When Mairead Skelton, a 17-year-old Girl Scout from Chicago, learned about the devastating flood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana earlier this year, she knew she had to do something about it.
“My daughter did something similar years ago when [Hurricane] Katrina hit and Mairead was one of the girls who helped her,” said Bernadette Colletti, Mairead’s Girl Scout troop leader. “On the second day of the flood [in Baton Rouge], Mairead asked if she could do something for the kids down there. So I contacted the diocese to see if there was a need and obtained a list of schools.”
With the help of her troop leader, Sister Girl Scouts, friends, family, classmates and local politicans, Mairead collected more than 6,000 school supply items for students and teachers in Baton Rouge.
“We sent messages to the surrounding communities and churches asking for donations and my parish allowed me to put donation boxes in the back of the church,” Mariead said. “I asked my principal if this was something we could do and we organized a school supply drive. I also reached out to elected officials who represented my neighborhood and they made monetary donations.”
In addition to the school supplies, Mairead and her Sister Girl Scouts made prayer cards for the schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge and decorated the bags with either an outline of the state of Louisiana or the state’s symbol, the fleur de lis. In October, Colleti and Mairead drove to Baton Rouge to personally deliver the items during a Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Praireville, Louisiana.
“I can’t describe the feeling because it was so amazing and life-changing to meet some of the families affected by the flood,” said Mairead. “My troop leader and the whole congregation stood up and started clapping for me during the Mass. I started crying, I was so overwhelmed.”
After the Mass, about 30 people came up to Mairead to express their gratitude and the principal of St. John’s Primary School, Kim Naquien, presented her with a big poster board signed by the entire third-grade class as a thank-you gift.
“She may have been inspired by us, but truly she is an inspiration to us to serve one another,” Naquin told the congregation, according to The Catholic Commentator.
And Mairead was truly touched by the gesture.
“It was such an inspiration to me,” Mairead said. “My favorite was a little kid who gave me a thumbs-up as he was walking out.”
And Mairead’s desire to give back didn’t stop there. With encouragement from her troop leader, Mairead decided to turn the school supply drive into her Gold Award project and host emergency preparedness sessions at the Chicago Park District.
“That way, if something like the flood were to happen, people would be prepared,” explained Mairead.
The Gold Award is the highest award that a Girl Scout ages 14-18 may earn and recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 80 hours or more, dedicated toward their service project.
“I’ve made so many friends over the last 10 years I’ve been a Girl Scouts,” Mairead said, “and there are so many skills I’ve learned — from being a people person when selling Girl Scout Cookies to not being afraid to speak up when people are talking about an issue or doing a project like this to help others in my community and all over.”
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