Local Girl Scouts create mosaic wall at Ronald McDonald House

Carmel Valley Girl Scout Troop 1735 members recently completed their Cadette Silver Award project by creating an ocean-themed mosaic art piece on a 100-foot-long amphitheater wall at the Ronald McDonald House at Rady Children’s Hospital.

The Girl Scouts worked for over six weeks hand-laying their hand-broken mosaic tiles on the courtyard wall, putting in over 140 hours total over the course of the 11-month project to identify and implement a sustainable “take-action project” outside of their local community to earn their Silver Award.

The girls celebrated their accomplishment with a wall dedication ceremony at the Ronald McDonald House on Sept. 21.

“It just brightened up the area,” said Vince Speitel, volunteer coordinator at San Diego’s Ronald McDonald House of the space that is used for visits from the Safari Park and other performances, as well as being a meeting and gathering place for families who are living at the home while their children undergo treatment for life-threatening illnesses at Rady.

Speitel said part of his goal at the house is trying to increase youth involvement, encouraging the development of a passion for volunteerism at a young age so it becomes second nature. He said the girls’ dedication is a perfect example for other young volunteers.

“They did a wonderful job, it was amazing,” Speitel said. “Everything you think about what’s right with the world and what’s right with kids, these girls displayed.”

The group of six girls has been together since they were in kindergarten, with only one member, Olivia Lucero, coming aboard in the third grade. Troop 1735 is composed of Kendal Boothman and Anni Salz, both freshmen at Torrey Pines High School, and Canyon Crest Academy freshmen Peyton Johnson, Olivia Lucero and twins Gabi and Lexi Martinez.

“This project taught the girls about learning new skills as craftsmen, community outreach, interpersonal communication skills, giving with gratitude, work ethic, perseverance and determination to get a job done,” said troop leader Glenna Boothman. “I’m really proud of them.”

As a troop the girls have participated in a variety of community service projects and to earn their Bronze Award, the troop went back to their elementary school, Carmel Creek, and painted paw prints that help guide kindergarten students to the restrooms.

The girls were connected with Ronald McDonald House by assistant troop leader Lisa Salz, who works at Rady Children’s Hospital as a genetic counselor. Speitel began working with the girls beginning in December of 2017 when they visited the house to drop off donations, do a craft-making stained glass butterflies project with the kids and a tour of the house. Kendal said while on the tour, they noticed that the courtyard wall could use “a little sprucing up”—it was just a plain blue wall with edges like a wave.

They came up with idea of a mosaic wall and pitched the idea to Speitel, who said the Ronald McDonald House never before had a project like this.Olivia, the artist of the group, was the only one who had ever done a mosaic piece before. She sketched an underwater design with coral, starfish and sea turtles, swimming in a sea of assorted blues and the proposal was submitted and gratefully accepted by Ronald McDonald House.Olivia’s mom Stephanie, an architect, was able to get all of the tiles for the mosaic donated by DalTile.

The girls picked their tiles out at the design showroom and then smashed up the tile with hammers in the Boothman’s driveway, placing all of the broken pieces into large bins to take to the facility.The girls’ long hours of work began in late July, during which Speitel noted was an especially hot summer.

“It took quite a long time,” the girls said of the work which was done in small groups on the weekends. Some mosaic installations are laid out ahead of time and then placed on the wall but the girls placed every piece onto the wall by hand. Willow Decker, from DalTile, helped the girls to ensure they had all the right supplies and walked them through steps like grouting.

“It was a learning experience for all of us because we’d never done a project like this on this big a scale,” Kendal said.

While they worked one of the siblings living in the house, a Girl Scout herself, became interested in their project and would stop by to check on their progress while they worked. As she spent her birthday at the house, she shared cake with the Girl Scouts.

“It’s cool to be in that environment because it’s not our everyday life,” said Kendal. “It was eye-opening to see what other people go through and make an impact on their lives.”

The troop got to know the whole family, whose daughter was in the hospital with a rare spinal disease for the entire month that they worked on the project.

“It was so humbling to see the families coming and going,” said Glenna Boothman. “We were grateful to bring a smile to their face in times of extreme distress and hoped we brought some distraction and joy to their lives as we worked on the project.”

The girls said they learned to appreciate what they have and gained appreciation for the volunteers who serve meals to families and share their time every day to ensure that families experience the comforts of home while caring for their hospitalized child. Troop 1735 was proud to leave a lasting legacy behind and share a little joy.

The girls will now work individually to achieve their Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts and the most difficult to earn. The goal is to keep the girls together until they graduate high school.

“They love to work together and be together,” Glenna said. “It’s a pretty special friendship.”

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