Lifting Spirits One Toothbrush at a Time

Girl Scout collects toiletries to aid families in hospital.

Parents with hospitalized children often don't have time to take care of themselves, so Jillian McKigney decided to focus the efforts of her Girl Scout Gold Award project on creating a small gesture of relief.

It was a big deal to Li-Anne Gableman, whose son has been hospitalized since June, when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

The Rockland County mother, like many other parents, wasn't thinking about her own needs as her son was brought to the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.

"I really appreciate this," Gableman said to McKigney, as the Pleasantville Girl Scout  handed her a small package of toiletries. "Thank you so much."

The Ursuline School senior decided to create the little care packages for parents like Gableman who often don't have time to take care of themselves while watching over their children in the hospital.

"I got the idea from a friend whose parents came here all the time," she explained. "It's a way to help countless people get through their hardships with their family. They want to stay with them and just giving them a toothbrush can help easer their stress a little bit."

Starting with a bake sale to raise money at  back in May, McKigney, 17, set out to assemble 250 kits filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion.

"I solicited donations from my community, family and friends," she explained. "Everybody has toiletries and never know what to do with them. People couldn't have been nicer."

An overwhelming community response allowed McKigney to double her goal, and last Friday, she delivered 500 gold mesh bags—each adorned with a trio of colorful flowers and carrying her business card—to the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital.

"There were so much more donations than I anticipated," she said. "It went from 250 to 500 just like that."

McKigney recruited the help of Briarcliff Manor Girl Scout  to help assemble the kits, which will be passed out to families at the hospital.

Barbara Mautner, a volunteer with the hospital, helped oversee McKigney's project over the months.

"It was very natural how it came together," she said. "It was a real pleasure working with Jillian."

With her Gold Award, the highest honor for a girl scout, complete, McKigney plans to continue giving back to her community.

"I love being a girl scout because it's giving me such great qualities, like leadership and organization," she said. "Helping people is one of my favorite things to do."

Coming up, McKigney "definitely wants to study neuroscience" in college.

"I love helping people," she said, "so knowing how the brain works and helping to figure out people's problems would just be amazing."


Editor's Note: This article is featured on Huffington Post as part of its Greatest Person of the Day series.

michael mckigney September 22, 2012 at 07:22 AM
I am a relation of yours. I live in Australia and I would love to have you contact me so that my family could also get in touch.My email address is mmckigney@bigpond.com.au and it is so utterly wonderful to have found you. Please reply. Mike Mckigney


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