When Trevor Tonsing began planning his Eagle Scout project in 2009, he not only wanted to make a difference, he also hoped to give back to a community that had touched his life personally.
Born in 1993 with complex congenital heart defects, Trevor underwent a series of surgeries at Children’s Hospital Oakland, Calif., before he was 6 months old. Throughout the years, Trevor continued seeing his pediatric cardiologist while leading a normal and active life, but his early experiences had a profound effect on his family. His mother, Anita, a former mass communications major, returned to college to pursue a career as a cardiology nurse. And because of his strong connection to Children’s Hospital, Trevor decided his Eagle Scout project would benefit other children who were admitted to the hospital.
“Trevors older sister, Kiley, made fleece, tied blankets one year to give [to] her friends as Christmas presents and Trevor thought that children who were undergoing medical treatments at Children’s Hospital would find the blankets to be warm and comforting,” Anita said. “He originally hoped to distribute 200 blankets for his Eagle Scout project.”
Yet before Trevor could complete his project, tragedy struck. On Dec. 14, 2009, a day after his 16th birthday, the Northgate High School sophomore collapsed at school. Three days later, Trevor died as the result of heart failure.Anita says that although her son’s goal of 200 donated blankets has been reached with help from the community, they hope to keep the foundation going.
Devastated, his parents Jon and Anita announced at his memorial service that they would continue the Eagle Scout project Trevor had started working on six months before his death.
“We had no idea that Trevors simple idea would blossom into a non-profit,” said Anita Tonsing, LVN, who has worked for many years in cardiac health and cardiac rehab and now works in the Corporate Health department at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, Calif. “As of mid-March, Trevors Eagle Blanket Foundation donated more than 2,370 handmade blankets to pediatric patients at Children’s Hospital — assuming the average blanket is a yard and a half long — thats two miles of blankets!”
Blanket drives have been held regularly since Trevors death and upcoming drives posted on the Foundations website. From students at Northgate High School to corporate executives at Paypal and eBay, the drives have attracted a wide variety of participants who gather together to make the fleece blankets that are constructed by tying two edges of material together to give the blankets a fringe appearance.
Anita also has received support and encouragement from friends and colleagues who have helped spread the news about the Foundation.
“The A3 West unit nursing council at John Muir Healths Concord campus is planning an upcoming blanket drive,” Anita said. “Weve far exceeded Trevors original goal, but we hope to keep donating blankets for as long as possible.”An Eagle Scout badge was posthumously awarded to Trevor, and the Mt. Diablo Silverado Council – Boy Scouts of America nominated and approved the decision to give him the Spirit of the Eagle award as a special recognition.
Anita notes feedback she has received has been very positive with many young patients and their families sending the Tonsing family thank-you notes detailing how the blankets comforted them during their hospital stay.
“We have blankets with patterns for all ages,” Anita said. “Sports themes, princesses, you name it, and the staff at Children’s matches each blanket with the patients interests.”
Anita believes her son would be pleased at the outpouring of support his Foundation continues to receive. She notes Trevors family and friends find solace in the blanket drives and in keeping his memory alive.
“I think having been both the mother of a patient and now a nurse, that Im now better able to empathize with what our cardiac patients and their families are going through,” she said. “I not only understand where they are coming from, but Im also able to address concerns they might not be able to verbalize.”
Trevors sister, Kiley, now 20, is in college pursuing a nursing career, hoping to follow in her moms footsteps.
While in Boy Scout Troop 832 in Walnut Creek, Trevor was on his way to earning his Eagle Scout badge. The award is earned by only 4% of Boy Scouts and was awarded to Trevor after his death. The Mt. Diablo Silverado Council – Boy Scouts of America in Pleasant Hill also nominated and approved Trevor for the Spirit of the Eagle award as an honorary posthumous special recognition.