Troop Hope brings Girl Scouts into hospitals

Catherine Friedline stands outside Children's Healthcare of Atlanta in Sandy Springs on Wednesday May 26th. She is a Girl Scout who created Troop Hope for CHOA hospitals, a Girl Scout program for long-term care patients. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Catherine Friedline stands outside Children's Healthcare of Atlanta in Sandy Springs on Wednesday May 26th. She is a Girl Scout who created Troop Hope for CHOA hospitals, a Girl Scout program for long-term care patients. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Extended hospital stays can be such a bummer for kids, who often miss out on fun activities with their friends.

A local Girl Scout had that in mind when she created Troop Hope, a Scouting program for girls of all ages who are undergoing long-term medical treatments.

Catherine Friedline, 17, spent three years designing the program for patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals. Like regular Scouting, girls can earn their badges, but they are specific to a health care setting.

“I’ve always had a passion for young children and especially kids who are in the hospital, and I also had been a Girl Scout for a long time, and it made a big impact in my life, so I wanted to be able to bring both of those together,” said Catherine, of Roswell. She is a 2021 graduate of Blessed Trinity High School.

Other children’s hospitals have been quick to pick up the program. Troop Hope has expanded to 10 hospitals in six states, with others expressing interest in offering it once pandemic regulations ease.

“So often, our patients have to miss out on everyday life experiences, and this project is the perfect way to bring some normalcy back into their lives,” said Children’s Volunteer Coordinator Gabbi Markle.

Girls can go on a secure website, pick a badge and see all the requirements. While the activities are fun, patients must engage with their care team to earn credit. Catherine took universal Scout badges and re-worked them for a hospital setting.

Working on an activity with doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and others helps “humanize” the adults caring for them, said Leslie Gilliam, communications advisor for Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta.

Talking to their care team “became so important during the pandemic because children had fewer opportunities for visitors and were at greater risk of feeling isolated,” Gilliam said.

Catherine’s original plan was to create a troop where girls could participate in person. But, that became difficult with COVID-19, plus all the restrictions of medical privacy compliance.

Mom Cara Friedline said she was impressed with how hard her daughter worked and handled the setbacks of COVID-19. “She just kept putting these little bits and pieces together and created (the program) out of thin air,” Friedline said.

Despite the pandemic, Catherine stayed committed to seeing the project through “to make sure the experience was still available for our patients, especially during difficult circumstances,” said Markle of Children’s.

Amy Dosik, CEO of the 34-county region of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, said the pandemic setbacks made Catherine’s Troop Hope project even more “admirable.”

“Catherine was doing her project in a hospital setting, and certainly they had a lot going on during the pandemic in just trying to keep everybody safe. To be able to persevere and be able to push through is pretty amazing,” Dosik said.

With Troop Hope, Catherine earned her Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, completed by only 6% of Scouts. In addition, she received the Scouts’ highest honor as “Woman of Distinction.”

Having wrapped up Scouting and high school, Catherine will be attending Coastal Carolina University to study marine sciences.

Catherine said, “it’s unbelievable” to see her project available in hospitals in six different states. Though there’s no way to track how many girls are earning badges, she can see how many are at least exploring the website.

“I think about it today, and I don’t realize that I did this. I spent so much time working on it that it’s kind of hard to believe,” Catherine said.

Friedline said her daughter had such a pleasant experience in Scouts that she wanted others to have the same access.

“If the girls doing her program get even half the joy and sisterhood of what she got out of Girl Scouts, it would be amazing,” Friedline said.


Caption
Catherine Friedline is a Girl Scout who created Troop Hope for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals, a Girl Scout program for long-term care patients. Activities are fun but they also require the patient to engage with her care team to earn the "badge." PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Catherine Friedline is a Girl Scout who created Troop Hope for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals, a Girl Scout program for long-term care patients. Activities are fun but they also require the patient to engage with her care team to earn the "badge." PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Catherine Friedline is a Girl Scout who created Troop Hope for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals, a Girl Scout program for long-term care patients. Activities are fun but they also require the patient to engage with her care team to earn the "badge." PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

WHAT INSPIRES ABOUT TROOP HOPE?

Girl Scouting program now available at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and other hospitals around the nation.

It allows girls to participate in Scouting and earn badges while being confined to a hospital room.

Cara Friedline: “There’s no limit to it. It’s not regionally based so anyone can do it. It was designed in such a way that girls of all abilities and limitations – whether confined to a hospital bed or able to romp around the hospital – there’s something there for everybody. And you can make of it what you want.”