3rd-Grader Enacts Girl Scout Motto, ‘Be Prepared,’ Earns Medal of Honor for Saving Man’s Life

November 13, 2020 Updated: January 18, 2021

This story was last updated in November 2020.

A Girl Scout from Illinois is being honored after applying the organization’s motto, “Be Prepared,” to a real-life crisis scenario, and has earned the Girl Scouts’ prestigious Medal of Honor for helping save a man’s life.

Third-grader Gretel and her mother, Pamela Ulmer, were out fundraising in their O’Fallon neighborhood in October 2019 when Gretel spotted her neighbor Henry Gaddis lying on the ground beside his car. The man, who is believed to be in his eighties, had collapsed.

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(L–R) Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois CEO Loretta Graham, Gretel Ulmer, and troop leader Michele Pratt. (Courtesy of Erin Johnson of Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois)

“I thought it was a man working on his car, we had no idea this man was hurt and asking for help,” Pamela, herself a former Girl Scout, told KTVI.

Gaddis raised his arm to catch the pair’s attention. “Gretel knew we were in an emergency. … she didn’t panic or cry, she just knew that he needed help,” Pamela said, alluding to her daughter.

Gretel ran to the elderly man’s side to help and then shouted for her mother before ringing Gaddis’s doorbell to alert his wife. She later sprinted to the house next door to ask the neighbors for their help, according to a news release by Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois.

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Gretel Ulmer. (Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois)

The group collectively called 911 when Gaddis lost consciousness. It later transpired that a cocktail of medicines following an oral procedure had caused Gaddis to collapse; he was transported to the hospital and made a full recovery.

After receiving the help, the elderly neighbor praised Gretel for being a “very courageous little girl,” adding that she “exhibited the presence of mind and courage to get the right help at the right time in an emergency situation.”

Gretel, speaking to KTVI, said she felt “happy that he got to the hospital okay, and I felt like I was actually part of a group that helped, too.”

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Pamela Ulmer with her daughter, Gretel. (Courtesy of Erin Johnson of Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois)

The Girl Scouts’ Medal of Honor, inaugurated in 1913, is awarded in response to nominations. Pamela nominated her daughter for helping save Gaddis’s life, and the information was reviewed by Girl Scouts of the USA.

Gretel’s heroic act fit the bill.

The little girl received a personal visit from Loretta Graham, CEO of Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, who presented her with her medal on Oct. 22. Congressman Mike Bost also attended the ceremony to present Gretel with a certificate of congressional recognition for earning the honor. The third-grader’s proud troop posted photos of the small ceremony on Facebook.

“[T]his is just the beginning of what this young lady is going to do in this society,” said Graham, adding that “girls like Gretel” make the world a better place.

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Gretel displaying her Girl Scouts Medal of Honor. (Courtesy of Erin Johnson of Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois)

Pamela praised the Girl Scouts for instilling a solid moral code in both herself and her daughter. “I think learning about the commitment to diversity, and being kind to our neighbors, and being of service to our neighbors came from that Brownie quest journey that our leader took us on,” Pamela reflected.

Erin Johnson, Marketing and Communications manager for Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, told The Epoch Times that Gretel also received another special accolade from her hometown. “O’Fallon, Illinois Mayor, Herb Roach, declared October 22 to be ‘Gretel Ulmer Day,’” she said, “which is very cool!”

As for Gretel, helping is in her nature. When she grows up, she wants to be a teacher or a veterinarian.

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