The Examiner

Greeley Girl Scout Gives Back to Children’s Hospital Through Service

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Julia Desmarais in the Blythedale Children's Hospital closet she cleaned and organized for her Girl Scout Gold Award.
Julia Desmarais in the Blythedale Children’s Hospital closet she cleaned and organized for her Girl Scout Gold Award.

You couldn’t blame Julia Desmarais for feeling a bit overwhelmed when she set out to undertake her Girl Scout Gold Award project.

The 17-year-old Mount Kisco resident wanted to contribute to a hospital close to her heart as a way to complete her requirements for her award. For almost a year, Desmarais went to Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla to refurbish and reorganize a closet that previously had been in horrid condition.

“I went in (to the closet) and I had no idea how I was going to clean it,” Desmarais said.

But after plenty of persistent work and help from her friends, Desmarais was able to celebrate the new and improved closet, stocked with brand-new clothes, last Wednesday afternoon at Blythedale. Desmarais, who is entering her senior year at Horace Greeley High School, made yet another contribution to the hospital she’s been familiar with since she was a toddler.

From an early age Desmarais was taught to help others, particularly at Blythedale. Her mother, Laura, wanted to instill in her children the importance of community service.

The family had lived down the street from the hospital when Desmarais was young, so Blythedale seemed like a natural choice.

At just three years old, Desmarais was taken to the hospital to volunteer. Later, along with her older brother, would help set up snacks, play with the children and eventually read to younger patients.

“When the children were small, I thought it’d be a great idea to learn about giving back to others,” Laura Desmarais said. “And I thought working with children would be a wonderful way to do that. Blythedale was extraordinarily welcoming.”

Since that young age, Desmarais has continued to come to Blythedale. During summer, she would set up lemonade stands, donating whatever money she made to the hospital.

The workers in the hospital took notice at the love and passion Desmarais has shown toward Blythedale and its young patients. Chief Nursing Officer Jill Wegener said Desmarais has not only displayed empathy but has also appreciated the struggles facing the children and their families. Wegener, a mother of two Eagle Scouts, said it’s sometimes difficult to impress teenagers to help others.

“It takes a lot of time when they could be out socializing with friends, instead of actually giving back,” Wegener said. “They’re involved in something that’s actually larger (than) themselves and that’s not always a quality you see in today’s teenagers, so it’s very refreshing.”

As far as the Blythedale closet goes, with some pestering Desmarais was able to persuade family and friends to help out, as well as girls from her Girl Scout troop. Some of them were on hand last week at Blythedale to help celebrate the feat.

The closet, which was dirty and disorganized, was full of old and worn-out clothes. By the time Desmarais and others were done, it had compartments for different types of clothing sorted by age and size. All the clothes were donated from Girl Scouting events.

While Desmarais can finally shut the door on the closet, she certainly expects to continue serving at the hospital. Desmarais has become such a steady fixture at Blythedale that she has her own identification badge.

And as much as the patients and those working at the hospital enjoy Desmarais’s volunteer work, she treasures it as well.

“It’s probably helped me a lot more than it’s helped them,” she said.

For more information about donating clothes to the closet, visit









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