FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — In pursuit of the Girl Scout Gold Award, a 17-year-old Williamson County girl started the Pink Chair Project to offer women recovering from breast cancer surgery a free recliner chair.
Olivia Bratcher started Girl Scouts as a 5th grader. Fast forward a few years, the 17-year-old seeking the highest Girl Scout award was in search of a sustainable project.
"[The Gold Award] is a project that identifies an issue in your community and solves it with a sustainable solution," said Bratcher. "I knew that this was a need when my mom was going through this and thought, ‘Oh, no, I have to get a recliner,’ But recliners—It's, I mean, it's a whole nother piece of furniture to buy."
Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 and was offered a recliner chair by a friend to use during her recovery from her first surgery.
"It's hard to stay comfortable. And if you do it incorrectly, or put too much strain on your body, then you actually go backward, and you kind of have to restart your recovery," explained Bratcher who watched her mom recover. "So, it's very important to, for people to stay in their recliner chair and stay relaxed, and basically on bed rest for a while."
But, when it came time for her mother's second reconstruction surgery, the chair was checked out.
"[My mom] said that she wanted to borrow it again. But, it was unavailable because another woman was using it. And I thought, 'Oh my goodness, that's something that I can do. And that's something that is so dear to me and I saw how it made a difference in my mom's recovery.' So I definitely wanted to do something to help people have the same experience that my mom and my family did during that hard time," explained Bratcher.
This thought, along with the need for a Gold Award project idea, birthed the Pink Chair Project.
"The Pink Chair Project was created to provide comfort and encouragement to breast cancer survivors by lending a recliner chair for use as they recover post-surgery," said Bratcher. "The chairs represent a legacy of love and hope as they travel from home to home allowing women to heal physically and emotionally."
Bratcher presented her idea to the Williamson Medical Center Foundation and quickly gained support.
"Olivia reached out and we began conversations, and I knew immediately that this was something that we would absolutely want to support," recounted Williamson Medical Center Foundation Development Director and Gold Award Project Mentor. "When I heard Olivia's desire to bless our patients in that way, I remember one of our physicians saying, 'What an incredible thing. And you can count on me for support.' So I think that the realization that somebody who is achieving a project like that, you know, because that's like the Eagle Scout award, and Boy Scouts, which we all know that those are big projects. But this Gold Award is something that is sustainable."
A true connector, Bratcher then started reaching out to local furniture stores to find someone to buy chairs from as well as store, transport and sanitize them for free for years to come.
"When Olivia brought the idea to me I knew I wanted to jump in to help her get this project off the ground," explained Head Springs Depot furniture store owner Seth Hall. "She is a dynamic young lady and who obviously had a heart to help others who have a similar journey to her mother/family. We have dispatched a couple of high quality U.S. manufacturers to build the recliners to get the initial group of these available for local patients coming out of surgery at Williamson Medical."
Home Springs Depot ordered the chairs at cost and helped Bratcher get her project off the ground, "Our marketing team has assembled a basic logo package and are designing/sourcing all of her marketing signage. It’s been need to see the ladies on the marketing team rally around her as well," said Hall.
"This project is more than just the Gold Award to me," stated Bratcher. "You're supposed to, at the end of your senior year, you have your project and it's checked off, basically. And you kind of walk away and your partners keep it going. And it's sustainable. But I don't think I'll ever be able to walk away from project like this."
So far, Bratcher has raised $5,000 for her project, enough to purchase five recliner chairs for breast cancer patients chosen by the Breast Health Navigators at Williamson Medical Center.
"Her persistence, and just her heart and her passion, have taken her so far," said Williams. "And, I really expect to see this project going for years to come. I even think that the project could grow. I think it would be a great example for other hospitals for other for even for other states, I know that the sky's the limit."
To help Bratcher continue her mission, make a donation toward the Pink Chair Project by clicking here.