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Determined Patient Overcomes Obstacles in Eagle Scout Project

Project Benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children — Erie

When First Class Boy Scouts of America Scout Riley was 12, he was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. As an active Scout and competitive swimmer, Riley and his family decided to pursue a holistic approach to his treatment. After significant research, Riley’s family selected Shriners Hospitals for Children — Erie for his care. The Erie Shriners Medical Center was the only location within 100 miles of the family’s home in western New York that offered a scoliosis-specific exercise (SSE) program based on the work of Katherina and C.L. Schroth – or the Schroth principles. The Schroth-based method is a curve-specific and comprehensive conservative treatment program that uses exercises to help patients improve their postural alignment and minimize progression of the spinal curvature.

In early 2019, Riley began working with therapist Brittany Ziegler to establish his personalized scoliosis-specific exercise program. The family immediately purchased the equipment needed for in-home daily exercise sessions, including stall bars, which look like a wall ladder. By the summer of 2019, Riley’s posture and core strength had improved significantly.

Riley knew that the equipment his family purchased for his in-home program had cost several hundred dollars, and he wondered if all the patients undergoing SSE were able to afford their own equipment. During one of his regular therapy sessions, Riley asked Brittany if most of her patients had the necessary equipment. He was surprised to learn that only about 25% of the patients had access to stall bars at home, which are not typically covered by medical insurance. Riley immediately wanted to help. His initial idea was to work with his fellow scouts from Fredonia Troop 267 to build stall bars to donate to patients. He had access to the construction plans, woodworking experts and 30-40 volunteers for the project.

By this time, Riley had earned his Star Scout rank and was only two months away from achieving Life Scout rank. Life Scouts must plan, develop and give leadership to others in a service project benefiting an organization outside of scouting. Riley knew this construction project would become his Eagle Scout Service Project. It was a pursuit he believed in and was passionate about. What could go wrong?

Sometimes plans change. After several conversations with the leadership team at the Erie Shriners Medical Center regarding liability concerns, a new plan was developed. In the revised plan, Riley would lead a team to digitize the existing therapy manual and raise money to be used to purchase home SSE equipment for patients.

On January 20, 2020, Riley’s Eagle Scout service project proposal was approved by the Troop Committee. The plan included working with a team of volunteers to transfer the therapy manual into digital form, as well as two fundraising efforts: a letter-writing campaign and a swim-a-thon.

The following day, on January 21, two things happened. First, the project proposal was approved by Shriners Hospitals for Children — Erie. Second, Riley learned that he needed spinal surgery. The surgery was scheduled for March 2020.

Riley revised his project timeline so that fundraising and digital planning would be complete before his March 20 surgery date. He would spend his six-week post-surgery recovery editing and compiling the manual and communicating with his digital team electronically.

The letter-writing campaign began in February and the “Swim for Schroth” swim-a-thon event was held on March 6. Between the two fundraisers, over $5000 was raised for the project. On March 11, the digital team met, jobs and duties were assigned, and work began on the manual. The project was progressing exactly as planned. What could go wrong?

The answer – a global pandemic. Within three days, schools closed and moved to remote instruction, stay-at-home orders were issued and Riley’s surgery was postponed.

Although the timeline would have to be modified again, Riley was determined to complete the project for the patient families of Shriners Hospitals for Children. Finally, on August 17, five weeks post-surgery, Riley delivered 25 copies of the therapy manual, a digital copy of the manual and a check for $5000. Riley’s hard work and unfaltering determination had paid off.

Riley and therapist Brittany

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