Girl Scouts partner with breast cancer survivor to send a smile to cancer patients

Glenviews Girl Scout Troop number 41623 gets together once a month for activities like baking, craft-making, touring a hospital emergency room or of course selling cookies.

But this months meeting was extra special, when the fourth-graders decided to spend their afternoon giving back by creating custom greeting cards for cancer patients. I like what were doing because my grandma had breast cancer, and I really want to support her, said Kelsey Vega, whose mom, Kathy, hosted the get-together for the 11 girls.

The idea came from troop coleader, Wendy Freimuth, whose sister, Kim Whitehouse, is a breast cancer survivor. Whitehouse is launching an Aurora-based nonprofit, Send A Smile Today, which will provide emotional support to cancer patients by sending them homemade greeting cards.

We thought it would be beneficial to the Girl Scouts to help them understand that they are making a difference in someones life, said Freimuth, whose daughter, Ariana, belongs to the troop. Even if its someone you dont know.

No one really gets mail anymore that isnt bills, said coleader, Jen Gimbel. This is about showing our girls that little things can make a difference, and that the recipients will see that a total stranger cares.

Whitehouse, who lives in Aurora with her husband, Allen, and their two children, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, and described the day she found out as the worst day of my life. I felt like I was going to die. I was sure of it, she said. Once I got more knowledge and talked to my doctors, I realized it wasnt a death sentence.

Whitehouse underwent a lumpectomy, six rounds of chemotherapy and 25 days of radiation; a period in her life she said was emotionally very difficult. What helped her get through it Greeting cards she would receive in the mail, not only from friends and family, but from people she didnt even know.

There were days I would get a card in the mail and it would brighten my day and give me hope and encouragement, she said. It made me feel loved and not forgotten. To get a card showed me that someone took time out of their day to let me know they were thinking of me.

Whitehouse, whose prognosis is excellent, said she came up with the idea for Send a Smile Today when she finished her treatments, and had a strong urge to give back to others with cancer. Launching this July, Send a Smile Today will operate a website through which cancer patients or their friends and family can sign up for greeting card deliveries, either one at a time, or once a month for three, six, nine or 12 months.

In addition to Girl Scout troops, Whitehouse plans to solicit volunteers from Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops, schools, churches, synagogues and community groups. She hopes kids and adults alike will create cards and donate envelopes and stamps. Its a way of teaching kids to be selfless and to give back, Whitehouse said. Plus, its fun and easy. What kid doesnt like to draw pictures and color

Whitehouse said she is trying to stockpile a large supply of finished cards before the launch of the site. Her sisters Girl Scout troop is among the first to contribute. It made me happy to do this because the patients will know that someone is actually caring about them, said troop member Madeline Goldberg.

My aunt is really caring and she wants to help other people while they are going through what she went through, Ariana Freimuth said. Learn more about Send a Smile Today by contacting e-mail