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On Sept. 29, Girl Scouts of Western New York presented the Girl Scouts of the USA Lifesaving Award, the Girl Scout Medal of Honor and the GSWNY Certificate of Merit to Leah, a seventh-grade Cadette Girl Scout. Her heroic actions saved the life of her neighbor after her zero-turn lawnmower rolled on top of her. GSWNY CEO Alison Wilcox presented the award at the GSWNY Buffalo Service Center in front of Leah’s family and troop leader Teresa Souder.
On May 20, while Leah was remotely attending school from home in her living room, she looked out the window and saw the neighbor accidentally roll her lawnmower on top of herself. Thinking fast, Leah informed her mother what happened and then called 911. Her mother, Jennifer, ran to help while Leah raced from door to door looking for more assistance to lift the heavy lawnmower. She found one more neighbor who was home that could come help. It required all three of them to lift the mower due to the immense weight and size.
When asked what was running through her mind during the events, Leah commented, “It was kind of something I couldn’t comprehend. I was nervous, but I wanted to make sure she was OK. It was just a bunch of jumbled emotions all at the same time.”
She said having adults depend on her was a little scary, “But I felt confident that they believed in me. Being a Girl Scout definitely prepared me. Miss Teresa taught us first aid, what to do in an emergency situation, and to be prepared.”
Once the lawnmower was lifted, Leah performed shock prevention by fetching a blanket, getting an umbrella to shield her neighbor from the sun, and talking to the neighbor to keep her calm and as comfortable as possible until the ambulance arrived.
At the ceremony, Leah said, “Thank you for the Medal of Honor. It respects the values I have learned over my years as a daughter, sister, friend and Girl Scout. In this emergency situation, I remained calm and used the skills and knowledge that I have learned throughout life; and the Girl Scout activities that I have participated in that taught me courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place. I thank God every day that he puts me in the right places at the right times.”
Jennifer stated, “I’m very proud of Leah for her quick thinking and the compassion and empathy that she shows on a daily basis. I feel very proud and very secure knowing that, if an emergency arises or when something happens, Leah steps up to the plate and get things done.”
Souder added, “With each Girl Scout leader, they excel at something. I happen to be a nurse, so I did a lot with the girls as far as first aid, teaching them they have to be patient and they have to be calm. I think those were important things to teach them.”
First aid badges are a part of the Girl Scout program starting as young as kindergarten with girls learning the basics such as when to call 911 or asking for help from adults. The topics girls learn progress with age, expanding to skills such as caring for injuries in remote wilderness areas or triaging common medical conditions until emergency services arrive.
Wilcox applauded Leah: “Leah serves as an example of a role model, not only for other girls, but even for the adults of the community. The compassion and quick thinking she took that day shows that she is a leader with heart. The fact that she was able to use skills learned from Girl Scouts speaks to the power of the program and the connection her troop leader has with the girls to prepare them for situations like this. Leah’s ability to stay calm and problem-solve saved a life! That’s no small feat and we’re so proud of her.”
National GSUSA Interim CEO Judith Batty wrote to Leah in a letter, stating, “Your extraordinary courage, incredible confidence, and your willingness to take decisive action in the midst of an emergency has not only saved a life, but also serves as a shining example for Girl Scouts everywhere of fortitude and dedication. Your heroism and sound judgment have earned you a place in the pantheon of heroes who have come before you and left an indelible mark on the Girl Scouts.”