Marissa Maynor and Megan Savage met in an Upland kindergarten classroom. The friendship blossomed through the years since both girls were in the same Girl Scout Daisy and Brownie troops.
And then Megan was diagnosed with leukemia. She battled it valiantly for almost three years, but the disease won. Megan died when she was 9.
Her mother, Kim Savage, and family and friends established the Megan Savage Foundation for research into leukemia. Through the years, Marissa and members of now-Senior Girl Scout Troop 1270 have volunteered with the nonprofit to help it succeed in its mission and to honor Megan. Marissa has participated in the annual fundraising runs called the Megan Savage Memorial Run for a Cure.
And now Marissa, a 15-year-old sophomore at St. Lucy's Priory High School, is working on her coveted Gold Award. It will mark the culmination of 11 years of Scouting. When it was time to choose a final project, Marissa didn't hesitate.
"I've always known I wanted to try and earn my Gold Award. It shows leadership and determination. And I've always wanted to do something myself for the foundation, Megan's Wings. I just didn't know what. Then it came to me - build a butterfly garden at McCarthy Park in Upland. Butterflies are the symbol of the foundation, and the park is where the annual fundraising run starts," said Marissa, an Upland resident.
The fifth annual 5K Megan's Run is set for Sept. 26 at McCarthy Park. Participants can register at the foundation's Web site, www.meganswings.org.
More than 700 people are expected. Two hundred butterflies will be released in memory of Megan and others who have lost their lives to cancer.
Marissa's Girl Scout Gold Award advisers said they thought the project was a loving tribute and met a community and global need. Her project binder now will be used as a training tool for future projects.
"Many mementos of Megan are in Marissa's room, and Marissa has always wanted to help Megan's Wings in any capacity needed. I know Megan will always hold a special place in Marissa's heart," said Rose Maynor, Marissa's mother.
"Whenever Marissa sees a butterfly she thinks of Megan, and hopefully others will also when they visit the Butterflies for Hope garden at McCarthy Park. During Marissa's fundraising yard sale for the project, a beautiful butterfly flew by at least three times. Megan truly is watching over us."
Marissa has spent hours researching and planning the garden. She's had fundraisers to help cover expenses. And she said the project will be finished in time for the 5K run.
"The hardest thing about the project is trying to explain to people what the Gold Award is. Most people know all about the Boy Scout Eagle Award. I just say it's the equivalent for young women," she said.
Her fundraising efforts continue, while trying to increase awareness of Girl Scouts, the Gold Award and Megan's Wings.
"I've learned a lot about dealing with obstacles. I've learned to go with the flow," Marissa said.
And what would Megan think? Marissa paused before answering. "I think she would totally be for it," she said as her voice cracked.