Girl Scouts bring gift bags to benefit breast cancer survivors

August 2nd, 2017
Girl Scout Troop 2109 in Colorado Springs created gift bags for breast cancer survivors.

It all started with a statistic.

Girl Scout Troop 2109 was looking for a project so that four of its Cadette-rank members – all age 14 – could earn their Silver Service Award, the highest honor a Cadette can achieve.

They considered several ideas. Then …

“I looked around the room at the 10 girls in the troop and I said, ‘You know that one out of eight women gets breast cancer. That means that one of you may get it in your lifetime,’” said leader Debbie Gumper. And in fact one of the girls’ mothers was just recovering from breast cancer.

So the four Cadette members of the troop decided to do a project benefitting breast cancer survivors. They all agreed last January to start building “recovery bags,” as they called them, to give to patients who had been through the process and donate them to the breast cancer unit at UCHealth Memorial Hospital North.

They asked their fellow scout’s mom what she might have wanted when she was going through treatment, said scout Mackenzie Walton. They made a list.

The girls sought donations from local businesses and from individuals, and then they put 50 bags together, Gumper said.

“They created earrings made from sterling silver, so hopefully they would be gentle for those who have sensitivities to metals,” she said. “They gathered donations from Dutch Bros. (coffee mugs and gift cards), Trader Joes (reusable grocery bags), and Red Energy (toiletries).”

They held a “journal drive” at their school where individuals could donate new journals to be included in the bags, she said.

Girl Scout Mackenzie Walton talks about why her troop created gift bags to benefit breast cancer survivors.

They even created CDs with about 20 songs designed to be both calming and relaxing, but also motivational and encouraging, said scout Elizabeth Gumper, Debbie’s daughter.

“We wanted to give them something to lift their spirits when they were feeling down,” Elizabeth said.

The bags also included small, soft blanket throws, which they purchased with monetary donations.

And although leader Gumper oversaw the project, “it was entirely girl-led,” she said. “They brainstormed to think of things most women might want during their treatment. They made the earrings. They did it all.”

Each bag also contains a card with a personal message of encouragement from the girls.

“We wanted them to know that we support them,” Walton said.

“We just thought it might help during the healing process,” Elizabeth Gumper said.

The scouts presented the bags to former patients at Memorial North on Friday, July 28. Two of the recipients were Jeanette Lunstden and Richard Buchler. Both have been through the breast cancer treatment program there.

Lunstden was diagnosed with breast cancer a month after recovering from a heart attack, so she’s had a lot of interaction with health care providers over the past several years.

“Here, I didn’t feel like just a patient. I felt like part of a family,” she said.

Richard Buchler and Jeanette Lunstden received gift bags from the Girl Scouts.

Lundstden is finished with treatment but she still comes back to Memorial to see the staff. 

Buchler, who reminded everyone that 1 percent of men get breast cancer, too, said he was impressed with the Girl Scouts’ project. Though he wasn’t sure what he would do with the earrings.

“Maybe I can wear them in my nose,” he joked.

On a more serious note, Buchler said, he is so appreciative of the care he received at Memorial that he now volunteers several days a week in the infusion clinic or wherever he’s needed. Having been through the process gives him empathy with the patients, he said.

As the scouts handed out the bags to the dozens of former patients who returned for the event, the adults praised the thoughtfulness and poise shown by the young women.

“I think what they did is just awesome,” Lunstden said.

 

About the author

Linda DuVal is a freelance writer based in Colorado Springs who writes articles for UCHealth.