Sister Lakes teen creates SPD response kits for Girl Scout project

Published 3:21 pm Friday, September 23, 2022

MILTON TOWNSHIP — A local Girl Scout’s latest project aims to help those involved in emergency situations have an improved experience.

Megan Willis, of Sister Lakes, led a presentation on her latest project, Megan’s Calming Kits – and the training to go with them – Thursday at the Southwestern Michigan Community Ambulance Service Milton Township station, 32105 Bertrand St, Niles.

Willis donated and distributed some of her kits to several local EMS departments on hand for the presentation.

According to Willis, one in every 20 children and adults deal with Sensory Processing issues, conditions that effect how brains processes sensory information. The kits were developed in collaboration with Sensory Processing Disorder specialists, paramedics and a paramedic instructor and were created to be used when dealing with individuals with sensory issues during times of crisis.  

“Anytime Emergency Services are involved, it’s a stressful situation for the individuals experiencing the emergency,” Willis said. “The kits and training will provide individuals with more comfort and understanding when they are dealing with what could possibly be the worst experiences of their lives.”

Each kit is designed to help soothe many forms of sensory under and overstimulation and features items including noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, items used for fine motor stimulation such as fidget spinners, a visual communication sheet and more. 

The items were chosen because they are easy to sanitize and inexpensive to replace.

“I think this is a great starting basis for us to be able to get a better understanding of how to do this,” said SMCAS paramedic Jerry Schley. “I have been teaching since 1991 and there isn’t anything substantial in the curriculum for first responders, EMTs, specialist and medics on how to deal with these patients. If we can use Megan’s kits, I think we can start making a dent in this and get a little better training as to what we’re supposed to be doing to help these patients.”

Willis is attending Lake Michigan College after graduating from Paw Paw High School last May. She is also machinist apprentice at Falcon Lakeside Manufacturing in Stevensville. A Girl Scout of 13 years, Willis submitted her Megan’s Calming Kits project for her Girl Scout Gold Award. 

According to Willis, the Gold Award is the highest and most prestigious award in Girl Scouts, and less than 6 percent of eligible girls receive the award. Willis earned her Silver Award by installing a Little Free Library in Sister Lakes.

Willis raised the funds to purchase the kit materials by collecting clean Michigan cans and bottles during the height of the COVID pandemic. According to Willis’ mother, Michelle Pitcher, Willis raised nearly $1,500.

For Willis, the project was not simply a means to an end. She hopes the kits will help people with sensory issues and the first responders who may interact with them during times of crisis. 

“I grew up with family and friends that had sensory issues and my dad is a paramedic,” Willis saiid. “One day we got to talking and realized there really isn’t a lot of education for this EMS district. I wanted to change that because I figured it’s very important. With one in 20 people having sensory issues, you’re gonna run into it way more than you think you are.”