Scouts help hospital with service projects

When 17-year-old Matt Walther was searching for a meaningful service project for his Eagle Scout award, he found that he could not only earn the Boy Scouts of America's highest rank but  also say "thank you" to the hospital that once provided care for his grandmother.

Scouts Matt Walther, who built 13 mobile media shelves, and Noureen Karimi, who collected DVDs, book and CDs, earned the Eagle Scout Award and Gold Award respectively for their efforts on behalf of UT Southwestern Medical Center bone-marrow patients. Dr. Robert Collins (right) and hospital chaplain Gina Biddle (left) presented a plaque to the youths.

Matt, a junior at Irving's Cistercian Preparatory School and a member of Troop 838, was familiar with the bone marrow transplant unit at UT Southwestern University Hospitals because his grandmother had once been a patient there. When he heard that there was a need for rolling media shelves in each of the 13 rooms on the unit, he put his woodworking skills to use to design and build pine shelves to hold CD players, DVDs, videos, books and magazines.

"People have been pretty impressed with them," Matt said. "They ask if they were made from a kit, but each one is handmade."

Matt worked on the shelves from March until July, estimating that he has put more than 100 hours into the project. On July 7, Matt, his parents -- Todd and Theresa Walther -- his sister, and several friends delivered the units to the seventh floor of the Zale Lipshy building. And, thanks to Mrs. Walther, a Girl Scouts of America counselor, the shelves are filling fast. She suggested that one of her scouts add to the project.

Noureen Karimi, 18, a member of Girl Scout Troop 2143 in Carrollton, is collecting DVDs, CD players, CDs, books and videos to place on the shelves for each patient room in the unit. Noureen will earn the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting, before leaving for Oxford College of Emory University. Noureen said she was drawn to a hospital-oriented project because she hopes to become a pediatrician.

"One day, I would like to collaborate with an architect and engineer to build my own hospital," Noureen said. "I would like to create it in a way that it sends a warm and comforting vibe for those who are in the midst of recovering."

Dr. Robert Collins, director of the Hematopoietic Cell Transplant Program and professor of internal medicine, and Gina Biddle, hospital chaplain, who coordinated the projects with the scouts, presented a plaque to Matt and Noureen to thank them for their service to the hospital.