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News Room: ENQUIRER: Pillow project shows tireless dedication

Girl Scout honored for work providing cushions to cancer patients

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By: Sara Gadzala

Think all a Girl Scout does is peddle cookies? Well, think again. No doubt Thin Mints and Samoas are near and dear to the heart of the organization, but so are leadership, strong moral character and service to others.

Throw in a lot of determination and hard work and you’ve got 17-year-old Girl Scout Tori Snavely.

Her long career in scouting, which began in kindergarten, is approaching a pinnacle as she is poised to receive the Scouts’ highest honor, the Gold Award.

Recipients of the Gold Award are high school-aged girls who complete a sustainable seven-step project that solves a community problem.

“I just feel like I needed to get this done and I had to be the one to do it,” said Tori, who organized volunteers to sew 100 port pillows for cancer patients and donated them to the Cancer Care Center at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Edgewood.

“You just want to try to be the best that you can be and this award is really prestigious.”

The port pillows are designed for cancer patients who have a surgically inserted port under the skin, typically in the chest region, which is attached to a catheter.

The port or port-a-cath allows for easier access to veins when administering chemotherapy medicines or IV fluids and for blood draws or other procedures.

The pillows can also be used by breast cancer patients and are attached to a seat belt to make riding in a car a more comfortable experience.

Tori’s work on the project began in early 2012. She has put in more than the minimum 80-hour work requirement. As part of the criteria, Tori had to show leadership by organizing and training volunteers to see the project to fruition.

She arranged three sewing groups of about 30 people to make the pillows. The first group sewed 60 pillows at the Boone County Public Library’s Scheben Branch. Tori also created a YouTube video explaining the process of manufacturing the pillows. She then delivered them to St. Elizabeth. Her final project is due March 15 and she hopes it will land her the Gold Award.

According to Susan Miller, program services director for the Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road Council, the Gold Award is a pretty big deal for the roughly 22 to 28 girls who earn the award each year in the region.

“It’s a national award with national honors and they receive numerous certificates from the president of the United States on down,” Miller said.

Additionally, Gold Award recipients may enter the military at an advanced rank and salary and be awarded scholarships from colleges and universities across the nation.

“I always knew that I wanted to do something cancer related and I always had an interest in sewing,” said Tori, who received a sewing machine for Christmas three years ago from her mother. “I taught myself how to use it and it was really fun and I wanted to link both of them (cancer and sewing) together so this was the perfect project.”

Tori, of Union, has been supporting cancer-related causes her entire life through projects that involved her family.

Tori’s grandmother also fought a battle with breast cancer and after a bilateral mastectomy and other cancer treatment, has been cancer-free for six years.

“It was pretty traumatic and Tori remembers her struggle,” said Sandy Snavely, Tori’s mom.

Tori is also an honor student at Larry A. Ryle High School. She participates on the varsity winter guard team and coaches the junior varsity team at school.

Additionally, Tori volunteers at Camp Ernst in the summer, participates in marching band and helps Sandy wash hair towels at the salon.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty hard,” said the junior with a 4.0 GPA.

“But just knowing that I’ve done all these things and I have all these skill sets makes me feel really good and I’m not wasting my time.”

Abbie Ochsner, assistant nurse manager at the Cancer Care Center, said she’s already passed out 30 of the pillows to patients since January.

“When the patient puts the seat belt on it’s just a little more cushion on that particular spot so that the patient’s not uncomfortable and feels that digging into them,” Ochsner said.

“Tori’s are really nice and have two strips of Velcro so it sits really snug on the seat belt and doesn’t slide around.”

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