By Crystal Hayduk
Chelsea’s Girl Scout Troop 40076, made up of 13 fifth-graders, have turned their love and affection for a friend into an international project to earn their Bronze Award, the first major award that a Girl Scout can earn.
Last September, friend and fellow Scout Ava Hinz-Johnson was hospitalized. According to her mother, Lisa, Ava’s condition was uncontrolled despite numerous trials of treatments and medications. Daily seizures and the rigors of treatment left Ava too exhausted to participate in extra-curricular activities, so she stopped attending scout meetings.
Desiring to give Ava something useful to remind her of their friendship, the girls made her a large, fluffy blanket designed with characters from Disney’s “Frozen.” Ava loves and uses the blanket at home, and takes it with her for every hospitalization.
“Just knowing that her friends cared enough to make something so special, out of love and concern for her, made a lasting, positive impression on her,” said Hinz-Johnson.
In the meantime, according to Girl Scout leaders Kelly Stoker and Jen Morr, the girls made dog bandannas to donate to the Humane Society of Huron Valley. “The bandannas were a relatively small project – essentially the first part of the process towards earning the Bronze Award, which they did while working through their ‘Agent of Change’ journey book,” said Stoker.
Realizing how much Ava appreciated her blanket, seeing the need for animal blankets at the humane society, and anticipating the Morr family’s adoption of their son, Zeke, from China, the girls discussed the benefits of blankets.
The girls said that blankets are soft, warm, and comforting; and little children and animals often consider their blankets to be almost like best friends. Several girls said that blankets can become keepsakes or family heirlooms.
Once they decided to make blankets for their Bronze Award project, they determined to donate small ones to the dogs and cats at the Humane Society and larger ones to the babies in the orphanage in Pingdingshan, China.
Stoker said that the girls worked with a budget of $127 in troop funds raised from cookie and nut sales, and have spent about 170 person-hours on the project, which is expected to be completed by mid-March.
The Girl Scouts have learned a great deal from this project with both a local and worldwide reach. Emma Hedding said that she’s learned the importance of teamwork for completing a big project. Fiona Stoker said her favorite part of the project has been helping others.
“Everyone can step up and do something for someone else,” said Ashlyn Hodel.
Lisa Hinz-Johnson would agree, especially given the great impact the friendship blanket has had on Ava. “It has had a ripple effect, and I see her reaching out and wanting to support other kids who may be struggling,” she said. “Instilling that kind of empathy and awareness of others is the best gift I can imagine, and we’re so grateful for that.”