Hardyston Girl Scout Junior Troop #96740 wanted to do something meaningful for Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year.
Last October the girls put together chemotherapy bags that they donated to Barnabas Health. The bags held fuzzy socks, crossword puzzle books, lotions, little pink cowboy hats, soothing teas, and other comforting items. Georgann Naismith, the chief technician of mammography at Barnabas Health and the mother of Girl Scout Samantha Naismith, brought the bags to patients undergoing chemotherapy.
“I was so impressed with how much, for third graders, now in fourth grade, they were so interested in wanting to know about the disease and how seriously they took their task,” said Erin Ashton, the troop leader.
The troop decided to create a Pink Pumpkin Patch this year. The girls asked for the names of those affected by breast cancer and received 75 responses: 22 who currently fighting the disease, 29 who celebrated beating the disease, and 24 in memory of those who died. Every person who responded donated $10 for a pumpkin and had a special name placed on it.
The troop raised $750. The girls decided to donate the money to Project Self-Sufficiency to help pay for mammograms for women in need. Project Self-Sufficiency is a non-profit organization that helps families and individuals in the counties of Sussex, Morris, Warren and Hunterdon.
“I wanted to do the pumpkin project since I got to spend a few hours with my mom at work on Take Your Kids to Work Day,” said troop member Taryn Donovan, who’s in the fourth grade. “I got to meet some people undergoing cancer treatment. I witnessed a bell ceremony when a woman finishes her chemo, and I clapped and woo-hooed with everyone. That was three years ago. To this day, I still ask when she gets home, ‘Mommy, did anybody ring the bell today?’”
‘Our way of honoring them’
The girls painted the wooden pumpkins pink then wrote on them the names of the women they were dedicated to. On Oct. 27 Ashton met the Scouts and their parents outside the Hardyston Municipal Building, and everybody pitched in, digging holes in the ground by the entrance to stake the pumpkins, so that everyone passing through will see the names.
“Sussex County Technical High School graphics department made us signs welcoming everyone to the pumpkin patch,” Ashton said. “They also denoted which section was in memory of, celebration of, or encouragement of.”
Stanley Kula, the Hardyston Mayor, told the girls how important their work was. “Hardyston is very proud of you,” he said.
“It was great to be part of this project because it is going to help so many women get mammograms who can’t afford them,” said troop member Abby Codner, a fourth-grader. “I also enjoyed writing the names of the women who bravely battled cancer. It was our way of honoring them.”
Scout Samantha Naismith said, “My mom fights breast cancer every day at work and taught me from a young age how important breast health is. There are too many women out there fighting breast cancer that can’t afford mammograms, so every little bit that we could donate helps.”
Ashton said that, as a Girl Scout Troop leader, “I think it’s really important to ensure our girls are civic minded and have awareness of the disease. We talked to the girls about mammograms and how important they are for early detection, which can increase the chance of survival. Once we explained that not everyone can afford a mammogram, increasing their risk for late or non-detection, our girls understood we needed to do something to help. We wanted to impress upon our girls that what we were doing would bring awareness to the disease and in turn help those in need afford one.”
“I wanted to do the pumpkin project since I got to spend a few hours with my mom at work on take your kids to work day. I got to meet some people undergoing cancer treatment. I witnessed a bell ceremony when a woman finishes her chemo and I clapped and woo hooed with everyone. That was three years ago. To this day, I still ask when she gets home ‘Mommy, did anybody ring the bell today?’” Taryn Donovan