BEDFORD, NH – One in 12 children experience the death of a parent or sibling before the age of 18. Despite this relatively common occurrence, there are very few grief programs in schools or communities that can help children cope, heal and grow.
The taboo against talking about death is still strong in our society. Gold Award Girl Scout Jenna Dinndorf took on this difficult issue, working with the Manchester grief assistance group Friends of Aine, by creating an art campaign that allows grieving children to express themselves and raise awareness of grief as a mental health issue.
Dinndorf, 17, of Bedford, earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor, the Girl Scout Gold Award, with her project, Grieving Through Art. The Gold Award is the pinnacle of a Girl Scout’s experience, available to those in grades 9-12.
She was close to Aine Marie Phillips (pronounced AHN-ya), who died unexpectedly at the age of 8 in 2010. Aine was a Girl Scout at the time, in Troop 22190.The nonprofit Friends of Aine was begun to provide bereavement support services and resources to children and families in her honor.
“Grief is not as talked about as it should be,” said Dinndorf. “There's a certain stigma around it, and I think it's really important to just get rid of that stigma as much as possible.”
Dinndorf’s project has two main parts. One was to create a collection of art from children ages 4-18 and use it in an exhibit to raise awareness about grief and the resources provided by Friends of Aine. That exhibit has traveled to the Nashua YMCA, the Fisher Cats stadium in Manchester for the annual Gathering and Remembrance, the Boys and Girls Club, Flight Coffee in Bedford, and is currently on display at the Manchester-Boston International Airport near the baggage claim. Coping Cards is the second part of the project, which is a series of laminated cards with the children’s art that each have an idea of how to cope with grief, such as gazing at stars, exercising, making cookies, or helping someone out. Decks of these cards have been put in more than 125 backpacks with other items and sent to schools all over New Hampshire. Friends of Aine will sustain the project into the future.
Advisor Christine Phillips of Friends of Aine said Dinndorf’s project meant the world to her.
“Both Jenna’s sisters were Aine’s friends so many years ago,” she said. “Jenna is my daughter Bella’s friend, and Linda has worked with us from the very beginning of Friends of Aine, more than 10 years ago. To have their support through our struggles and triumphs is a blessing. They are exceptional people and our dearest friends.”
She added that the project has been a big asset to her organization on two fronts.
“First, it has given children the option to share their grief through their art, which is hugely expressive and necessary for trauma kids, and ultimately speaks to our mission,” she said. “Second, it has given us a tangible art exhibit that is traveling around the state bringing awareness to child bereavement.”
Working on her project taught Dinndorf a variety of skills, from organizing and coordinating a team to the value of communicating and answering emails. She was also inspired by two older sisters who also earned the Gold Award.
“That was something I wanted to achieve, too,” she said. “You're really helping the community.”
Dinndorf has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten, and has many good memories of her experience.
“My favorite memories were always just the ones where my troop was together, and we were just hanging out and having a good time,” she said, reminiscing about helping an animal shelter, bonfires, dance nights, selling cookies, and making lasting friendships.
Dinndorf is currently an honors student and junior at Bedford High School taking IB classes. She participates in soccer, hockey and track at the school. She swims for the Bedford Barracudas and dances at the Bedford Dance Center. She looks forward to going to college and staying connected with her community, helping in any way she can.
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Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good. The Gold Award is earned by girls in grades 9–12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in developing sustainable solutions to local, national, and global challenges. Since 1912, Girl Scouts have answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change. They earn college scholarships, demonstrate high educational and career outcomes, and are active in their communities.
Jenna Dinndorf has answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change, and her Gold Award is a testament to her remarkable dedication to improving her community and the world.
About the Girl Scout Gold Award