Amid the chilly winter December nights and onslaught of the pandemic, seven Queen Creek Girl Scouts began work on a project that will now warm the hearts and spirits of everyone at Mountain Vista Medical Center in East Mesa.
Their work led to the recent opening of Mountain Vista’s Sunshine Therapy Garden on its grounds, 1301 S. Crismon Road.
During the pandemic, Troop 3632 members Kayla Porter, Madi Roberts, Isabella Ronning, Chloe Copeland, Addie Bernier, and Ally and Lizzy Small spent many days with their families outside of the hospital’s intensive care unit.
There, they talked and prayed with patients’ loved ones. The Girl Scouts were so moved by the plight the patients faced because of COVID-19 and pandemic restrictions. that they decided to do something meaningful,
“We just kind of felt pretty helpless – like, how can we help?” said Troop 3632 leader Darcy Small, whose daughter Ally was among the girls who created a therapy garden for patients, nurses and other hospital personnel.
The two-year project was born in December 2020 when the girls tried to visit the Mountain Vista ICU.
Initially, they had planned to show their respect and gratitude for workers as the night shift came on to relieve the day shift employees.
With candles in hand and songs picked out, Darcy said they didn’t know what to expect.
They arrived and found families watching their loved ones battling COVID-19 from outside their room window and seeing the medical workers with “agony in their faces,” Darcy recalled.
“The girls experienced secondhand what it was like to have a loved one going through that and also see the health care workers what they were going through,” she said.
The girls maintained their weekly vigil Friday nights for five months, handing out extra candles to families and singing hymns.
One night, Darcy said, a patient’s son asked if they had extra candles, and Darcy’s daughter Lizzy asked what their loved one’s favorite hymn was so they could sing it.
After singing “How Great Thou Art,” a relative told the girls their loved one was just taken off the ventilator and “would be going to heaven soon.”
“You think, these 12- and 13-year-olds, like how are they processing this,” Darcy said. “And one of them just said, ‘Can I pray over you guys?’”
“This family, their loved one and the amazing staff here was my personal inspiration for Sunshine Therapy,” Lizzy said.
The girls joined the family outside the ICU window to pray and have since become friends.
Darcy said similar moments got the girls thinking at the time about a future for the gravel area outside the ground-floor ICU.
“They wanted it to be a place where anybody that’s at the hospital visiting can come out and get fresh air and vitamin D. Health care workers have a place to come catch their breath, and then family members have a place to gather,” Darcy said.
The seven girls, aged 12 and 13, brainstormed a few ideas that led them to “sunshine therapy.”
They worked with hospital administrators, submitted plans to the city and eventually raised $30,000 in monetary and material donations to build the garden.
Now 14 and 15, the girls have developed leadership skills through their project that have contributed to their advancement in the Girl Scouts, high school and in life, Darcy said.
“There for a while, I thought, ‘I don’t know if this is actually going to happen,’” Darcy said. “And these girls, they did not give up. They were like, ‘no, this hospital needs this.’”
Sunshine Therapy Garden has transformed the once-gravel lot into an area for a quick rest and rehabilitation, complete trees, plants, a seating area with tables and park benches, a canvas shade covering, trees, and over 400 rocks painted with “messages of hope, love and inspiration.”
Kristie Porter has worked as an Occupational Therapist at Mountain Vista for 13 years and said this garden brings a sense of comfort to those who need(ed) it most.
“They cared for us as healthcare providers and provided comfort to patients and families who were going through the worst times of their life,” Porter said. “By choosing to build this beautiful courtyard is a blessing to more people than they will ever know.”
Her daughter Kayla, who plans to study sports medicine in college, said she came up with the idea for a lamp post that “symbolizes the light God has shown through the darkness of COVID,” Kayla said. “I thought it would be special to have this displayed to encourage healthcare workers, patients and family members of this statement.”
Tami Shreve spoke at a dedication ceremony and said she spent much of December 2021 at Mountain Vista as a patient under Kristie’s care.
After she turned a corner in her recovery, she noticed the Girl Scout troop and learned about their project.
“In the middle of the world being turned upside down and everyone dealing with a virus that is absolutely unforgiving and not selective on who it chooses, they saw hope,” Shreve said.
Besides cookie sales, three donors helped make the project possible through financial and material donation. They included Tami Shreve’s Evening Entertainment Group, Baseline Trees and Ronning Landscaping.
Ally, who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, said she wants to bring hope and encouragement to those and keep their determination strong when it may feel weak.
“It is our hope that when staff, families or patients might be needing some extra encouragement, one of these rocks will inspire them to not give up,” Ally said.
Darcy said she just hopes that people will see what the girls accomplished with this project and show the world that the kind gesture, no matter big or small, means a lot when it comes from the heart.
“I am so hopeful that by sharing this, it will give others inspiration to always be on the lookout for ways to help in the community, in small ways or big ways,” Darcy said. “I fully see these seven girls graduating from high school as a Girl Scout troop.”
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