Ojibwe Girl Scout awarded Bronze Cross Lifesaving Award

Left to right: Ilona Delaney, Pam Wurster, Lynnea Atlas, and Erin Delaney (Ilona’s grandma) put the award on Ilona’s Girl Scout vest, which is shown below. (Photos courtesy of the Girl Scouts.)

Senior Girl Scout Ilona Delaney (Miskwaa’Benaisi’Kwe, Mikanaak’Ikwe) was honored April 28 for heroically risking her own life to save her mother and grandmother from drowning during a family boating trip last summer. She is a member of the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation.

The Bronze Cross is one of the highest honors that Girl Scouts of the USA can bestow, and is one of two medals youth can be awarded for their efforts related to saving a life. The Bronze Cross is presented when a Girl Scout has shown special heroism or has faced extraordinary risk of their own life to save another’s. Ilona is the first Indigenous Girl Scout in council history to achieve this honor.

“My mom and grandma are my only family and I couldn’t believe I was watching them drowning right in front of me,” Delaney said. “Even though I’m scared of lakes and fish, I jumped in, we formed a human chain, and I swam against the wind and waves in choppy water to get us back to safety. I will forever be changed by this, and I hope to educate others on what to do in this exact situation.”

In a special ceremony, Ilona was presented with her Bronze Cross award by Girl Scouts River Valley’s Chief Operating Officer, Lynnea Atlas.

“Ilona has proven herself to be a testament to the highest principles in Girl Scouting,” said Atlas. “We are deeply honored for the opportunity to present her with this well-deserved award alongside her naming and feathering ceremonies.”

Next up for Ilona includes swim trials with Team USA this summer, working at her Gold Award project aimed at increasing swim literacy, and continuing to teach water safety and swim lessons to local youth—with a focus on marginalized youth who face the highest rates of drowning.

Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys’ work is supported by 6,300 volunteers who deliver the Girl Scout Leadership Experience to nearly 17,200 girls in southern Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and one county in Iowa.