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Megan Ferris didn’t join Girl Scouts of America on her own accord, rather her mother gave her a loving nudge into the organization when she was just in pre-school.

“I wasn’t even really old enough to be in Girl Scouts, so I kind of just tagged along with the (kindergarten) Daisy Troop,” Ferris recalled. “I think she (mom) just wanted to make sure that I would have something to be part of and a good way to make friends as I got older.”

After officially joining the organization as a Daisy Troop member in kindergarten, Ferris never looked back and ultimately climbed all the way through the ranks by becoming a Girl Scout Ambassador and Gold Award recipient this summer.

The Gold Award, the most prestigious honor bestowed upon any Girls Scout, was given to 21 scouts throughout the state of Nebraska this year. Recipients of the award must have completed several steps, or “journeys,” and be in ninth through 12th grade.

“It (journeys) prepares you to go out and talk to people and community members and makes sure you have the skills to be well-rounded,” said Ferris, a 2018 graduate of Lakeview High School. “It helps you build the skills you need to complete your project.”

Ferris, who was presented her Gold Award on June 20 in Grand Island, set her eyes on completing a project that drew attention to the importance of people in Platte County donating blood through the American Red Cross.

Project requirements included that it be voluntary in nature, more than 20 hours of project planning be involved and that it is sustainable; the project must benefit the community down the line after completion.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the health field and I really like giving blood and doing my part – the whole process,” said Ferris, who is attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha in the fall while working part-time at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha.

Ferris said that while attending Lakeview High School she helped with the school’s two annual blood drives and that she’d already started learning the ropes from American Red Cross Account Manager Kyle Jensen.

So, she said, it made sense that she funnel one of her passions into her Gold Award project. After getting her 20 hours of project planning approved through Girl Scout leaders, Ferris’ anatomy and physiology instructor at Lakeview High, Nicole Miller, was approved to be her Gold Award sponsor. Ferris began spreading the word of her project by hosting get-togethers with local Girl Scout troops, youth groups and other peer groups to speak on the importance of blood donation.

She also had to find a way to make her project sustainable, which she found when contacting former Shell Creek Elementary Principal Josh Graves, who committed to having an annual blood drive at the school on Jan. 2 of each year. On Jan. 2, Ferris coordinated a blood drive that resulted in 29 units – pints – of blood being donated to the American Red Cross.

“That amount of blood can save up to 81 lives,” she said.

Jensen said that having consistent donations is vital because donations expire after 42 days of shelf life. Jensen said he helped Ferris with various components of blood drive coordination, many of which he said most people wouldn’t even consider.

“There are a lot of different aspects with blood drives and donation that many (people) don’t even think about,” he said.

Typically, Jensen hosts around 15 blood drives in Columbus monthly while also serving counties located within an hour proximity. In July, however, he and his team completed a staggering 37.

“It’s a lot of fun to see Megan and other kids get involved with these Leaders Save Lives projects,” he said. “It puts them in a leadership role, they have to find a location and find people to donate and really just put in a lot of their own time to giving back … Megan actually just came in a couple of weeks ago and donated, and that’s big because in the summer we don’t have a lot of the kids around to donate.”

Although her project is complete, Ferris said her time with the American Red Cross is far from over.

“My favorite part about the whole thing was the involvement with the Red Cross,” she said. “And now I will always have those skills and know how everything works. I want to volunteer for the Red Cross and continue being a blood drive coordinator the older I get. It’s going to be a lifelong involvement with something that is really special and saves lives.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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