Boy Scout gives big contribution to cancer charity

A local Boy Scout raised $1,000 and 1,200 snacks for a nonprofit that supports families affected by cancer.

Making a difference: For his Eagle Scout project, Luke Cihak (center) collected money and donations for snack and breakfast bags to donate to the Breathing Room, a nonprofit that offers support for families affected by cancer. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

When Luke Cihak was looking to select his Eagle Scout project, he decided to help a cancer-related cause.

“My grandmother (Arleen Winters), who I never met, passed away from breast cancer,” he said.

Luke learned of the Breathing Room Foundation, a Jenkintown-based nonprofit that offers support for families affected by cancer.

Helene Johnson, Luke’s aunt, is a volunteer.

“It’s a great organization. I see the wonderful work they do,” she said.

Luke decided to collect money and donations for snack and breakfast bags to give to the Breathing Room.

Last Friday, he traveled to the foundation’s West Avenue location to drop off some 1,200 snack and breakfast bags and a check for $1,000.

“I’m very happy. We had over 1,200 bags, 200 more than my goal of a thousand,” he said.

Luke, 17, thanked everyone who helped him. The group included family, friends, fellow Troop 563 Scouts, classmates at Bishop McDevitt High School, parishioners at St. William Catholic Church and faculty at St. Cecilia Elementary School, where his mom, Mary, is an honors math teacher.

The Breathing Room has been in business since 1997 and has helped 8,000-plus families. The charity is located in Immaculate Conception’s former convent.

Among the ways the Breathing Room assists cancer patients and their families are rides to doctors’ appointments and money to pay for utility bills and health insurance co-pays.

Luke and his helpers filled the bags with candy, granola bars, chips, crackers, cereal, water and other items, along with notes and jokes to brighten the cancer patients’ day.

Mary Ellen Fitzgerald, director of the foundation, was overjoyed with the donation.

“We couldn’t do what we do without people like Luke,” she said. “It’s just amazing what kids can do. He had his own idea and ran with it. He had a lot of support behind him. He did a great job.”

Fitzgerald said this is the first time an Eagle Scout candidate has chosen her charity. The foundation receives help from preschoolers doing arts and crafts to 90-year-olds crocheting blankets, and everyone in between.

Luke attended St. William until sixth grade, when the school closed. He graduated from St. Cecilia and is a senior at McDevitt. He had his prom Friday night, after making his delivery to the Breathing Room, and will graduate on June 6.

Luke has been a member of Troop 563 for 10 years. He’ll attend Millersville University and plans to study to become a science, technology, engineering and math teacher.

He will need to complete his Eagle Scout paperwork by June 23, his 18th birthday. His fundraisers included a bake sale at St. William, which raised $700, and a GoFundMe page, which brought in $400. He will give some additional money to the foundation once the page is closed.

“We’re extremely proud of him and very grateful,” said his mom, who credited Troop 563’s Bob Lux for preparing Eagle Scouts.

Matt Cihak, Luke’s dad, is assistant scoutmaster and committee chairman with Troop 563. He said Luke will become the troop’s 34th Eagle Scout. He’ll have his Board of Review and Court of Honor at later dates, before he makes his annual trip to the Poconos for summer camp.

“It’s been a great experience for him,” his dad said. ••

How to help…

Donations can be made at breathingroomfoundation.org or mailed to The Breathing Room Foundation, P.O. Box 287, Jenkintown, PA 19046. To volunteer or for more information, call 215–277–1006 or visit The Breathing Room Foundation on Facebook or Instagram. For more information on Boy Scouts, go to colbsa.org