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Girl Scouts give Hope and Locks of Love

October 16, 2014
By CYNTHIA WILLIAMS (news@breezenewspapers) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Earlier this month, 26 Girl Scouts sat down in the Shear Art Hair Studio in Cape Coral, bowed their heads and allowed stylists to cut off a cumulative total of 35, one-gallon size bags of hair to be donated to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides financially disadvantaged children who are suffering from long-term hair loss due to any medical condition with hairpieces.

The children who gave their hair represent five Girl Scout troops in the Lee 13 Girl Scout area. Jennifer Fischer and Nichole Sheridan, leaders of Troop 102, explained that their troop initiated the project in honor of Juliet (Daisy) Gordon Lowe, the founder of the Girl Scouts, who died in 1927 of breast cancer. The pink T-shirts that the scouts and the salon stylists wore read, in part, "Inspired by Daisy." Appropriately, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Troop 102 chose the Shear Art Hair Studio at 1103 Cape Coral Parkway for its cut-a-thon because of the salon's affiliation with Locks of Love. The owner of the studio, Megan Van Cour, described the event as "Absolutely amazing." The girls, from pre- to high-school age, were a churning, riotously happy sea of pink, their enthusiasm for giving filling the salon with laughter and chatter as donor after donor took her turn in the stylists' chairs. The hearts of the brave little girls beat rapidly as they bent their heads to the shears, but with the last crunch of the scissors through their hair, when the stylists lifted the 10-inch braids like trophies above their heads, everyone in the salon cheered wildly and the eyes of each donor filled with shy pride.

The mothers who were there to hug and cheer and capture the smiles and glistening eyes of their daughters on film were no more encouraging and enthusiastic than the stylists who volunteered their Sunday off for the event. The stylists were especially sensitive to the feelings of the donors. They tenderly handed the shorn braids to the girls who had sacrificed them and let them hold their hair for a moment before dropping it into a small plastic bag.

Megan and her nine stylists felt that "Giving time on our day off is worth it. It's just the right thing to do," she added with a big smile, and as another girl took her chair, Megan brushed out the long, silky hair, measured the number of inches to be cut, and began the braiding.

Bringing Hope

Last year, Girl Scout troop 102 initiated another campaign whose success was celebrated Saturday night, Oct. 4, at the St. Katherine Drexel Catholic Church at 1922 S.W. 20th Avenue in Cape Coral. The celebratory event was a dance in honor of Greilyn Rios, a 3-year-old child with epilepsy whom the Girl Scouts of Cape Coral have adopted as an honorary scout.

The stated goal of the Girl Scouts is to help girls "develop their leadership potential through activities that enable them to: discover their values, skills, and the world around them; connect with others in a multicultural environment; and take action to make a difference in the world." Troop 102 leaders, Fischer and Sheridan, explained how Greilyn Rios is helping Lee 13 scouts meet that goal.

Each year, Girl Scout troops choose by secret ballot one of three community services they wish to support with the funds they raise that year, primarily from cookie sales. Last year, Khloe Rios, a 5-year-old member of Troop 102, put forward her little sister, Greilyn, as a candidate for her troop project.

Greilyn was diagnosed with intractable epilepsy when she was 5 weeks old. Her first seizure, caused by an undetected fever, and those that followed have left Greilyn severely brain damaged and permanently blind.

In the trifold goal of leadership development through discovery, connection and taking action, Troop 102's immediate discovery was that Greilyn needed a seizure-alert dog.

"We connected by having a nurse come in and speak to the girls about what happens in the brain when a seizure is taking place. We also have an adult troop member who suffers from epilepsy, and she was able to verbalize what it feels like to have a seizure. She gave us a real emotional look at the illness," Fischer explained. "She informed the girls that, yes, we know what's going on around us when we are seizing. It's important that the people around us don't panic, because if you're scared, I'm scared, too."

Greilyn's mother also talked to the troop, giving them a history of Greilyn's illness, informing them that Greilyn has had more than 300 seizures.

Presented with two other options for community service, the 64 members of Troop 102 chose by unanimous vote to devote their fund-raising efforts to the purchase of a seizure-alert dog for Greilyn. "They then took action. They hit the streets with cookie sales."

In the meantime, Greilyn's mother, Serina, researched service-dog training facilities and chose the Georgia Canine Academy in Atlanta as the source for a hypoallergenic (because seizures can be triggered by allergic reactions), mini Golden Doodle (a Golden Retriever and Poodle mix) for Greilyn. The Doodle would be trained to alert Greilyn's parents to a seizure even before it occurred by smelling the chemical changes in the body that precede a seizure. The Doodle chosen for Greilyn was named "Hope."

The campaign slogan would be "Bringing Hope to Greilyn."

With a combined donation of $1,670, Troop 102 and Troop 463 brought Hope home to Greilyn.

"When we introduced them," Greilyn's mother, Serina, reported happily, "we didn't know how Greilyn would react but she laughed and touched Hope very nicely."

Hope is still in training, and in a couple of years, will be cross-trained as a seeing eye to meet Greilyn's ongoing needs. Although her medical team is uncertain how much cognizant improvement Greilyn can attain, she receives physical, occupational and vision therapy every day. She had learned to articulate "Mama, Dada, bye, hi, and yea," Serina said Saturday night at the dance.

Greilyn, outfitted in a purple tutu and enthroned in the baby stroller at Serina's side, occasionally squealed and chattered away in universal baby talk, seemingly responding with her whole body to the rhythm of the dance music. "She likes it," her mother affirmed.

The church annex that night swirled with girls in purple tutus, sequins and boas as Greilyn's father, Victor, the DJ for the occasion, kept the music cranked and the Scouts' little brothers dragged the stands of purple balloons around the dance floor.

"That was the best event I ever deejayed," Victor exclaimed the next day at the Shear Art cut-a-thon, in which both of his daughters participated. "I had so much fun with every song I played. The dancing, the singing along. They knew every song I played word for word. It was beautiful."

Victor loves that his daughters, Khloe and Gabriella, are part of the Girl Scout community where they can grow and learn. Serina is amazed at the devotion of the Scouts to Greilyn and to promoting epilepsy awareness. "It's a blessing to be a part of Lee 13, to be one of them."

The mission of the global Girl Scout organization is to build "girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place." Troop 102 and her sister troops that make up the Lee 13 group of 42 active troops, totaling a membership of 500 girls, in the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, are the Girl Scout mission in continuing action and accomplishment. They receive their due share of appreciation from their leaders and friends and family, but the tiny handclaps they receive from Greilyn Rios are their inspiration.

Serina explained that Greilyn communicates by clapping her hands.

"You can tell the difference between happy clapping and when she's clapping her hands because she's mad," Serina smiled. Greilyn also gives a clap of her hands when she comes out of a seizure. "She has about 15 smaller seizures a day. They only last about 20 seconds. She's just out of it, staring, non-responsive. She doesn't make a sound or a movement, nothing. All we can do is try to talk her through it. We say things like, 'Mommy's right here. Daddy's right here. It'll be over in a second. Are you OK? We love you.' When she comes out of it, she usually claps her hands."

And her parents breathe again.

For more information about the Lee 13 Girl Scouts, please contact Troop 102 leaders Jennifer Fischer or Nichole Sheridan at or call 239-240-5597.



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