By Michele J. Kuhn
MIDDLETOWN – If you need to know the importance of getting a regular mammogram, just ask the girls of Junior Girl Scout Troop 1701.
The six 11-year-old Scouts have begun a campaign called Do It for Your Daughter, that includes a professionally filmed public service announcement (PSA) and an event called Jam for the Exam, slated for May 10, during which they hope to get a jump on garnering 1,000 moms to pledge to get a mammogram.
“It came from their hearts,” said troop leader Dorianne Hennessy of the effort by Scouts Joyce Falotico, twins Adriana and Francesca Poznanski, Morgan Fuerbacher, Michele Coyoti-Lupu and Jacqueline Hennessy.
The video, available on YouTube, came about while the girls were searching for a project with which to earn their Girl Scouting Bronze Award. The project is “supposed to be about something to better their community,” Hennessy said.
“When we have our meetings, we go for a walk afterward to discuss our thoughts, our feelings, what’s going on.” During one of those walks in September, they talked about a variety of possible projects but “none of them wanted to be the girls who planted a community garden or painted the fence. They wanted to something out-of-the-box.
“Unfortunately, with the six girls that I have, they have all been touched by tragedy, there were lots of things we could have done. There’s heart disease, diabetes, cancer. There are all these things that are close to their hearts,” Hennessy said. “They came up with cancer because one of the moms … is a two-time cancer survivor.”
When the Scouts began talking about cancer, how it is discovered and treated and asking questions about how people can take care of themselves, they discussed mammograms and how they can help detect breast cancer. “Through questioning, they came up with ‘What happens when moms don’t go for their mammograms? There are moms who don’t go. Why don’t they go?,’” Hennessy said the girls asked.
That led to a discussion about busy moms, why they don’t go to get mammograms and “those who don’t make the time,” Hennessey said. “It didn’t make sense to them. ‘Why wouldn’t you make the time to go? What’s so bad about it? … Maybe, if I ask my mom about it, she’ll do it for me.’ That’s how ‘Do It for Your Daughter’ came about.
“All our moms are busy. They run us around, they take us to practice, they make us dinner but do they ever take care of themselves?” Hennessey said her Scouts were asking.
The girls reasoned: “If they don’t do it for themselves, it’s another thing they should be doing for me … It came about very innocently and what came of that is amazing.”
The girls researched their subject, talked to breast cancer experts, peppered those experts with their questions and visited an imaging center. The information they gathered resulted in their writing a script that contained facts about the disease – “One out of eight women will develop breast cancer” – but also revealed a bit of themselves. One girl, whose father died suddenly in January, talked about how important her mother was to her. She tells viewers, “I lost my dad. I can’t lose my mom too.”
The girls decided the pacing and flow of their script and thought about what it would look like when filmed.
When the person who had agreed to film the PSA was unable to do so at almost the last minute, “a friend of a friend of a friend” suggested that Hennessy approach Kaz Bielen, a professional who has directed award-winning commercials. He quickly agreed – “he didn’t hesitate, it’s a wonderful thing.” It was just a few weeks ago that he filmed the girls and then edited the video.
The result is an amazing and obviously heartfelt public service announcement.
The girls got to see the video for the first time on Friday, April 19. “I wish I had a video camera to film their reaction,” Hennessy said. “Two girls were giggling and hiding their faces and the rest were just standing there beaming. It made me cry to see how proud they were. They were beyond beaming with pride. They thought it was the greatest thing.”
And it is.
The video is being picked up by WABC television when the troop is able to get the 1-minute video edited down to 30 seconds, Hennessy said. They are close to 30 seconds now in the editing process. “It’s been really hard to cut down and cut out these girls.”
The girls are now getting ready for their Friday, May 10, Jam for the Exam event which will be a dance party/health fair from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. – right after school – at Nut Swamp School, 925 Nut Swamp Road. They expect to have representatives from the American Cancer Society; Meridian Health System, which is the sponsor of the Paint the Town Pink effort from May 1 to June 1 to increase awareness of the need for women in the Monmouth and Ocean counties area to get mammograms; CentraState Healthcare System; and the Jacqueline M. Wilentz Comprehensive Cancer Center. There will be screenings and information available for moms along with a DJ and a presentation by the members of Troop 1701.
“There will be a huge sign, a big banner, as the kickoff for asking moms to sign to make the promise – the big pinkie promise – for their daughter. Their goal is to get 1,000 moms to promise that they will ‘Do it for Their Daughter’ and get their mammogram,” Hennessy said.
“It’s a celebration. It’s a party for the kids to tell their mothers: This is important to me,” she said.
The effort has already had at least one result. Hennessy was embarrassed to tell the girls that she was two years overdue to get a mammogram and a bit scared. “I went and that’s why my daughter said (in the video), ‘If you’re scared, we’ll do it together.’ …That’s what we’re hoping, that other moms will go, ‘gosh,’ and, if they feel guilty for not doing it, they will go do it.”