Eastern Pa. Girl Scout organizes drive to send treats to Jewish troops overseas

| Saturday, April 12, 2014, 8:03 p.m.

WYNNEWOOD — Seven-year-old Freida Atkins has spent days packaging macaroons to send to Jewish soldiers overseas in time for Passover — even though she's allergic to them.

Freida is plagued by idiopathic anaphylaxis, a rare, life-threatening disease in which a wide range of substances can trigger severe allergic reactions.

But that hasn't stopped her. She is, after all, a Girl Scout.

Inspired by her family's Chabad Lubavitch background, and driven to add to her growing collection of 18 Girl Scout badges, she packaged and sorted 160 cans of macaroons to send to Jewish soldiers in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Germany, and Qatar who are looking for some holiday spirit during Passover, which starts on Monday night. For many American Jews who observe Passover's prohibition against leavening, macaroons are not only a tradition but a favorite post-Seder sweet.

With help from her mother, Sara, four siblings and a fellow Girl Scout, Hannah Brophy, 7, she solicited donations from across the country on Facebook and through the Lubavitch network.

The response was surprising.

“We would come home and there would be macaroons on our doorstep,” Freida's mother said. “Checks and cash started coming in. Letters came in from all over the country.”

The project didn't go off without a hitch, though. Freida got very sick throughout the process and made several trips to the hospital.

“But during all of that, we were able to focus on something else: that we're doing something bigger for other people,” Freida's mother said. “Every minute Freida was awake, she was packing a can of macaroons.”

Between receiving shots in her arms and counting macaroon flavors, Freida said packaging was a lot of fun.

“It was like a game,” she smiled.

This is not the first time the family has sent something nice for soldiers overseas. For Hanukkah, they collected 819 cards to send to soldiers. In both projects, Chabad's Aleph Institute, a Florida-based nonprofit that helps Jews who are isolated from their communities, provided military base addresses.

“It's amazing what a young child can do facing all these challenges herself,” said Aleph's Rabbi Menachem Katz. “She's really going places, this girl.”

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