SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Brownie Troop #65018 recently launched the Children’s Hospital Collection, a service project to benefit patients at Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside this holiday season. From now through Dec. 9, members of the South Plainfield Girl Scout troop will be collecting a broad range of items on the hospital’s wish list.

“This is a first time project for our troop and our first major service project as well,” said Francine Sweeney, co-leader of Troop #65018. “We want our girls to be aware that there are kids from all over that have different lives than them, and those with serious health issues”.

According to Sweeney, the idea for the service project came to be after Co-Leader Tania Catalanotti shared the story of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation with the girls. “The story touched our girls so much, they felt motivated to help sick children and give them things that might make them happy while they were staying at the hospital,” said Sweeney. “From this meeting, the Children's Hospital Collection was born.”  

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Troop #65018 is comprised of eight, second-year Brownies in third grade from South Plainfield’s Franklin, Kennedy and Riley schools. For this service project, the girls will earn their Journey World of Girls badges, but more importantly, they will become aware that there are people from all over that have different lives and stories than them, and that they have the power to make a difference even in a small way.

“Through the project, the girls are learning a valuable lesson in the importance of giving,” said Catalanotti.

Sweeney added, “While helping to make someone's life just a little bit better or happier, they contribute by making the world a better place and gaining the self confidence in knowing they can make take action and make a difference.”

An important part of this project is that the girls ‘take action’ and in doing so each Scout wrote their own letter describing the project and what they would like to collect. Each girl was responsible for distribute their letters to friends and family and, working off a master list of in-demand items provided by the hospital, they were encouraged to come up with creative but safe ways to request donations. 

“Some of the girls suggested emailing, social media, and asking teachers and friends at their school. Some suggested bringing the letter to a parent’s workplace. The goal is to have them lead the way in how to go about taking action for their project,” said Sweeney. “We were very clear that any method they choose to collect would need to be safe and approved by their parent.”

Items being collected include child-friendly stickers, CDs (all types of child-friendly music), wooden pre-school puzzles, bubbles and bubble wands, Play-Doh, batteries (all sizes), hand-held games, card games, large crayons, infant clothing, onesies (infants to 24 months), infant clothing (boys and girls), infant toys (rattles, teething rings, etc.), and gift cards of any amount (Visa, Toys/Babies “R” Us, Five Below, Target, GameStop, Wal-Mart, Amazon). Please note, due to the hospital’s infectious disease policy, only new items can be accepted and the hospital cannot accept any plush toys.

Residents looking to support Troop #65018’s Children’s Hospital Collection can drop off donations at the South Plainfield PAL building during open hours of operation or contact Francine Sweeney at fvitabile@msn.com or Tania Catalanotti at valcat002@verizon.net to schedule a pick up or drop off. All items must be in by Dec. 9 and the girls will go to Children’s Specialized Hospital as a troop on Dec. 11 to bring the donations.

“We hope to have a truck load of donations,” said Sweeney, noting that at this time, the plan is to deliver the donations, along with a poster of artwork they created last year, to the hospital on December 11.  

Additionally, to complete their journey, the girls plan to also host an Alex’s Lemonade Stand in the spring. “The girls are excited about Alex’s Lemonade Stand so they can raise money to donate for cancer research,” said Catalanotti.

So far, said Sweeney, the girls have been very enthusiastic about their collection. “We are very proud of them, always. They always work hard, whether they are cleaning up the park, or working on artwork, or selling cookies they are a dedicated bunch of girls,” she said, adding, “We couldn't do any of this without their parents. Our parents are very supportive of what we want to do as a troop. Parent involvement is key.”