Local Girl Scouts bring comfort to nursing home residents, celebrate the end of an era

Six years ago, Tara Hilleary and Holly Morris started Girl Scout Junior Troop 10167, and have since guided the same seven scouts through their elementary years.

As their time together draws to a close and the Scouts look ahead at other ventures, the troop has earned its Girl Scout Bronze Award after more than six months of working together to support local residents who have dementia.

As part of the Scouts’ efforts to receive their Craft and Tinker badge, they made a visit to Sundale Nursing Home last September to deliver baskets of self-care goodies like lotion and candy. When the scouts met residents with dementia self–soothing with stuffed animals and baby dolls, though, what began as a learning opportunity went on to inspire the troop’s final project together.

“That opened up the conversation about dementia, and they started learning about it and they really wanted to do a project to help the nursing home after visiting,” said Hilleary. “When you’re a kid in elementary school, you know all about fidget toys, so that almost made it a little bit relatable to them.”

Patients with dementia often exhibit restless behaviors, fidgeting with their clothes or fingers. According to the National Council on Aging, research and anecdotal evidence demonstrates clear benefits following sensory–stimulating activities like relaxing sounds, aroma diffusers, squeeze balls, soft toys and cushions or blankets with tactile details — or, fidget blankets designed and handmade by local Girl Scouts.

The Scouts quickly set to researching and preparing for this project. After learning about dementia and its symptoms, the troop began designing a fidget blanket with a variety of textures and interactive attachments. Soft fabric decorated with plastic popping toys, braided fabric, textured patches, buttons, buckles, zippers and more offer a variety of ways to relax or entertain residents.

After finalizing their blueprint, the group assessed funding and supplies. Some supplies came from the Scouts’ own belongings, others were collected through donations and the rest were purchased using proceeds from the previous year’s Girl Scout cookie sales. 

Skills like these — strategizing, community outreach and financial management — are just a few vital life lessons taught through Girl Scout activities. The passion and commitment the Scouts have exercised during their time in the troop will continue supporting them as they move on to other endeavors, from sports and dance to band and theater. Although the troop will disband around the end of September to give Scouts time for their other responsibilities, their Girl Scout Bronze Award project has acted as an opportunity to celebrate and showcase all that they have learned during their time in the troop and extend a final act of community support by Girl Scout Troop 10167. 

In January, the Scouts’ vision came to life at a sewing party. With the combined efforts of all seven Scouts as well as troop mothers and grandmothers, multiple generations came together to complete the fidget blankets. The Scouts then wrapped the fidget blankets and created cards for the residents of Sundale Nursing Home. After donating leftover supplies to The Shack Neighborhood House, it was finally time to celebrate seven months of hard work and creativity. On April 19, eight fidget blankets were delivered to Sundale residents.

“The caregivers are very grateful, and the residents were very happy to receive them,” said Hilleary.

This project has culminated into Girl Scout Troop 10167’s acceptance of the highest award a Girl Scout Junior Troop can earn — the Bronze Award. This award demonstrates the troop’s passion for a community issue and the ability to present a solution.

The Scouts will come together for a celebration in June, spending as many fun summer days together as possible before the troop’s conclusion in September.

Hilleary is confident the Scouts will continue to use their Girl Scout skills in educational and recreational settings whenever possible.

“Every one of them are leaders in their own little circles of the world, and I’d love to think we’ve had a little part in that,” said Hilleary.