Community engagement leaders Elizabeth Marr and Catherine Sweeney, along with Kate Trimble ’16 and seniors Molly Richardson and Sloan Wyatt, enjoy the Children’s Christmas Holiday Parade in 2016. Photo: Catherine Sweeney

Pace Academy upper school students are required to earn 40 service hours by the end of their senior year in order to receive their diploma. While this number may seem daunting, Pace offers many opportunities to complete those hours through its Community Engagement program.

This year, a new service project was introduced to the Community Engagement program: girlFriends, led by seniors Elizabeth Marr and Catherine Sweeney. girlFriends is a volunteer organization benefitting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA). According to CHOA, “girlFriends supports Children’s through membership, volunteer opportunities, fundraising events and special service projects at [the] hospital campuses.”

The project brings together girls from various high schools with the goal of raising money for the hospital. “I was inspired to bring girlFriends to Pace last year,” said Sweeney. “This year, now that we are an official Pace partner, we hope to strengthen the relationship between girlFriends, CHOA and Pace.”

girlFriends meets one Sunday each month from 3 to 4 p.m. at The Cathedral of St. Philip. There are also periodic “patient parties,” where the group meets at the Scottish Rite location on Saturdays and creates crafts with the hospital’s patients for two hours. This year’s main event is the fifth annual Battle of the Bands, where teenagers from different schools gather to benefit the girlFriends project. All revenue from the event goes straight to CHOA.

Another significant event that girlFriends sponsors is the Children’s Christmas Day Parade. The girlFriends volunteers dress up in different costumes and ride in floats through a gauntlet of Children’s patients. “My favorite event is definitely the Christmas Day Parade,” said Marr. “I love seeing all the little kids smiling and waving as we pass by. It is really awesome.”

Last year, girlFriends raised over $25,000 for CHOA, and they are looking to raise even more this year. “Our goals for the project are to raise even more money than last year and make our main event, Battle of the Bands, even more successful,” said Sweeney. “As the community engagement leader, I am trying to encourage increased involvement in the organization from the Pace community in order to reach our goals.”

Students interested in volunteering with girlFriends should contact Marr or Sweeney, or refer to the biweekly email sent out by Ms. Lattouf.