Hope makes the world go ‘round. This was the sentiment of the night at “Painting with a Purpose,” a community event that brought together individuals from across northern New Jersey. The purpose was spreading hope and caring to individuals who have suffered significant tragedies and loss.  

Sponsored by Girl Scout Troop 418 of Byram, the “Painting with a Purpose” event is a collaboration with Hearts of Hope, a non-profit organization that distributes and collects ceramic hearts painted by volunteers with messages to inspire and boost individuals facing life-altering challenges. Volunteers came from Sparta, Clifton, Long Valley, Riverdale and through norther New Jersey.

Hearts of Hope distributed its first hearts in response to the 9/11 tragedy. Called a Movement of Hope, the organization strives to empower and heal souls who feel alone.  The horror and sadness associated with 9/11 altered life in the United States forever. The shining light in the tragedy was the support and unity that Americans felt after the terror attacks.

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I feel a real connection to these girls and the volunteers who helped them at this painting session. At one time in our lives, we have all felt hopeless or extreme sadness due to life events.

For Troop 418, this event has been the culmination of six years of hard work and it showed. More than 175 people attended and each painted two hearts to “pay it forward” to people in need. 

While successful, Painting with a Purpose, was also bittersweet. The five Girl Scouts who coordinated this event, Kaylin Botha, Gabriella Dan, Sophia Dan, Theresa Jennings, and Jessica McThomas, will be graduating high school and moving on to college and the next phase of their academic careers.

This year, over 600 ceramic hearts were painted, most of which were returned to Hearts of Hope to its HOPE bank for distribution. The other hearts willl be delivered to the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Rescue, Jersey Pits Rescue, and the Oradell Vet Hospital. The donations to the animal shelter and hospital were donated in honor of Reese, a special dog rescued from the streets and nursed back to health. Staff, volunteers and pet adopters will receive some of the hearts.

The troop’s leader, Vesna Dan said that Reese “is the moving factor for the troop this year, as Reese’s story defines true hope, love, forgiveness, and courage.”

As the CEO of Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, I am honored and proud to represent these girls and their dedicated volunteers and friends who support them and help them grow into strong, confident young women. Community service is and always has been at the core of our organization. From its humble beginnings, Girl Scouting has always been a unifying force in the community, bound by the beliefs of giving back to the community, helping others, and making a difference in the world.

While many people worry about political unrest, violence in our schools and across the globe, I find great hope when I look at our youth. I know they have the passion and the heart to unify the community and make the changes that they want to see in the world. Hope does make the world go ‘round.