Scouts keep Terri Brodeur’s memory alive

Old Saybrook Girl Scouts carry on tradition to honor Terri Brodeur

By KATHLEEN EDGECOMB

There’s a lot of chatter in a room at the Old Saybrook Parks and Recreation Center where a group of girl scouts are working on a project.

With pink and white beads and elastic string, 10 of the 11 members of Girl Scout Troop 60485 are making bracelets to hand out at the first pit stop at the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation’s annual marathon walk Oct. 5. The scouts will be at the rest stop in Old Saybrook, beginning at about 7 a.m. and will stay until every walker has passed by and been given a bracelet.

“We stay from the first walker until the caboose comes by,” said Troop Leader Debbie DeMaio.

It is the 10th year a girl scout troop from Old Saybrook has contributed to the Walk Across Southeastern Connecticut, which annually raises more than $300,000 that goes directly to breast cancer research. In 2013, the troop was recognized at the closing ceremonies of the walk for their contribution to the organization.

With their heads bent over the unfinished bracelets, the sixth-graders’ conversations overlap — It’s fun but frustrating sometimes … One time, my cat jumped on the table and scattered the beads … I worked on my deck but they all fell between the boards … Some people are walking with cancer and there’s a lot of supporters.

“I’ve been working on these since first grade,” says Mia Casertao, as she threads two shades of pink beads separated by a single white bead, the design chosen for this year.

“I hope they find a cure,” says Abby Minegar, whose mother and grandmother have had their own battles with cancer. In addition to making the bracelets, she rode 10 miles in the Closer to Free bicycle ride to raise money for cancer related programs and she is donating her hair to Locks of Love.

“Cancer is a lot in my family,” she says. “These bracelets symbolize hope.”

The girls are determined to carry on the tradition, which began in 2009 to honor Terri Brodeur, the foundation’s namesake and a mother of three from Old Saybrook who died from breast cancer. Terri Brodeur, and her two daughters, as well as her mother were all involved with girl scouts.

“I know Terri would be proud and she’d be honored,” said her sister, Michelle Sottile-Hoyt. “She was involved early on about girls being strong and having a voice. Our family has been involved with Girl Scouts for generations … this is a blessing to me and the rest of the family.”

She said her sister was the kind of person who bought Girl Scout cookies to give to her children’s school bus drivers, hoping the gesture would carry through to more kindness in the world.

“I’m sure she’s up there smiling down on us knowing her girl scouts are carrying on this tradition,” said Terri Savino, the girl scout leader who started the project with her troop of girls in 2009. Her daughter Ashley came up with the idea.

Savino said Terri Brodeur was a mentor to her as a scout leader and as a person, and the troop wanted to honor her memory.

“She was just an incredible person,” she said of her friend. “It was incredible all the time she gave to the community. We thought this was a good way to honor her and keep her memory alive.”

Savino’s troop also brought the project to scouting camps at Harkness State Park and Hammonasset State Park and involved girls from other troops. Savino said when her scouts were seniors in high school, they met with DeMaio’s troop to show them how to make the bracelets. They brought with them supplies, pictures and stories about their experiences.

Over the years, the two troops have created and distributed hundreds of bracelets.

The girls working on the bracelets today say they love handing out the mementos at the walk and marvel at the strength and determination of the walkers who greet them, many with an arm full of bracelets from previous years.

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