted marshmallows on beach bonfires.

Girl Scout Troop 2222 selling baked goods to raise money for various projects, including care packages for troops and donations to homeless services. From left, Kelly O’Sullivan, Taylor Young, Kate Ginder, Faith Buckley, Natalie Gale, Lily Mackenzie, Kinnon McGrath and Maggie Gleason. Photo courtesy Troop 2222

“Having all those memories from when we were young – it’s been such a strong connection for all of us throughout the years,” said Lily Mackenzie, 18, an original member who will attend George Mason University.

The girls also visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, rode the toboggan ice slide in Quebec City and attended each others’ school activities, sports events, musical performances and dance recitals.

“They had fun and it was safe,” Claire Ginder said. “It didn’t matter who was popular or not. They just had such history together.”

All nine girls earned the Bridge to Girl Scout Adult Award, which they received at a bridging ceremony in May. Two members – Natalie Gale and Kate Ginder – earned the Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouts, for community service projects that helped immigrant students and children who have dyslexia, respectively.

Troop 2222 poses with Troop Leader Christine Mackenzie, center in white hood, at Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City in March. Photos courtesy Troop 2222

There was a point in middle school, Claire Ginder said, when the troop leaders asked the girls if they wanted to continue or disband. When they met to discuss the possibility of calling it quits, they wound up planning more activities to do together.

Because older Girl Scouts are unusual, they experienced some teasing from schoolmates, most of it good-natured.

“One of my friends asked me if I was an Eagle Scout,” said Grace Carignan, 17, referring to the highest rank of Boy Scouts. Carignan is an original member who’s going on to Boston College.

The girls expect their extraordinary bond to hold fast in the years to come, said Kelly O’Sullivan, 17, who joined the troop in third grade and will attend Holy Cross College. They’ve already started planning future beach bonfires and other gatherings when they return from college.

“We’ve built such a strong and secure relationship, it will be nice to keep that going,” O’Sullivan said.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at:

[email protected]