Girl Scout makes scrapbooks for seniors

She watched her grandmother struggle with lung cancer and saw how she cherished a scrapbook she made for her.

When Hannah Heilman, a junior at Greenwood Community High School, was pursuing a project idea to earn the coveted and highest award in Girl Scouts, she decided to make scrapbooks for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients at Greenwood Village South. She presented the residents with their scrapbooks in February.

She spent nearly 150 hours piecing together the books for 15 residents and put in extra pages for them and their families to fill in their own memories.

Anything the residents did in their lives was eligible for the scrapbook, and Heilman worked with each of the families to figure out what should be included. Family members provided written descriptions of memorable things they had done, such as taking vacations, favorite hobbies and favorite foods.

Hannah Heilman, a junior at Greenwood Community High School, goes over the scrapbook she made with Rose Martlage-Henneke, a resident at Greenwood Village South. Heilmade scrapbooks for 15 residents at the retirement community to help them remember their lives.
Hannah Heilman, a junior at Greenwood Community High School, goes over the scrapbook she made with,Sandra Mathews a resident at Greenwood Village South. Heilmade scrapbooks for 15 residents at the retirement community to help them remember their lives.

The intent was to allow residents struggling with diseases that caused memory loss to connect with their memories and to give staff a way to get to know the patients better, said Suzy Heilman, Hannah’s mother.

“My heart was touched. It was so incredible to see how much I was able to touch these residents’ lives,” she said.

Residents cried happy tears when she presented them; one nonverbal resident mouthed “thank you.” The residents now have scrapbooks of their families that some told Heilman they would treasure forever, Hannah Heilman said.

“Many tears and hugs followed as they went through the books together, page by page. The looks of joy on their faces were priceless,” Suzy Heilman said.

Hannah’s project started a few years ago when her grandmother, Pat, was dying of lung cancer.

She decided she wanted to make a scrapbook of her grandmother’s life. The scrapbook has since become a family memento, with family members thumbing through it and friends looking through it at Pat’s funeral, Suzy Heilman said.

“This was a very touching gift from her heart as she and Pat went thru the pages together. That book was looked through many times by other family members during Pat’s time in hospice and then later by Pat’s friends at her funeral,” she said.

When Hannah needed a Gold Scout project, she said she wanted to give some of that same joy to residents of Greenwood Village South.

“The project had a huge impact on my life and was eye-opening,” she said. “I learned so much about each person’s life. It was crazy to see this long life that each person lived, which was unique to themselves.”

Future residents also will be able to have scrapbooks, as Heilman will collect surveys that families fill out and will make scrapbooks for them as well.

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