EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Kathryn Wilsey, 20, Marinette, reads her award-winning graphic novel “Show the World Being Different is Beautiful and Strong.” She is a member of the Girl Scouts Special Needs Troop 4343 in the City of Peshtigo.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

Kathryn Wilsey, 20, Marinette, reads her award-winning graphic novel “Show the World Being Different is Beautiful and Strong.” She is a member of the Girl Scouts Special Needs Troop 4343 in the City of Peshtigo.

MARINETTE — A local Girl Scout has won a trip to the Golden State for showing how her autism helps her be a strong leader and a superhero.

Kathryn Wilsey, Marinette, will travel to California as an award for being selected as a winner of the Girl Scout Cookie Pro Contest. She was one of 24 girls nationwide, and only four Ambassador-level Girl Scouts (grades 11-12) to be selected. Each of the girls will have the opportunity attend an all-expenses-paid Cookie Entrepreneur Experience with their mother and/ or guardian.

Wilsey will be traveling to California with her mother, Cynthia.

The Girl Scout Cookie Pro Contest asked Girl Scout members across the U.S. to create a one- or two-page graphic novel about what it means to be a superhero and a Girl Scout. The contest was created through a partnership with USA and Warner Brother’s DC Super Girls. 

Wilsey’s graphic novel, titled “Show the World Being Different is Beautiful and Strong” shows many of Wilsey’s own superpowers, many of which are directly linked to her autism. The story follows a superhero receiving distress signals from hungry customers who want to buy Girl Scout cookies. She then flies door to door, using her iPad as a map, to provide cookies to the entire neighborhood.

“Autism gives me super flying powers for supplies and crafting powers” the superhero declares.

The graphic novel also states that diversity is what makes people “strong and beautiful.”

“In the real world, people think you are different because you look different, talk different or act different, not realizing we are strong and beautiful just like them,” the final panel of the graphic novel states. “Take a chance and get to know us.”

Wilsey said the graphic novel is based on her real life experiences and almost everything in it is based on something she does in real life. She said she wanted to show how her autism allows her to see the world a little differently and helps her be a great Girl Scout.

“I am strong and I am a leader. I don’t let Autism stop me. I am a Superhero,” Wilsey declares in another panel of her graphic novel.

None of the characters in Wilsey’s graphic novel, including the superhero, have faces. Wisely said she chose to not include faces to show how her autism affects her. She has difficulty processing faces and it was a layer she was able to convey through her artwork.

“I didn’t think I would even get it done,” Wilsey said, about her graphic novel. “I was really busy. At the same time I was doing Special Olympics.”

Girls Scouts is only one of the many activities Wilsey does during the summer months. She is also involved in Special Olympics, 4-H Dare to Dream Riders therapeutic horseback riding, volunteers at the REC Center and is involved in art and photography. She has been a Girl Scout for about four years.

As a Girl Scout, this year Wilsey achieved her personal record by selling 400 boxes of cookies.

“It’s a lot more than I even sold last year. I walked about eight hours going door-to-door,” she said. “One of our neighbors said I ‘painted the neighborhood green’ because when there was nobody home, I would put green doorknob hangars on their front door with all the important information so they can still order my cookies if they wanted.”

Wilsey said she likes to remain busy throughout the summer and is always on the go. At the time of the interview, she was getting ready for a week at summer camp and once she got back she would need to start packing again for her trip to California.

“I’m packing for camp now and as soon I get back I’ll have to unpack and then repack for the next trip,” she said.

Her trip to California will be four days filled with firsts for Wilsey. This will be her first time in California, her first plane trip and the first time she will see a palm tree.

“Most little girls dream about being a princess, but that wasn’t me. I’ve always dreamed about hugging a palm tree,” Wilsey said, while laughing. “I’m finally going to have that chance.”

Her mother, Cynthia Wilsey, laughed along with her daughter. “It’s true. We don’t know why but that’s always been her dream. We never thought we would be able to bring her anywhere with actual palm trees for her to hug.”

Kathryn Wilsey is also excited to go to the Warner Brother’s Studio and see a life-size replica of Supergirl, her personal favorite superhero.

Her mother said she is most excited to watch Kathryn experience so many new things and have a great time.

Some other activities included with the Girl Scout Cookie Pro Contest awards include a tour of Warner Brother’s Studio, where they can go behind the scenes and learn how movies are made, a chance to visit Santa Monica Pier and an award ceremony where Wilsey and the other 23 winners will be recognized and awarded for their work.

Wilsey and her mother will travel by plane to Arizona and onward to California from there.

“I’ve never really left Wisconsin before,” Wilsey said. “The furthest I’ve ever traveled was to Chicago one time, but don’t remember much of it.”

During their layover in Arizona, they plan to enjoy themselves as much as possible so they’re not “staring at walls” while they wait for the next flight.

“We’re going to an airport with a really fancy coffee shop,” Cynthia Wilsey said. “We’ll be there for a few hours so I think there will be time for Kathryn to treat herself to some ice coffee, which is her favorite treat.”

“It’s really important to me that we make memories in between times, not just at California,” she explained. “I want her to enjoy the entire trip, front to finish.”

The Wilseys first learned that they had won the contest on June 9, after Kathryn had completed the final day of the Special Olympics.

“It’s funny because I was actually mad at her (Cynthia) when she came down and told me about it because she was interrupting my audio book time,” Wilsey said. She explained that after the long day she likes to listen to audio books to wind down for the night and spend some time for herself. “My mom was trying to tell me something and I was just ‘okay but can’t you wait until my audio book time is over?’”

“But, then she explained that we won the contest and I was really excited and I wasn’t mad at her anymore,” Wilsey said. “I stayed up all night calling everyone I could to tell them about it.”

Kathryn and Cynthia Wilsey will begin their trip to California July 24. The trip will last until July 28.