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Girls Light National Tree

Chantilly Girl Scouts invited to flip the switch on National Tree on Mall.

The Christmas tradition that Washington, D.C., area residents have grown to know and love is now a memory that two local Girl Scouts will never forget. On Thursday, Dec. 2, Clara Pitts of Chantilly and Nicole Mastracchio of Fairfax helped light the National Christmas Tree near the White House with President Bush and the First Lady.

"I was very happy. It was so much fun lighting the tree and meeting the President," said Nicole, 9, daughter of Jim and Yvonne Mastracchio.

"AFTER WATCHING the ceremony, we pushed the button," said Clara, 8. "It was very exciting. I felt good being there." She is the daughter of John and Denise Pitts.

"It was a great opportunity for all of the girls," said Denise Pitts.

The two students at St. Timothy School in Chantilly are four-year members of Brownie Troop 5179 of Chantilly. They received the honor of lighting the tree because their troop worked to gather much-needed items for soldiers stationed overseas. The idea came from Denise Pitts, the troop leader, who had heard about area schools collecting ChapStick and sunscreen. The troop decided to take on a similar project of their own instead of assisting with the ones already in progress. The collection project became a school-wide event. The troop sent more than 1,000 care packages to the soldiers. The packages — weighing more than 200 pounds — were filled with sunscreen, ChapStick, two packs of gum, a pack of tissues, and a handful of hard candy.

"In all they were pretty good packages," said Denise Pitts. The troop had sent a letter to President Bush inviting him to come when they mailed off the packages. In response to their invitation, Bush invited the girls to the tree-lighting celebration. The girls were also interviewed for the news.