Abbigail McGee earns Gold Award for project at Liberty Village

Claudia Loucks
Abbigail McGee, a senior at Geneseo High School, recently finished work for her Girl Scout Gold Award, a Butterfly Garden at Liberty Village Memory Care Addition.

Abbigail McGee used her creativity to pay tribute to the residents in the Memory Care addition at Liberty Village in Geneseo and at the same time honor her late grandfather.

McGee, the daughter of Shawn and Taunya McGee, and an Ambassador Girl Scout in Troop 8655, recently completed a Butterfly Garden at the Memory Care addition, an achievement that has earned her the Girl Scout Gold Award – “the mark of the truly remarkable – proof that not only can you make a difference, but that you already have.”

The young woman and her parents recently hosted a Butterfly Release of 24 butterflies to complete the project in the courtyard of the Memory Care Addition for residents and staff to watch and provided cookies and refreshments after the ceremony.

McGee said, “A butterfly release is a beautiful way to make this celebration memorable and unique.”

When asked why she chose to work on the Gold Award Project, McGee said, “Ambassador Scouts who earn the Gold Award tackle issues that are dear to them and drive lasting change in their communities and beyond. I have worked on this project for the past two years, beginning when I was Senior Girl Scout.”

McGee worked diligently to find a need in her community…”Over the past two years I identified a need to honor and recognize those persons who are fighting, or have fought, the battle with Alzheimer’s and Dementia,” she said. “When Liberty Village met the need for a Memory Care unit in our community, I decided this would be the perfect location to build a tribute to those patients.”

“I worked with a local artist and landscaper to design the garden and fountain that would make a lasting change by encouraging healthy pollination by butterflies as well as remind us all of the battle many elderly patients fight with memory issues,” she said. “This issue is important to me as my grandfather, (Samuel Splear of Geneso), fought his own battle for four years. I wanted to honor him and all the families who are part of the Alzheimer’s community.”

When she learned about the new Memory Care section being added to Liberty Village, McGee said she knew that a butterfly garden would be a perfect addition and tribute to the residents living there…Everything fell into place once I learned that butterflies are a symbol of hope and I started making phone calls and creating a plan.”

“I believe that the residents and employees will enjoy the ability to look or step outside and see a garden with more meaning that what first meets the eye,” McGee said. “I hope that the residents feel understood as they look at my garden and know that as a butterfly symbolizes hope, they should feel hopeful as well to continue their battle with Alzheimer’s.”

She added, “When you have Alzheimer’s, it’s like you’re in a cocoon. When a person has Alzheimer’s or another dementia, they seem to withdraw and become another person, even though they’re not. We don’t have a cure yet, but we have the greatest hope that there will be one someday.”

The butterflies arrived at the McGee home individually in origami folded butterfly release envelopes…”Guests at my celebration unfolded and opened the envelopes completely to fill the sky with a wonderful spectacle of butterflies,” she said. “I hope that many of these butterflies will find refuge in the garden I have created, and even given hope to those who battle Alzheimer’s.”

McGee shared that she believes the Butterfly Release for the residents at the Memory Care addition was “a beautiful way to make this celebration memorable and unique.”

The Butterfly Garden holds many plants that attract butterflies and McGee included a homemade fountain that provides small amounts of standing water, necessary for butterfly growth.

“I have installed butterfly houses so that the creatures can make a lasting home in the garden,” she said. “Finally, I have included in-scripted stones to remind everyone of the importance of butterflies and their symbolic importance at Liberty Village.”

In sharing about the design of the fountain in the garden, McGee said, “We ordered the flagstone, glue, pump, solar panel, and tub of water to assemble ourselves. This fountain is completely unique in the way that we marked and drilled the holes in each stone before gluing and placing them.”

The fountain also is solar-powered instead of electric which makes McGee’s project all the more self-sustaining.

Her journey in scouting began when she was in kindergarten, in the fall of 2009, and has been with the same Girl Scout Troop, 8655, for the last 13 years, passing through all six levels of scouting – Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, Senior and Ambassador. She is now in her final year of scouting as an Ambassador Girl Scout.

In the last 13 years, McGee has earned multiple leadership awards including the Junior Aide Award, Bronze Award, Program Aide Distinction, Silver Award, Volunteer-in-Training Distinction, and now the Gold Award, in addition to earning many service project awards including the Service to Girl Scouting pin, Journey Summit Award at multiple levels, and the Silver Torch.

Miss McGee plans to attend Black Hawk College in the fall for two years and then attend a four-year college to continue her studies in an undecided major.

“I hope to determine my career path after being exposed to unique classes this year such as ceramics, sociology and psychology.”

She also works at McDonald’s in Geneseo as a cashier and at the front counter.

Her other interests are piano as she has been taking lessons for 11 years and Tae kwon do for nearly five years.

She has started taking guitar lessons, is on the Tennis team at Geneseo High School, where she also in Link Crew, Key Club, National Honor Society and Radio Broadcasting.