Emily Ruggieri is a six year old Girl Scout on a mission to deliver more than cookies to patients at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. She wants to bring kids hope and a smile too from every state in America.

What started out as the annual Girl Scout cookie sale with her troop, #28863, in southwestern Pennsylvania, has taken on a very special meaning for Emily.

Her mother, Suzanne explained, “She was just 18 months old when her father, Ethan Milliron, passed away at the age of 24 from Osteosarcoma, a childhood bone cancer. He had developed his cancer at the age of 16 and received outstanding care at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Through the annual Girl Scout cookie sale “Gift of Caring” option, troops can choose a charity and Emily and her family suggested Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh as the beneficiary.

”When Emily learned that the troop would be collecting for the hospital, she took it upon herself to collect from as many people as she could. She went door to door. If they said, ‘We already bought cookies,’ Emily asked them if they would still donate.” And they did.

Two other Girl Scout troops got involved in the effort and made Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh their charity too.

Suzanne said, “When Emily started out, her goal was to have 200 boxes of cookies donated. She surpassed that effort and every time she made a new goal, she reached it.”

Yesterday, Emily’s goal was to collect 1,056 boxes. Because donations are now pouring in, she raised the bar higher, hoping to get 1,584 boxes of cookies bought from across the country. “She wants to present a map of all 50 states to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to show the patients there that someone cares in every state,” said her father, John Ruggieri.

Suzanne commented, “The donated cookies will be placed in the hospital’s food pantries that are located on each floor.” She knows the pantries well as she spent time there with Ethan.

“He had been in remission for nearly five years, when his cancer returned two weeks before our wedding. Even though he was a young adult, Ethan was able to continue his care there.

Each floor at the hospital has a pantry for patients and their families. They are kept stocked with things like crackers, cereal, milk, even formula. I know what the pantries mean to families,” she said.

Emily’s goal is to put five cases of cookies in each of the hospital’s 22 food pantries in honor of the outstanding care her father received as a patient.

A Facebook effort started by her parents to help Emily reach her new goal is taking off. So far, she has collected 910 boxes from 42 states and is coloring each state on her map as donations come in.

“It’s wonderful to see people joining together, from everywhere, to support this cause and we are so very grateful,” said Suzanne.

For Emily, this is a geography lesson and an art project that’s inspiring people across the country to make a difference. And it’s personal.

Emily and dad

“I’m doing this because I want to make sick kids and my daddy happy and to smile, she said.”

The Girl Scout cookie drive continues through February 15th. To help Emily reach her goals of delivering cookies and smiles to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, email John and Suzanne at gscookies4chp@gmail.com.

“People who Inspire” is a series to shine a spotlight on people who have done extraordinary things. If you have experienced a great adventure, survived a life-threatening illness or trauma, overcome obstacles in achieving a goal, or have made an impact on someone’s life, I’d love to hear from you to share your story. Email me at marymotivates@gmail.com so that we can inspire others to be unstoppable in the pursuit of their goals.

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