NORTH LIBERTY– Sometimes, a hug from a soft, furry friend is just what you need to make things better.
Local Girl Scouts from troops 5555, 8720 and 8034 get that; some have young friends and family members who have endured hospital stays, and they can imagine what it would be like to be away from home and ailing.
“I bet they would want something to play with,” said seven-year-old Scout Caitlin McCabe.
So the local troops set out to make that happen. The troops decided to build stuffed animals for pediatric patients in the University of Iowa Hospital’s cancer unit.
Each year, the Girl Scouts sell their wildly popular cookies– who doesn’t love a Thin Mint?– to raise funds for troop activities and community service projects. In the past, the revenues have allowed the girls to take trips, as well as make donations to and volunteer for organizations like the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, the Veteran’s Administration Hospital and the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. They have made valentines for nursing home residents, cooked and cleaned at the Ronald McDonald House, and made sock bunnies for kids at the Children’s Hospital.
This year, the troops took some of their profits and marched to Build-A-Bear Workshop in Coral Ridge Mall on May 12 to stuff, dress and personalize the plush pets, and package them up for donation to young University of Iowa hospital patients. Girl Scout Olivia Postman said she has a few different Build-A-Bear animals of her own, and dressing the stuffed animals is a big part of the fun.
“It’s so they can feel better,” said five-year-old Scout Jaden McCabe.
Troop member Abby Postman, 11, said she can relate to the sadness a hospitalized child might feel; her younger siblings spent six months in the hospital, and the Postman family knows receiving little gifts can make the stay more bearable.
“It’s the nice thing to do,” said Abby.
“It’s the Girl Scout way,” Caitlin agreed.
After all, the Girl Scouts pledge to make the world a better place; that’s part of the Girl Scout promise the girls were able to recite in unison, prompted by troop leader Kelly Postman.
“We do a lot of things keeping others in mind,” said Postman. “We tell the girls to think outside yourselves and be a sister to everyone. Girl Scouts is one of the few places that still occurs; so much of what kids do is competitive. They don’t have to compete here; they work together.”
In this instance, the girls worked together to craft 30 bears and dogs, with a variety of outfits for the recipients to dress and accessorize them, to be donated to young patients.
When they were completed, a pediatric trauma nurse took delivery of the stuffed animals to pass them on to someone who needs a warm fuzzy. It was an opportunity for the nurse to talk to the Scouts about why some children are in the hospital, explain the emotional impacts of medical trauma, and talk about trauma prevention, particularly through the use of bicycle helmets.
Troop leader Lindsay Knudson said it was more than an opportunity to simply donate stuffed animals.
“It will be a great way for them to learn about preventing injuries to themselves, and it’s also a great way for them to learn the values parents try to teach,” said Lindsay. “That we care about each other and it’s good to do things for each other.”
“Without expecting something in return,” added Kelly Postman.
But there is at least some return within this project; knowing they can make a small difference for a sick child makes Scouts Katrina Tanner and Jenna Knudson feel better, too.
“It would make me happy,” said Katrina.
“Yeah… happy,” echoed Jenna.