Local Girl Scout completes project at Frank Donio Memorial Park

Six benches and mile markers installed around two trails at park

Adapting to the COVID-19 world around her, Girl Scout Marlena Panichelli made the best of the situation and recently completed her Girl Scout Gold Award project, getting inspiration from her own pandemic circumstances.

Panichelli wanted to complete her project earlier this calendar year, while she was finishing her senior year at Paul VI in Haddonfield. But her original plans fell through due to the implementation of remote learning and the inability to complete something on school grounds because of COVID’s suddenness.

Panichelli remained steadfast on completing a project and started looking for new ideas, finding inspiration close to home.

“I live near (Frank Donio Memorial Park) and started coming here quite often during COVID for walks, and I usually saw the same people walking or running around, so I started to ask them if they thought benches or mile markers would be a good idea to add to the paths,” Panichelli recalled. “And the people that I’d spoken to liked the idea, so at that point, I kind of just went with it.”

After deciding to tackle the project, Panichelli worked with Winslow Township and the Department of Public Works, as well as family and friends, to create designs for the construction and placement of six mile markers and benches at the park, five benches and four mile markers around the edge of the outer trail and one bench and two mile markers along the inner trail.

After receiving approvals, Panichelli was able to start the construction in fall, using donated materials and supplies. The benches and mile markers were recently installed and dedicated during a presentation at the park on Dec. 10, with Winslow Township Mayor Barry Wright in attendance.

“The significance of this, in these hard pandemic times with people wanting to be outside and have an outdoor activity, cannot be understated,” Wright noted. “Marlena is a real example of the dedication and hard work of Scouting. We’re proud of her … from the bottom of my heart, I thank her so much for this wonderful gift she’s given the people of Winslow Township.”

Panichelli, who is currently taking online classes as a freshman attending Savannah College of Art and Design, designed and included her own symbol on the footing of each bench to commemorate the project.

The design, a flower with red and orange petals surrounded by a green ribbon, includes her initials and the year the project was completed, allowing her to tie in her interest in design to the project.