Seniors receive Girl Scouts Gold Award for commitment to service


By Hyunjin Lee, Co-T/E Life Editor

Carrying a box of 10 hand-sewn heart pillows, senior Katherine Ridder walked into the Paoli Hospital to make her last delivery of pillows to patients recovering from surgery. This was part of her culminating project to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn. 

The Gold Award is awarded to Girl Scouts who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through projects that provide sustainable solutions to better their communities. The projects require a minimum of 80 hours and must make a lasting impact beyond their initial involvement. 

“I’ve always enjoyed sewing and wanted to do something that would really make an impact,” Ridder said. “I chose to make pillows because I was told that there was a great need for pillows and very few volunteers at the hospital who could make them because of the sewing required.” 

Ridder sewed 60 heart pillows for patients who have had heart or lung surgery. Patients hold the pillows against incisions when coughing or doing breathing exercises to alleviate pain and prevent tearing stitches. Ridder also created a detailed instruction booklet for making heart pillows for Paoli Hospital to ensure that her project could be sustained in the future. 

Senior Katie Ridder holds one of her hand-sewn heart pillows. Over the course of her Girl Scouts Gold Award project, Ridder sewed 60 heart pillows and distributed them to patients at the Paoli Hospital.

Working for her Gold Award helped Ridder to not only make a positive impact on her community but to learn time management and communication skills. 

“For the project, you have to find something that’s needed in the community, something that’s of interest to you that you’re capable of addressing,” Ridder said. “So that process in and of itself involves a lot of reaching out to the community, and in my case, speaking with hospitals, finding out what was needed, and then getting enough details to do the application.”

Ridder delivered the pillows in batches of 10, and immediately saw how much the Paoli Hospital patients needed them.

“It made me feel very accomplished that I not only gave them something that was so important but also made it easier for them to get heart pillows in the future,” Ridder said. “My project made me realize how much of an impact I can have, even if I am just one person.” 

Senior Rebecca Anestad also received the Gold Award for her service during the 2020 Gold Award ceremony for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania which took place Jan. 19 at Normandy Farms Hotel and Conference Center.  

Anestad’s project involved creating reading rugs and donating books to the Thurgood Marshall School, a public school located in the Olney section of Philadelphia. The school offers two head start, or early childhood, classrooms where 40 preschoolers receive educational readiness and development.

Anestad wears her Girl Scouts sash with the Gold Award pin. The Gold Award is given to Girl Scouts members who display exceptional leadership and provide sustainable solutions to their communities’ problems.

“My dad was a teacher there so it was easy to create a plan with (Thurgood Marshall),” Anestad said. “They also have a head start program so I knew the rugs would be put to good use with them.”

Anestad knew she wanted to do a creative project because she liked being “hands-on.” After noticing how many shirts she had that she never wore, Anestad got the idea to create rugs from her shirts and started her project, called Rugs for Reader.

“I created 48 colorful reading rugs out of old cut up t-shirts, and each of the 40 preschoolers took a rug home and each of the preschool classrooms received 2 rugs,” Anestad said. “I also donated around 670 books for the classrooms and for the kids to take home.” 

Senior Anestad made over 40 reading rugs out of old shirts to give to students at the Thurgood Marshall School in Philadelphia. In addition to the rugs, Anestad donated around 670 books to the classrooms as well.

To collect the books, Anestad created a donation link through Scholastic and also received leftover books from previous Girl Scouts’ book drives.

After delivering the rugs and books to Thurgood Marshall, Anestad saw the impact her project had on the preschoolers firsthand.

“I was so happy that I was able to do more than I originally had thought,” Anestad said. “When I went back to visit, the kids came up to me telling me about how they put their rug in their room or in the family room and how they loved using it.” 

With their Gold Award projects, both Ridder and Anestad were able to create a lasting impact on their community. 

“The leadership skills and commitment to community that Gold Award recipients have demonstrated go above and beyond a typical service project,” said Kim E. Fraites-Dow, the CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania. “They are future leaders who are making an impact and leading through positive change.” 

Hyunjin Lee can be reached at [email protected]