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April Holler St. Clare Hospital

SSM Health St. Clare Hospital Radiation Oncology Director April Holler showcases hope bags that are given to cancer patients at the Baraboo health care center. Local Girl Scouts Troop No. 4037 made the care packages for a community service project in February.

JAKE PRINSEN/News Republic

A local Girl Scouts chapter is providing words of hope and encouragement to cancer patients at SSM Health St. Clare Hospital.

Members of the Girl Scouts Troop No. 4037 recently spent more than 50 hours putting together “hope bags” for patients receiving radiation oncology treatments at the Baraboo health care center. The decorated packages contain treats and paper chains comprised of 42 links that have inspirational Scriptures, quotes and other words of encouragement.

Each day the patients receive radiation treatment, they can break a link from the chain and read the inspirational passages. St. Clare Hospital Radiation Oncology Department Director April Holler said the bags seem to comfort patients as they count down the days of what can be a fearsome journey.

“Going through the treatments is a big deal, and sometimes it’s more difficult for others,” she said. “When the Girl Scouts came and made these, we thought it was so sweet. I’ve told patients that all of them are done personally, and they thought that was pretty cool.”

Girl Scouts programming requires members to conduct community service projects each month. The girls of Troop No. 4037 put together the hope bags for their February project. The idea came from the group’s troop leader, Jessica Esposito, who received a similar care package from the UW Carbone Cancer Center in Madison when she received treatments for her own cancer diagnosis in 2014.

As a two-time survivor of the disease, Esposito knows firsthand what the words of encouragement mean to patients.

“Every day that you’re going through treatment, you’re feeling worse every day,” she said. “Physically you’re feeling worse, emotionally you’re feeling drained, and spiritually sometimes you can become shaky as well. Having these hope bags that are based in faith and hope not only give you strength spiritually, but they give you strength emotionally.”

St. Clare Hospital Volunteer Coordinator Carrie Dorro said she was immediately in favor of bringing the hope bags to the health care center when Esposito approached her with the idea. She said the project is a good way for young people who are under the age of 16 to volunteer for the hospital.

“I loved the idea because of the links in the chain,” Dorro said. “The patients can take a link off, and they know that’s how much closer they are.”

Esposito said the Girl Scouts want to continue making hope bags for St. Clare Hospital, and expand the project with other troops. She said some girls in Troop No. 4037 have family members who are going through treatment as well, the knowledge of which can provide additional comfort to patients who receive the care packages.

“You’re also aware that someone put these bags together with love, and there are people out there who are thinking of you each day that you’re going through this,” Esposito said. “It really is something that fills you up on the days when you need it the most.”

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @prinsenjake

Baraboo News Republic Reporter