The message was one of remembrance, healing, hope and inspiration.

As Katie Paquin, 17, read a list of cancer victims’ names, audience members smiled and wiped away tears. Each name coincided with a ribbon, which Kayleigh Kitzman and Erica Ransom tied to the limbs of a newly planted tree in Red Oak City Park.

The names pierced the silence of the afternoon, with family and friends of the victims sitting and standing around Paquin during the Saturday ceremony.

“Gracious Lord, thank you for the beauty of today. We ask that you place on our hearts the names on this tree,” said John Bailey during the concluding prayer. “Let us remember the family and friends of these people. Open our hears and use our whole bodies to glorify your name and help those touched by cancer.”

The event marked the conclusion of Paquin’s Girl Scout Gold Award project, which she dedicated to cancer awareness — an idea Paquin developed in honor of a friend and victim of cancer.

Zachary Harris, a childhood friend of Paquin, passed away at the age of 14 after a battle with cancer.

“I would like to honor Zachary Harris,” Paquin said at the beginning of the ceremony. “He is the driving force behind this project.”

Paquin’s ceremony, attended by her family, fellow members of Girl Scout Troop No. 1628 and the Red Oak High School band, friends and members of the community, allowed her to honor cancer victims with prayer, a reading of names, a tree dedication and music.

“On this beautiful day with the sun shining … we thank you for the people you have placed in our lives and are sometimes taken too soon,” said Mara Bailey during the opening prayer. “And we thank you for people like Katie who are out there doing something.”

Paquin worked with ROHS band director Richard Thomas to arrange for music. Band members, including Paquin, volunteered their time for the rehearsal and performance of “Hymn Song of Phillip Bliss” by David R. Holsinger.

“It’s awesome — she did it all on her own. She just showed what we knew she had — the accountability and responsibility to do something for the community all on her own,” said Neva Ransom, Girl Scout leader. “Things don’t happen without people getting things started and following up and completing the project. She did something that is visible to other people. Some things like cancer awareness need to be visual.”

Although the ceremony lasted less than an hour, the road leading up to it incorporated the support of various organizations and businesses in order to raise money for the project. Westlake Ace Hardware, Red Oak CVS, Red Oak Brookshire’s and the Waxahachie UPS Store donated various supplies, and the city of Red Oak Parks and Recreation Department donated and planted a tree in Red Oak City Park for the ceremony. Ellis County Relay for Life also welcomed Paquin to set up a booth at its June 8-9 event as a fund-raiser.

“Through my years in Girl Scouts I have been working for the Gold Award. Today, that goal has come to light,” Paquin said during the ceremony, thanking her Girl Scout advisors, her parents, Mary Ann and Carey, and Red Oak Parks and Recreation director Michael Hopping.

“I’m just so moved by the whole day — she has done an exceptional job. It has been her passion all along,” said Mary Ann Paquin. “It turned out really well. We’ve had a wonderful turnout.”

“Katie didn’t shy away from this topic. It brings it home — it happens everywhere,” Ransom said. “Katie has set a good example for her classmates and other Girl Scouts. You can do this and you can reach your goals.”

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