Volunteer work brings recognition for Farmington teenSometimes, the inspiration to help others comes from unlikely situations. Just ask Farmington High School senior Jessica Autey. Two years ago, Autey and her family spent a lot of time at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
Sometimes, the inspiration to help others comes from unlikely situations. Just ask Farmington High School senior Jessica Autey.
Two years ago, Autey and her family spent a lot of time at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. Her younger brother, Timmy, had cancer. June will be the second anniversary of his death.
“He fought cancer there for almost a year,” she said. “When we figured out Jimmy wasn’t going to make it, we still wanted to figure out something to do for Children’s because they were so good to our family,” she said.
Spending all that time at the U of M hospital, Autey noticed there were lots of donations and gifts for the kids who had cancer, but it seemed like teenagers didn’t get the same kind of attention. She asked, and found out that at any given time, there are about 20 teenagers at the hospital. Autey decided she wanted to help.
Autey joined Girl Scouts when she was in first grade. As a senior, she and classmate Amber Cummings were looking for a project to do for their Gold Award, the highest honor Girl Scouts offers. Autey came up an idea. They could make gift bags for the teenagers at the U of M hospital.
“I knew that if we were teenagers there, I would want people to think of me and want me to keep fighting, too,” she said.
Autey and Cummings set to work. They decided to do 200 activity bags for the hospital, but that would require money. So, they did a car wash and a garage sale. They made about $1,600 to get started.
They tried to get as much as they could for the money they had. Going to dollar stores and seeking out sales helped, but pretty soon it became evident they may have another problem. It turned out, they had a hard time spending the whole amount.
They had hoped for a few donations to help along the way. But they received more than they expected. The company that makes Queasy Pops, a sucker that helps calm the stomach of kids who have taken chemotherapy treatments, donated 220 of the pops. HalfPrice Books in Apple Valley donated three boxes of books.
It was a good problem to have.
“We had this whole bunch of money, and we had to spend every penny of it, but it was a hard thing to do because we couldn’t get rid of the money,” she said.
All told, Autey and Cummings made 216 activity bags for teenagers. On Dec. 18, right before Christmas, they delivered the bags to the hospital. Though they could not hand the bags out themselves, they still felt good about what they had done to help the kids there.
The project did what it was intended, too. The teens successfully earned their Gold Award and completed their time with the Girl Scouts.
“My whole Girl Scout troop, we loved to volunteer when we were younger. I like helping people. That’s just my personality,” Autey said.
When she heard about the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, which is offered by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Autey decided to enter the activity bag project. Autey was named a runner-up in the contest.
That recognition caught the attention of Farmington mayor Todd Larson, who invited her to attend the Feb. 21 city council meeting for recognition. Two days later, Congressman John Kline gave her his Star of the North Award.
“And so that was my week,” she said. “I’m definitely proud of myself. I like helping people. That’s just me.”