By BOB COUPLAND
NILES - Wanting to bring awareness to mental health, a local Girl Scout held a walk and collection at the Eastwood Mall as part of her Gold Award project.
Maddy LaPolla, 17, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School and daughter of Ken and Judi LaPolla, said the Stop the Stigma mental health awareness walkathon included two parts.
The first was the walkathon which had 40 participants walking inside the mall.
LaPolla said to participate, walkers were asked to bring in donations of nonperishable, health and hygiene items and cleaning products which will be given to Beatitude House and Trumbull County Children Services.
The second was raising awareness of mental health issues and remembering the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings last December.
"The Sandy Hook shootings happened at the time I was thinking about my Gold Award project. It was really emotional and tragic for the entire country," LaPolla said.
LaPolla said she wanted to raise awareness to mental health placing information brochures on a table at the event. She said she wondered if the man who shot people and then himself would have done that had he had help.
Because Sandy Hook dealt with children, she said she contacted officials there to see what she could do to help and they suggest that she do something to help local organizations. Donations of cleaning products, office supplies and personal care items were gathered on a table at the mall.
LaPolla of Girl Scout Troop 80889 said her Gold Award also included showcasing various art at the Art Outreach Gallery in the mall with pieces including the color green to raise awareness to mental health. She said green is the symbol of mental health awareness.
"I asked those doing an art piece to incorporate the color green in their work," she said.
Green ribbons have been worn to raise awareness to better the lives of children and youth with serious emotional disorders.
The children's mental health community decided to continue using the color green to signify new life, new growth and new beginnings.
LaPolla said she was able to get classmates to help as volunteers at the event sorting items, walking or doing art pieces.
Allie Vugrincic, a recent JFK graduate, was recruited to help with the show and contributed a painting for the art show.
The Gold Award is the highest award a girl scout can earn.
LaPolla said she has been involved in scouting for 11 years, starting in elementary school.