Haverhill Girl Scouts donate blankets to cancer center

(Keywords: sun protective fabric, fabric, UV Cut Fabric)

NEWBURYPORT — With the mindset of paying it forward, Haverhill Girl Scout Troop 61182 donated handmade fleece blankets to the Anna Jaques Hospital Cancer Center in memory of Girl Scout Riley Whelan’s father, Mark Whelan, who lost his battle to melanoma when she was 9 years old.

The idea of crafting and donating blankets to cancer patients was sparked by the young girls, who were studying sun safety two years ago, said Alyssa Proia, co-leader of the troop along with Kristie Phipps. The girls were working toward their Bronze Award, what Proia described as the most challenging and the highest award Junior Girl Scouts can earn.

“They wanted to do something in honor of him, in memory of him,” Proia said. “They made a funny, educational video that’s about eight minutes long.”

Mark Whelan died in 2015 and the girls began working on their Bronze Award in 2016, Proia noted.

The video, titled “Mark’s Sun Protection Friends (SPF),” features characters such as the Bathing Beauty, who enjoys laying out in the sun, and the Protection Police, Proia said.

UV Cut Fabric / Sun Block Fabric

The video, which features a song, was a way for the girls to educate people on how to protect themselves from the sun. The troop showed the movie to other Girl Scouts, parents and children, she said.

“It was very cute,” Proia said. “It just turned out a much bigger thing than we expected. It was pretty amazing.”

Riley and her mother always had a vision of making blankets to donate to the cancer center in Whelan’s memory, said Proia, who teamed up with Susan Lancaster, a nurse at the cancer center, to make that dream a reality.

Lancaster, who knew Whelan through her son’s baseball games, met with the girls and taught them about safe sun habits, she said.

The idea inspired Lancaster’s daughter, Abby, to join Troop 61182, she added.

Girl Scouts Gianna Proia, Abby Lancaster, Gabby Adie, Lillian Lefcourt, Lia Bunyar and Grace Pascucci, all 12 years old, in addition to Allisondra Phipps, 13, and Lily Delaney, 14, used money they earned from annual Girl Scout cookie sales to purchase colorful, printed fleece at a fabric store to tie blankets together, Lancaster said.

From there, the girls spent time from January to June tying together 34 fleece blankets to donate to cancer patients at Anna Jaques.

“It was a paying-it-forward idea,” said Lancaster, who added that it took a few years to raise enough money to purchase the fleece.

“It was a vision they had,” she said. “Riley’s dad enjoyed the warm blankets at the clinic where he received his treatments.”

From spending time working at the center, Lancaster said she knew the patients would love the blankets.

The girls went to Lancaster’s house to make the blankets, with the troop leaders cutting the fabric and the girls tying the knots together. The girls took their time selecting fabrics and patterns men, women and children would like, Lancaster said.

During the first week of December, the Girl Scouts traveled to the cancer center to donate the blankets.

“We literally have one (blanket) left,” Lancaster said. “Patients are just so touched by them. … Every day, I go in and I get a few thank-you cards and pass them along to Alyssa and Kristie. When the girls actually read the thank-you cards, they will really feel the impact.”

“They had a lot of fun doing this project,” she said. “It’s just a nice story and a vision coming out of the vision and memory of a very loved member of the community.”

Although Riley is no longer a member of Troop 61182 because of other middle school activities, Proia said she still attends the troop’s events from time to time and the door is always open for her.

The other Girl Scouts, she added, were excited to see their Bronze Award project come full circle by giving back to others.

“The blankets certainly added to that,” Proia said. “It was finally like we finished our whole thing. It was a very soft spot for (the girls) because they all really liked Mark. It was a nice way to make it a happy thing.”



Source : https://www.eagletribune.com/news/haverhill/haverhill-girl-scouts-donate-blankets-to-cancer-center/article_a1388ef5-7f31-5fa5-a457-9b0c1d31c668.html