Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Spotlight on National Young Woman of Distinction, Catherine Riordan

The National Young Women of Distinction honor is given by Girl Scouts of the USA to the top ten Girl Scout Gold Award recipients whose Take Action projects demonstrated outstanding leadership, had a measureable and sustainable impact, and addressed a local challenge related to a national and/or global issue. The girls and their projects will be showcased on the blog in advance of being honored at the 2014 Girl Scout Convention in Salt Lake City this October.

Catherine Riordan: Bringing the Simple Pleasures of the Outdoors to All
Age: 17
Hometown: Solon, Ohio


The pleasure of a picnic on a beautiful day should be available to anyone, right? Sounds simple enough. But in northeast Ohio, Catherine noticed a group of people missing out. Due to the particular design of picnic tables and benches, handicapped and elderly individuals in wheelchairs couldn’t share in the fun. In fact, table and bench designs that would accommodate these people weren’t available at all. Catherine decided to fix this.

How Catherine Is Changing the World:

Catherine designed and built 4 elevated tables and 16 half-benches that split in the middle in order to accommodate any person in a wheelchair. Catherine also designed sensory boards that sit on wheelchair trays and have sensory stimulating items, like plastic flowers, attached to them.

Catherine worked with Hattie Larlham, a nonprofit organization that provides long-term care to people with disabilities in her area. With their helping hand, the designs were made available in two handicapped group homes in her neighborhood. To ensure that her designs were totally available without cost, Catherine obtained provisional patents.

On top of all that action, she showed her designs off at the Tolerance Fair, an annual event that raises public awareness and provides resources to people with disabilities. At the fair, Catherine chatted with over 100 people interested in her project!

Attention to detail and organizational skills were keys to this project’s success, Catherine noted. She nailed it! Her efforts truly show what a person can accomplish when they are committed to helping others.

The grand finale of the project was a picnic for the residents, their families, and the staff. Catherine’s designs have been and continue to be well loved, with residents enjoying the opportunity to spend more time in the great outdoors.

Next Steps:

This fall Catherine will enter her senior year of high school. She is also working on getting her designs up on Home Depot and Lowe’s “How To” pages so that everyone has their fair share of fun in the sun!