Maddie Wright, a 15-year-old Girl Scout and rising sophomore at Orange High School, has a mission to accomplish.
Wright is working on her Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve. Last year, she was diagnosed with scoliosis. That diagnosis has become the inspiration for an in-depth Gold Award project focusing on awareness and early detection of the condition.
“A lot of people don’t know what scoliosis is,” Wright said. “I was diagnosed before my freshman year of high school, but I’d had scoliosis for awhile. No one caught it, and now it won’t be able to be fully treated.”
Wright’s Gold Award won’t be completed until her senior year of high school, but she started work ahead of time with a plan to work steadily over the next few years.
Her first order of business has been working to designate June as Scoliosis Awareness Month in Hillsborough. Wright wrote a proclamation and took it to a Town of Hillsborough meeting on May 13, officially proclaiming June’s dedication to her cause.
“I’m inspired by young leaders like Maddie, who see an opportunity to make their world and their community a better place, then jump right in to make it happen,” Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said.
Wright has designed some brochures educating the public on scoliosis, and has also received educational materials and support from the National Scoliosis Foundation. She is currently working on a series of mini projects including planning a booth at her school’s health fair, and is giving special attention to one important component of scoliosis awareness — increasing screening in schools.
“Some states do screening for scoliosis early on in schools,” Wright said. “My school didn’t do this, and I’m hoping to work to get screenings in Orange County Schools. It’s more common for girls to get scoliosis, and it’s typically best to screen them in fifth and seventh grades. Boys are usually screened in sixth and eighth grade.”
Wright’s own diagnosis did not prohibit her from going about her usual activities — in addition to school and Scouts she’s on the tennis team, plays guitar and volunteers at the Red Cross with her mom — but she was required to wear a back brace for a year.
While the brace comes off in July and the required period for her to wear it wasn’t as long as some others suffering from scoliosis, it still made an impact on her day-to-day.
“I didn’t think my scoliosis would be a big deal, but I got upset when I heard about the brace,” Wright said. “I’m a girly-girl and I like to wear feminine clothing, but the brace meant I had to wear baggy clothes for my freshman year of high school.”
After her Gold Award is completed, Wright plans to attend college. She said that, after her own Girls Scouts journey finishes up, she hopes to mentor others in the program as they complete their own Gold Awards.
“It’s a great way to do big projects that make an impact on your community,” she said. “Girl Scouts got me out of my shell, helped with my leadership skills and made me get out in my community.”
Previous to her Gold Award, Wright has pursued and received both her Bronze Award and Silver Award from Girl Scouts. In fifth grade, for the bronze, she helped rework her school’s garden with a friend. In seventh grade, for her silver, she worked with the same friend to renovate a library at a local women and children’s shelter, giving the space a fresh coat of paint, new furniture and updated books.
This project is her most personal, and her Girl Scouts Troop Leader Lauren Irving said that Wright’s passion shines through in her work with scoliosis awareness.
“Maddie Wright is very passionate about raising scoliosis awareness in our community and our schools,” she said. “It is my great hope that she can make a real difference for children in our area. Maddie is a shining example of how a Girl Scout can make the world a better place.”