Teen works to support cancer patients, their families

Garrett Diegnan

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Garrett Diegnan has nearly two years left to finish his Eagle Scout project, but he’s well on his way to his $4,000 fundraising goal for supplies to assemble care packages for cancer patients and their families to be delivered to the Cancer Center at Overlook Hospital in Summit. His GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $1,000 in one month, and he has physical donations coming in as well. The packages will be filled with items to support patients and their families through the cancer treatment process — something Diegnan and his own family have experienced. His mother had cancer, and the Columbia High School sophomore remembers the support people gave when she needed it.

“When my mom had to spend nights at the hospital and my dad was with her, people would help out and make us dinner and bring other things over,” Diegnan, who is 16 years old, said in a phone interview with the News-Record on May 25. “So I wanted to give back and help out those people that need it.”

A member of Maplewood Boy Scout Troop 5, Diegnan is currently a Life Scout, the level before Eagle Scout. To achieve the higher rank, he must finish the project before he turns 18. Diegnan is confident he’ll be able to put together 500 care packages before the year is finished. In addition to monetary donations, he is looking for other items to contribute.

“They don’t get things for the families,” he said about the patients at Overlook. “So if there are kids who have to be in waiting rooms, there should be coloring books and books to read. Then there’s the stuff for the patients, like toothpaste and brushes and water bottles.”

For the patient care baskets, Diegnan is hoping to include items like candy, cookies, lip balm, tissues and notes from Scouts. For families, he would like to also include playing cards, restaurant gift cards, stickers, stuffed animals and earbuds.

“I have to finish by the time I’m 18, and I’m 16 now,” Diegnan said. “So I have some time. I’m hoping to start putting them together this year.”

Visit www.gofundme.com/garrett-diegnan-eagle-project to make a donation to Diegnan’s project.