Cozy blankets, activity books and cookies from a local Girl Scout offered a measure of comfort to cancer patients at Advocate Children's Hospital.
The two years of work earned Jennifer Meyer, 18, of Homer Glen, the prestigious Gold Award in June from Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Meyer was the only member of Troop 70278 to receive the honor. The 12-member troop is part of the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana council.
Meyer got the idea for her "Project Hope" after her sister was treated for Ewing's sarcoma, a rare cancer found in the bone or soft tissue, at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital.
"When I'd go visit her, I'd see all these babies and 17-year-olds who were bald, having to go through all the things she had to go through," said Meyer, a scout for 13 years. "I wanted to do something to help them."
Meyer's project comprised five steps that spanned two years and involved friends, family and neighbors. Step one was designing and making 110 activity books with crayons, pencils and pens, so the kids would have something to do in between cancer treatments. She included books with sudoku, crossword puzzles and word searches. Step two was soliciting donations from neighbors and friends to buy Girl Scout cookies for the kids in the hospital.
For step three, Meyer donated blood periodically for the patients, since they need regular transfusions, "just to add more of a supply because they could always use more," she said.
Meyer went to three different KinderCare day care centers for step four, talking to children about how cancer patients who are bald and look different are just special, not bad. Meyer used the book "Zink the Zebra" by Kelly Weil, written by a young girl with cancer who describes the story of an animal who looked different because of its spots.
The final step was making blankets from fleece and other materials.
Meyer's award was a booklet that included a patch and pin to go on her Scout vest.
"I made countless friends and memories, and experienced and learned hundreds of lessons and life skills," said Meyer about her years as a Scout.
The most important lesson, she said, was how to always stay calm and do whatever was needed to reach her goals.
The troop earned a Bronze Award for holding a bake sale and donating the proceeds to a local animal shelter. The troop also received a Silver Award for teaching autistic kids how to play Gaelic football once a week for four weeks.
Cheryl Meyer, Jennifer's mom and leader of the troop, said she was proud of her daughter's accomplishment.
"She probably put in 104 hours in the actual project," said Meyer, who was a girl scout when she was young. "It's just a great honor," she said.
Maria Wynne, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana said in a press release the award was indeed an accomplishment.
"Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award is an immense accomplishment which requires girls to use the leadership skills they developed in Girl Scouting to effect positive change in their communities," said Wynne. "These young trailblazers create a legacy of social impact with their projects and learn a lot about the strength of their abilities in the process."
"They lead by example and are helping to move the needle on gender inequities in leadership," Wynne added.