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Girl Scout gives a little bit of color to cancer patients

Volunteer makes, hands out colorful bandannas

Girl Scout Danielle McCormick  found a way to put some color back in the lives of cancer patients.

As part of a scouting Gold Award project, Danielle created about 150 tie-dyed bandannas and in January, 2012,  handed them out for free to patients at Loyola University Medical Center’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center. She gave the bandannas along with a yellow card that read “Creating smiles one bandanna at a time.” Danielle got back a lot of thank-yous, and the smiles showed she brightened a lot of peoples’ day.

“I had a lot of people tell me about their experiences as Girl Scouts,” she said. “Some of them insisted on paying for it, but I said, ‘Take it, it’s my gift to you.’ “

A few patients were inspired by her act. “They wanted to help other cancer patients when they get well, since so many people have helped them,” Danielle said.

Heather Hedlund, a manager at the Coleman Foundation Image Renewal Center at the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, found Danielle’s gesture inspirational.  “She didn’t even know the people whose lives this would affect, but knew she wanted to make a difference.”

Danielle  – a student at Oak Park River Forest High School and a member of the school’s cross-country and track teams  – chose Loyola’s cancer center partly because she was born at Loyola University Medical Center in 1996. She also has had three surgeries at Loyola, and a family friend (Loyola sports medicine physician Dr. Pietro Tonino) helped her set up the project at the medical center.
After getting approval from Girl Scouts officials, Danielle had to raise funds to buy the supplies, so in October 2011 she held a carwash. Two Oak Park businesses offered their parking lots, and members of her family and her Girl Scout friends pitched in their time. Then Danielle and a group of  volunteers – including some residents of the Oak Park assisted-living facility Belmont Village – spent hours in production, as each bandanna had to be wrapped in rubber bands, tie dyed, dried and ironed.

“The tie dyeing took place in my basement between homework and track,” Danielle recalled.

When they were all ready, she set up a table in the lobby of the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center and handed most of the bandannas out to patients over two days in January.

Danielle set up her table directly in front of the Image Renewal Center, a place where people undergoing treatment for cancer can find skin care, hair alternatives, complementary medicine and support groups.  

 “The Image Renewal Center focuses on renewing patients’ spirits from the outside in,” Hedlund said. The employees at the center focus on patients’ well-being and offer care for the mind, body and spirit. “By Danielle donating these bandannas to our patients, it showed that someone out there cares about them and wants to do something to bring happiness into their lives.”

Hedlund said a gift like a bandanna can go a long way to help a patient with cancer feel more at ease. “Danielle’s bandannas were unique and unlike any that we carry at our Image Renewal Center,” Hedlund said.

Danielle has been a Girl Scout since the second grade, and the Gold Award is the highest achievement in the organization. She will officially receive the award in the next few months, she said. In the meantime, she plans to present her Gold Award project to other, younger scout troops to inspire them to help cancer patients.

“I hope that (the bandannas) were put to use and that it brought some happiness to their day,” Danielle said. “ I also hope that they realize that people other than their families care.”

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