August 1, 2014

Elyria
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Scouts think pink: Troop donates time, items for breast cancer

ELYRIA — Since Audrey Smith of LaGrange was diag­nosed with breast cancer in June, her life has changed in both small and enormous ways.

Audrey Smith, center, a cancer patient at Mercy Cancer Center in Elyria, goes through gifts provided in bags put together by Girl Scouts in the Twin Creeks Service Unit. The Scouts are, left to right, Miya Timura, 11; Denise Biljes, 11; Kaitlyn O’Neal, 12; Shelby Stevens, 11; Girl Scout Senior Halle Miler, 15; Shelby Friedel, 14; and Caitlyn Miller, 13. (CT photos by Chuck Humel.)

Audrey Smith, center, a cancer patient at Mercy Cancer Center in Elyria, goes through gifts provided in bags put together by Girl Scouts in the Twin Creeks Service Unit. The Scouts are, left to right, Miya Timura, 11; Denise Biljes, 11; Kaitlyn O’Neal, 12; Shelby Stevens, 11; Girl Scout Senior Halle Miler, 15; Shelby Friedel, 14; and Caitlyn Miller, 13. (CT photos by Chuck Humel.)

The enormous ways are surgeries and treatments as she fights for her life.

The small ways present their own struggles. She shaved off her hair before the chemotherapy could take it. Her current cancer drugs are making her fingernails and toenails fall off. She’s tired all the time. Well-meaning friends have stopped their old habit of just dropping by, not wanting to disturb her in case she’s resting or not feeling well.

As she began treatment, staff at Mercy Cancer Center in Elyria gave her a tote bag filled with odds and ends, including hand sanitizer, mit­tens and a special soft-bris­tled toothbrush because her gums were vulnerable to bleeding.

The bags were put together by area Girl Scouts cadets, part of the Twin Creeks Ser­vice Unit, and given to Mercy Cancer Center for patients.

“It made me feel so good,” Smith said about getting the gift bag. “It feels like your whole life is dedicated to can­cer and fighting cancer. And to know someone out there cares enough to do some­thing like this for you, it means so much.”

Smith was at Mercy Cancer Center on Thursday after­noon preparing for an outpa­tient procedure scheduled for today when the Girl Scouts arrived with this year’s dona­tion of more than 120 gift bags. Smith was thrilled to meet the girls and thank them.

“When you give money, you don’t always see where it goes,” Smith said. “This is something you see.”

It was also a special moment for the girls.

“It’s so great to meet her,” said Girl Scouts senior Halle Miller. “We get to see how what we do affects the patients. It means a lot to see what we’re doing helps.”

This year’s pink fabric tote bags were filled with items the scouts collected over the past year, said Kim Stevens, one of the troop leaders from Columbia Township.

The program started in 2007, Stevens said, after one of her troop members lost her mom to breast cancer. That first year, it was just Stevens’ troop, and they made six gift baskets. Then, as the program expanded to the service unit, they switched to gift bags, and more were made.

Stevens said the scouts collect donations in their schools, churches and communities and buy items themselves.

Some of the items include personal care products that are safe for a patient in treatment to use, travel-sized items for hospital stays, hats and scarves for when hair falls out, and hard candies to suck on so mouths don’t dry out during chemo.

The Scouts got together on their Make a Difference Day, Oct. 23, to fill the bags. A former Mercy Cancer Center patient — a prior recipient of a gift bag — made cards for the Scouts to fill out and put in each bag.

Contact Melissa Hebert at 329-7129 or mhebert@chroniclet.com.