Pittsburgh -- Sophomore nursing student Kaitlin Nemec from Monroeville is changing lives by living like a Peanuts character – the blanket-toting Linus, to be precise.
Nemec is active with the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, a Masonic youth group. Rainbow Girls is a Christian service and character-building organization for girls ages 11 to 21. Founded in 1922, the group’s purpose is to promote skills related to leadership, effective communication, and service to others.
When she was 15, Nemec was invited to a Rainbow Girls meeting by her friends. She stayed involved because it was fun, and she has made friends from across the United States, including people from all over Pennsylvania, Maryland, and California.
Over the summer Nemec was selected as the Grand Worthy Advisor, the highest office in the International Order of Rainbow for Girls, for the state of Pennsylvania. To become Grand Worthy Advisor, Nemec sat for interviews with a board of 16 panelists. She had to explain to the board what Rainbow Girls meant to her as well as why she wanted to be Grand Worthy Advisor.
“I wanted to become Grand Worthy Advisor because I wanted to be that girl that everyone could come with their little troubles or talk to me about anything,” said Nemec.
Nemec was chosen as the 69th Grand Worthy Advisor from a group of four applicants. Her term lasts through July. She travels across the state of Pennsylvania every weekend and speaks in front of hundreds of people on behalf of the Rainbow Girls at various banquets and events.
Each year the Grand Worthy Advisor selects a theme and a service project, or a way to encourage Rainbow Girls to invited new members into the organization. Nemec’s theme this year is “Happiness Is Rainbow,” inspired by the title of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz’s book, “Happiness is a Warm Puppy.”
Nemec’s mascots are the Peanuts comic strip characters including Snoopy, Linus, and Charlie Brown. Recently, Nemec dressed up as Snoopy when she volunteered with Rainbow Girls at a local nursing home in Pittsburgh. Her chosen service project is Project Linus, whose mission is to provide love, a sense of security, warmth, and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need. This is accomplished through gifts of new or handmade blankets and afghans.
“Many of the blankets are given to premature babies in the neonatal hospital units to provide them with comfort because they cannot be held,” said Nemec.
Project Linus, a nationwide nonprofit organization, has collected over 3.5 million blankets. Nemec’s goal is to collect 1,000 blankets and raise $5,000.
“I feel like I’ve changed another Rainbow Girl’s life when I can help them come out of their shell. I’ve seen younger girls grow up through Rainbow, and I feel good that I have been a part of that. I was told last week that when I befriended one of the shyer Rainbow Girls last year that her outlook on life has changed,” said Nemec. “She had a rough family life and enjoyed coming to Rainbow and she enjoyed when I came to her assemblies’ meetings. One of her advisors said that I saved her life when she had a breakdown because I simply just smiled at her and told her she can call me anytime.”
Nemec added, “I joined Rainbow Girls because it was fun, but it has taught me valuable skills that I will use throughout my life.”