Aroostook County A County Girl Scout Troop learned that giving is fun and meaningful by sharing some cheer with young patients at TAMC and a central Aroostook non-profit organization that support cancer patients and their families.

TAMC

Girl Scout Troop 1178 of Presque Isle invited representatives of TAMC and Caring Area Neighbors for Cancer Education and Recovery (C-A-N-C-E-R) to a get-together, where they presented Sherry Beaulieu, TAMC guest relations manager, and Virginia Joles, TAMC philanthropy lead, with 24 filled cheer bags for teenage and younger patients who are hospitalized. An evening of fun turned into a meaningful night of sharing, as each of the Scouts donned pink "Heidi Strong" shirts and also presented a $150 donation to C-A-N-C-E-R.

Assistant Troop Leader Cheryl DeMerchant said the idea for the cheer bags came from Abby Dionne, a troop member who was hospitalized over a long period of time because of illness.  While in the hospital, Dionne received a build-a-bear to cheer her up, and she thought the colorful cheer bags would be a great way to pay the act of kindness forward.

“She wanted to do something similar for others, so together we made cheer bags,” said DeMerchant. “This group of wonderful girls worked more than four months raising money from various fundraisers, including the sale of Girl Scout Cookies, to help make young hospital patients happy.”

The group assembled more than 24 cheer bags filled with items designed to offer some hope and happiness to others.

“Our cheer bags are filled with things for teens and younger patients to cheer them up and entertain them when they are at TAMC, bored, sad, or lonely. We hope they will feel special and that the gifts from us will make them feel good,” Dionne said.

Each cheer bag contains a small stuffed bear or soft creature, a friendship bracelet, plastic vampire teeth, crayons and a coloring book, a variety of puzzles and soft toys, and a hand-written letter from one of the Scouts.

Girl Scout Elizabeth Deschenes said, “It's not always fun being in the hospital. It's good to know that a group of us right here in the community has your back. We enjoy helping others.”

DeMerchant says the project demonstrates what kind of girls are in her troop, which she helps Troop Leader Tara Cote manage.

“What it says about the girls is that they have hearts full of compassion. They don’t want to see another child feeling alone,” she said, adding that the bags provided an opportunity for learning and exploring the emotions of compassion and empathy as well. “This donation from our girls is important to the community because our girls were concerned about one of their own and what she was going through. We talked about what it must be like going to the hospital feeling scared and alone. We talked about being able to make something as a gift that children could receive to take their minds off of what was happening.”

As the year progresses, members of the troop are working on earning their Silver and Gold awards, but the cheer bag project will stay in their minds, and their hearts, for a long time, as noted by newer troop member Alex Walsh.

“This is a nice project. It should bring happiness to others, even if they are hurt,” said Walsh.

TAMC distributes the cheer bags to children who are hospitalized or who enter the hospital through the Emergency Department.

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