BOXING AGAINST CANCER by Adrianna Donat
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
A troop 5 Scout helps hospitalized patients and their families.
From the time he was in grade school Garrett Diegnan knew he had an enemy: cancer.
“So many people in my family were battling the disease,” says Diegnan. “My mother, my aunts, my grandparents. All of them were treated for cancer.”
Diegnan is a Boy Scout in Maplewood’s Troop 5. He is a Life Scout, working on his Eagle Scout Service Project. An Eagle Project allows qualified Scouts to demonstrate their leadership skills while they work in the service of their community. The Eagle Project is one of the steps that must be completed before becoming an Eagle Scout. Many Eagle Projects involve working with institutions like local government, a religious group, or a charity.
As an Eagle Scout candidate, Diegnan needed to plan, organize, and oversee a project that would benefit a specific organization. He would fundraise for the project and supervise hundreds of hours of labor to complete it. Usually Eagle candidates have a lengthy search to find the project that’s right for them.
Says Troop 5’s Scoutmaster Roger Brauchli, “I encourage each Eagle Scout candidate to select a community service project that has some personal meaning or connection to them and their passions.”
By the time Diegnan became an Eagle Scout candidate with Troop 5 his choice wasn’t difficult. He already knew he wanted his Eagle Project to help people dealing with the challenges of cancer treatment.
“When my mom was being treated for cancer at Overlook Hospital,” says Diegnan,”sometimes my brother and I were with her in the hospital for long periods of time. And sometimes my dad stayed overnight there with her while relatives and neighbors stayed with us at home.”
It was a difficult time, but Diegnan remembers how much help they received. “People were so generous with their time and help. I really want my project to give back by helping others who are going through the same thing.”
So Diegnan spoke to social workers at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Hospital in Summit to find out what they might need and what might help.
The social workers noted they receive a lot of gift boxes for patients, but not for the patients’ families. This may not seem like a problem to some people, but Diegnan, who spent long hours at Overlook worrying about his mom and trying to occupy his little brother, realized this was an opportunity to help families who were going through similar challenges.
He decided to make care packages not just for patients, but also for their families.
Scoutmaster Brauchli is enthusiastic about Diegnan’s choice. “Garrett has selected a wonderful project. Garrett is one of 10 Life Scouts who are aiming to complete their requirements to attain the rank of Eagle Scout within the next year, which is also the Centennial Anniversary of Troop 5, Maplewood. It will be a very exciting year for all of them!”
Diegnan’s project is off and running. For the patients, Diegnan is putting together packages with water bottles, hard candy and ginger candy to help with nausea, lip balm, mouthwash, and extra-soft toothbrushes. He will also include notes from Scouts and others who want to help someone through a rough day.
The families of patients may receive different items in their packages based on their age, but the basics are items like decks of cards, children’s books, puzzles, coloring books, crayons and stickers to help occupy smaller family members. There are also snacks, coupons for local restaurants, stuffed animals and earbuds to help make the families more comfortable during extended stays with their hospitalized loved ones.
Diegnan plans to make 500 of these care packages by the end of November 2019.
At this point, his GoFundMe page (gofundme.com/garrett-diegnan-eagle-project) shows he has raised close to $1,970 for the cause, almost half of his overall goal of $4,000.
Diegnan plans to use any additional funds to purchase more children’s books for the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center’s waiting rooms.
“I am excited my Eagle Project can give back to the hospital that took such great care of my mom,” says Diegnan. His mother, he is pleased to report, is now in full remission. Diegnan hopes his project will help other patients and their families as they battle their mutual enemy.
If you’d like to contribute, you can visit Diegnan’s GoFundMe page or reach out to him to help assemble the boxes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adrianna Donat is a freelance writer who lives in Maplewood.