“One Girl Scout can make a difference, but together we can rock the world.” That’s the 2016 motto for Troop 44017 from Girl Scouts of Western Washington. So when they discovered that four-year-old Hannah Mae of Everett, Washington, couldn’t go to the park and play like other kids her age because of a heart transplant that weakened her immune system, they decided to take action and build her a one-of-a-kind playhouse in her very own backyard.
The troop discovered Hannah’s story on Facebook through one of their troop leaders, Lisa Holland. They read Hannah’s story, watched her videos, and immediately fell in love with the brave little girl and all of her inspiring charm. That’s when they brainstormed ways they could help bring her joy, and decided to build Hannah Mae a playhouse she could have fun in every day, safely. Lisa approached Hannah’s mother, Jennifer Campbell, about the project, and she was more than honored to accept the girls’ offer.
“I was surprised they [the Girl Scouts] had heard about our story,” Jennifer said. “There are so many people they could have chosen to help, and they chose to help my Hannah Mae. It’s just been an amazing experience.”
One sunny Saturday afternoon, the girls headed over to Hannah Mae’s house to check out her backyard space and interview both her and Jennifer to find out more about what they wanted and needed in a playhouse—they were committed to building a house Hannah Mae would love and could play in without fear. Soon they learned she loves princesses, cooking, the colors orange and teal, and all things “Finding Dory.”
Through different money-earning activities—like putting on a bake sale (the girls earned their food handler permits and everything!), selling old toys, and doing chores around their homes—in addition to allocating some of their Girl Scout Cookie earnings, the girls were able to come up with close to $900 to fund the project.
One troop member’s dad who works in construction, Jared Kostelyk, took the girls shopping for materials. He also taught them all about picking lumber, reading measurements, and cutting the wood, making sure to thoroughly review safety before any of the actual work began—very important! His company, Wrecking Ball Demolition, even donated all of the materials for the deck the playhouse would sit on. Several other troop members’ dads also chipped in their time to help. Such incredible teamwork!
Now it was time to make Hannah Mae’s playhouse a dream come true—a true work-of-heart that took two very full days of building. And just like that, this small yet powerful house was filled with toy pots and pans, food, a barbeque, a little broom and dust pan, a picnic table and chairs, a mailbox, and all of Hannah’s favorite decorations—everything she needed to make this her special place to be, play, and dream. Hannah Mae even got to help the girls put the house together!
“She loved it. Just every minute of it,” Jennifer said. “The house has really been a great bonding opportunity for my family, too. Hannah has a younger sister and two older brothers, and we all play with her in the backyard. It has also given her a safe space to enjoy some healthy independence. The best part is it’s easy to keep an eye on her from every window in the house.”
It was win-win, all the way around: Hannah Mae and her family loved the end result, and the girls of Troop 44017 acquired tons of skills and perspective—they even earned their Bronze Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout Junior can achieve. “I think the whole experience taught them so much,” the girls’ other troop leader, Amber Johnson, said. “From baking to cutting wood with a miter saw, the number of skills they gained is just remarkable. And they got to do so many cool things girls don’t always get to do.”
According to Amber, the girls said they felt happy, proud, accomplished, and full of confidence after planning and completing the project and seeing how happy it made Hannah Mae. “We learned a lot about woodworking and how to use different tools. We even learned a lot about public speaking when talking to the news,” Audrey, said. Rachel, adds, “We learned how to plan ahead and spend money wisely,” while Kaelyn, said, “We learned about the kitchen while doing our food handlers permits and cooking.” Way to go, girls!
Perhaps the most moving part of it all is the incredible bond the girls and Hannah Mae have formed through this experience. Months after building the playhouse, they still get together to share play dates, picnics, and friendship. Jennifer and the troop leaders have also become great friends, and she [Jennifer] hopes both Hannah Mae and her younger sister will want to join Girl Scouts when they get older—so awesome!
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