June

Girl Scouts from Troop 3965, including, clockwise from bottom left, Nichole Johnson, Katey Rae Quick, Ellie Kegley, Zoey Dowdy, Maggie Josey and Presleigh Stigler, were inspired to make quilts for babies in the NICU at Children’s of Mississippi.
Girl Scouts from Troop 3965, including, clockwise from bottom left, Nichole Johnson, Katey Rae Quick, Ellie Kegley, Zoey Dowdy, Maggie Josey and Presleigh Stigler, were inspired to make quilts for babies in the NICU at Children’s of Mississippi.
Main Content

Girl Scouts sew up Bronze Awards with NICU quilting project

Published on Monday, June 7, 2021

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

Giraffes and bears, flowers and rainbows, squares and starbursts. All these prints and more were stitched together as quilts for babies in neonatal intensive care in the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi.

A Bronze Award project by Junior Girl Scout Troop 3965 of Florence resulted in 93 handmade quilts donated to the state’s only Level IV NICU, the highest level of care.

After Evan Johnson, the youngest brother of troop member Nichole Johnson, started life there, the troop and their leader, Jessica Dowdy, knew their Bronze Award project should help neonatal intensive care.

“We’re so happy that Evan’s time in the NICU is resulting in a project that’s meaningful for Nichole and her fellow Girl Scouts,” said Ashley Johnson, a research scientist in pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Girl Scout Troop 3965 leader Jessica Dowdy holds a baby quilt she made for Evan Johnson, held by mom Ashley Johnson, a research scientist at UMMC. Evan's stay in neonatal intensive care inspired the Girl Scout troop to make quilts for babies in the NICU at the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children's of Mississippi.
Girl Scout Troop 3965 leader Jessica Dowdy holds a baby quilt she made for Evan Johnson, held by his mother, Ashley Johnson, a research scientist at UMMC.

Johnson’s water broke at 23 weeks, bringing her to Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants, where she stayed for six weeks until Evan’s birth. Topping 2 pounds, he stayed in the NICU 73 days.

“My hospital stay and his gave me a great appreciation for the clinical care side of UMMC,” Johnson said.

Dowdy welcomed Evan to the world with a handmade quilt, which sparked the idea for Troop 3965’s Bronze Award project.

“This is really a project that could be Gold level,” Dowdy said, referring to the top award in Girl Scouting. “They’ve all worked so hard on this and have learned about quilting, measurements, math and social media.”

After months of planning, the project began with the troop learning the art of quilting from Dowdy and creating videos of the experience for the Facebook page Troop #3965 Quilt-Along in March.

“Every day during spring break, we were learning to quilt and making videos,” Dowdy said. “After that, we were stitching whenever we’d get together.”

Junior Girl Scout Zoey Dowdy carries a stack of handmade quilts to present to the neonatal intensive care floors at the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children's of Mississippi. Babies in the NICU will receive the future heirlooms.
Junior Girl Scout Zoey Dowdy carries a stack of handmade quilts to present to the neonatal intensive care floors at the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children's of Mississippi.

Word got around about Troop 3965’s project, and soon quilters from around the country were joining in, sending the troop quilts to add to their donation.

“Each girl in the troop made two quilts, so we had 12 quilts that we made, plus 81 quilts that were sent in,” Dowdy said. “They’re all beautifully done, and each one is different. One of them came with a label that read, ‘Someone cares in Texas.’”

Dowdy, who has led Troop 3965 since they were at the Daisy level five years ago, plans to keep progressing with the girls through the Girl Scout ranks.

The troop members and their families met NICU nurses at the entrance of the state’s only children’s hospital to present the quilts, which filled a cart to overflowing. Each girl was presented with a plaque honoring Bronze Award achievements.

“It was hard, but I liked it,” said Junior Girl Scout Ellie Kegley.

Her mother, Katie Kegley, said the project was a learning experience that was worth the effort.

“If a family receives one of these quilts and realizes that someone was thinking about them before their baby was even born, then this was worth all their hard work.”

The NICU will put the colorful blankets to good use, said nurse educator Becky Harrison. “We always need Isolette covers, and these quilts will be a memory from the NICU that families can take home as a keepsake.”