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Operation Courtyard to soothe the souls of cancer patients

Princeton teen earns Girl Scout Gold Award

PERU — Katrina Rudolph of Princeton just finished a community service project at Valley Regional Cancer Center (VRCC) in Peru and earned her Girl Scout Gold Award — an achievement she’s been working toward for a year and one-half.

The Gold Award is equivalent to the Eagle Scout Award, by being the highest honor in a Girl Scout can earn.

Rudolph organized, designed and helped construct a peaceful outdoor courtyard at the cancer center for patients and their families to enjoy during treatments. The outdoor space is wheelchair accessible and includes seating under shade trees.

Rudolph spent more than a year selling memory bricks for the courtyard. The bricks are engraved to honor the survivors of cancer and remembers those who fought the fight.

Operation Courtyard, which was what Rudolph dubbed her project, was developed in honor of her grandfather who battled leukemia.

Now seeing the final product, Rudolph said she’s excited to see the thing she’s put her heart and soul into come together and be complete.

“I’m really proud of myself and everyone that’s helped me. In the beginning, I didn’t think these plans would actually happen, and now a year-and-a-half later, here we are and here it is,” she said.

Rudolph was quick to note the many people who volunteered their time and efforts to help see the project through. Josh Schnaiter at Prairie Nursery and Landscaping in Princeton was instrumental in guiding the project during the construction phase and members of the Utica Garden Club donated and helped plant perennials to spruce up the courtyard.

An anonymous donor provided a peaceful pink stone water fountain. Another person donated lighting for the courtyard that allows it to shine even at night.

“As time went on, (the project) gained a bigger following, and more people wanted to help out with it,” Rudolph said.

Michell Heider, Rudolph’s troop leader and an employee at VRCC, said everyone is excited to see this project finished, and patients have already started using it. Yoga classes for patients in the courtyard are now ongoing. And an open house in honor of the project is in the works.

Rudolph said Operation Courtyard has taught her many things including responsibility and leadership skills.

“It was very much my project and I had a lot of help, but it was me that had to make the decisions and decide when I wanted to do work on it and make sure it was a priority,” she said.

And while a Gold Award project only requires 80 hours of work, Rudolph was proud to say she had recorded up to 180 hours.

“You put your heart and soul into something and then to see it finally put together — I’m really excited for the future and to see what happens with it,” she said.

The courtyard currently includes 75 bricks, and 80 more will be added soon.

Although Rudolph will no longer actively sell bricks for the courtyard, they will continue to be available for purchase. Bricks are $50 for family and friends and $100 for businesses. To order a brick, pick up an order form at VRCC or email

To follow the project, like the Facebook page, Operation Courtyard.

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