Golden Girl Scout

» When Greenwood Community High School senior Hannah Heilman was little, she would make mini-scrapbooks for her grandmother. “I saw how much it meant to her, and that’s what inspired me to do this project,” she says.

When she began looking for a Girl Scout project that would, eventually, earn her the prestigious Gold Award (the equivalent of the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout rank), she decided to preserve memories for people who have lost many of their own. In the end, Heilman presented 15 Greenwood Village South memory care residents with their own scrapbooks. These books were something tangible that could help them recall lost memories from their own lives.

Heilman began her work by sending request letters to family members of those at the facility believed to be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. With the information she needed, she began working on the project in the spring of 2017. She ultimately spent more than 140 hours on the scrapbooks, completing them in October of that same year. Presenting the finished products to their recipients was Heilman’s favorite part of the experience.

“One of the first residents I gave a book to was so surprised that he grabbed my hand and mouthed ‘thank you.’ I learned later that he could no longer speak,” she says. “I gave my next book to a lady who broke down crying. She told us that ever since her husband had died, she had wanted to create a scrapbook but hadn’t had the materials to do so.”

A small number of scrapbook recipients were angered by the gift because they simply couldn’t remember much about their own lives. “That made it very real for me,” Heilman says. “But many of them were very grateful, hugged me and even held my hand. Even a nurse who walked around with us was crying.”

Heilman, who is interested in studying journalism and Christian ministry after high school, left scrapbooking materials at Greenwood Village South so that residents, staff and family members can continue to work together in recapturing memories.

Ultimately, the task succeeded in creating memories for both Heilman and the recipients. “This project had a huge impact on my life,” she says. “In a way, I got to know some of the residents even before I met them in person. I learned so much about their lives. This project was awesome, but it was also very emotional.”