Girl Scouts help comfort cancer patients
by Sherrie Norris
On Monday, Feb. 25, Blowing Rock's Junior Girl Scout Troop 10396 dedicated its after-school meeting to making pillows for breast cancer patients -- specifically those who have undergone mastectomies. Upon completion, the girls presented their gifts to a local representative of the Reach to Recovery program sponsored by the American Cancer Society, which will distribute them as part of an ongoing service.
The scouts, all fourth- and fifth-grade students at Blowing Rock Elementary School, gathered at Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church to assemble the small pillows. They were joined by their leaders, a few mothers and two special guests: breast-cancer survivors Mary Ruble and Mary Holstein.
Ruble, who coordinates the area's Reach to Recovery program with Deborah Kirksey, spoke briefly to the girls about breast cancer and how helpful the "small gifts of love" are to those on the receiving end.
When asked if any of them knew someone with cancer, more than half of the troop members raised their hands, with several sharing stories related to the diagnosis of family members and friends.
As an 18-year breast cancer survivor and neighbor to Girl Scout Molly Kirkland, Ruble said the pillows are a vital part of the recovery program she serves and that they offer an element of comfort to recent mastectomy patients.
"They are especially helpful when wearing seatbelts in the car, as they take the pressure off the surgical site," she said. "Unfortunately, these little pillows disappear quickly, which means we have a lot of women in the area who need them."
She said the last woman she presented with a pillow was 91 years old.
On behalf of those needing and receiving pillows, Ruble expressed her appreciation to the girls for choosing the project as one of their many community service acts.
Troop leaders Kelly Coffey and Susan Kiker said the pillows represented just one of many projects the scouts have recently completed. Others include providing Christmas gifts for a less-fortunate child, making Braille cards for the blind, sponsoring a clothing drive for mothers in need, hosting a diaper drive, visiting the residents at Blowing Rock Extended Care, among others.
Kirkland, one of 18 girls in the Blowing Rock troop, knew of Ruble's involvement with cancer patients and of the ongoing need for the pillows. With her mother, Jackie Kirkland, Molly helped coordinate the pillow project.
Each completed cushion was placed in a clear, plastic bag with a personalized note from the one who assembled it.
"This means so much to us," Ruble said. "We know that these pillows help many women who are going through a really rough time in their lives."
Holstein, a three-year breast cancer survivor, told the girls that she was so happy to receive her pillow, which helped her "get out" just three days after surgery. "This is such a nice thing that you are doing," she said.
Ruble mentioned the upcoming Relay For Life June 14-15 at Watauga High School and encouraged the girls to participate.
"It's a fundraising event for cancer research," she said. "Hopefully, if we keep working hard, you young ladies won't have to ever worry about breast cancer."