What Anna Fineberg remembers most is how scared she was.
Everything changed on that Thursday in 2019 when Anna’s California high school experienced a school shooting. Two of her classmates were killed.
“I was scared of my school,” she says. “As a honor student and varsity athlete, my school was a safe place. In 48 seconds, it turned into a living nightmare. I was scared that I would never see my school as a place I could feel safe again.”
Nothing can fully erase the unseen scars from that day. But some things did help Anna and her classmates heal, reminding them that they are loved and supported.
One significant example came in the form of handmade blankets donated by Project Linus, a national nonprofit with chapters throughout the nation that gives blankets to critically ill or traumatized children and teenagers.
The local chapter of Project Linus delivered blankets to Anna and her classmates shortly after the shooting.
“The blankets made my school safe for me again,” Anna says. “They were also a sign of how much our community was looking out for us and wanted to see us be comfortable at our school.”
Anna remembered that feeling of being wrapped up in the arms of her community when she started brainstorming beneficiaries for her Eagle Scout service project.
The now-Eagle Scout from Troop 2019 of the Western Los Angeles County Council chose Project Linus.
“I wanted to give the same comfort my classmates and I received to other children and teenagers who need it,” she says. “Project Linus has such a wide reach within our community, and I wanted to contribute to that. COVID-19 also greatly diminished their blanket stock and limited their ability to receive more blankets, so they were in need.”
Anna planned to raise $3,000 — enough for her and her volunteers to make 100 blankets. But in just a week, they raised more than $4,000, passing along the excess funds directly to Project Linus. Anna and her team also stretched their budget more than expected and were able to create 160 blankets with the money they raised.
Rallying the community
For her project work date, Anna chose the two-year anniversary of the shooting at her school.
Instead of only asking the members of Troop 2019 to be there, Anna also invited her fellow National Youth Leadership Training staffers, friends from school, cross-country teammates, fellow members of the honor society and people from the community.
Over the course of six hours, more than 80 volunteers showed up to help. The local newspaper and radio station were there, too. Together, they did more than just create blankets. They reclaimed that date, making it about something positive instead of something tragic.
“The response I received was amazing,” Anna says. “Service to others has always helped me heal, so I wanted my project to be an opportunity for my peers to heal through service to others experiencing tragedies.”
Making a difference
Ultimately, helping others is what Anna’s project is all about. While it undoubtedly served as comfort to the 80 volunteers who helped create blankets, the greatest impact will be felt by the children and teenagers who receive the blankets.
A few weeks after presenting the blankets to Project Linus, Anna learned that half of them were being sent to Oxford High School in Michigan, which experienced a school shooting that killed four students.
Anna included with the blankets a letter she wrote on behalf of her high school, outlining where the blankets came from, what her Eagle project was about, and how they stood in solidarity and support for what these students were going through.
“This tragedy was unimaginable and horrific, but I hope my blankets will bring them the same comfort, security and love they brought my classmates and I two years ago,” Anna says.
Anna joined Scouting because she wanted an outlet to do outdoor activities. And to meet people with similar interests. And to learn about new things outside of school, like leadership, teamwork, problem solving and outdoor skills.
High expectations, to be sure. But Scouting met every one.
“I was able to do everything I wanted to do in the Scouts BSA program,” she says. “Joining Scouts BSA was the best thing I did to further myself as an individual leader and person.”
Anna’s journey to becoming her troop’s first Eagle Scout is the latest in a string of impressive accomplishments. She is an honor student, runs cross-country and track, has served on National Youth Leadership Training staff for four years and is a Venturer.
“She has a huge heart and has made a huge impact on so many people’s lives by not only her project, but everything she does both in and out of Scouting,” says Jessica Pazdernik, Anna’s mom and her troop’s assistant Scoutmaster.
“As parents, we strive to help shape our children into good people, but when they do something like this, it just renders us speechless,” Pazdernik says. “The very fact that Anna chose to use her Eagle project as a platform for this much broader scope of community healing and togetherness speaks volumes for what a kind and amazing young woman she is.”