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Scotlight: Freshman Creates Eagle Scout Project In Honor Of Sister

Dev Shah uses difficult experience to inspire
Photo courtesy of Dev Shah
After collecting completing the toy drive, freshman Dev Shah poses with the donations. Shah collected the largest amount of donations during the 2022 Christmas season. “I love how the community was so willing to give,” Shah said.

Shock was the only emotion senior Diyaa Shah could feel when her doctor told her she had been diagnosed with leukemia. 

The news came at midnight on her 11th birthday, quickly turning what was once a day of celebration into a chaotic, emotional and anxiety-ridden one. 

“I had no idea what it was,” Shah said. “ I had no idea what [leukemia] was until someone told me it was cancer.”

Routine doctor visits soon became the norm for the Shah family as they began processing the gravity of the situation. Diyaa’s brother, freshman Dev Shah, had a harder time coming to terms with his sister’s diagnosis.

“I was really young and it was a massive shock,” he said. “I remember my oldest sister had to explain the whole thing to me and I was still kind of processing it. My grandpa had previously died of cancer, so it was really scary.”

Dev and his family made an effort to remain positive and support Diyaa, with Dev and his dad even shaving their heads to champion her. Diyaa also began using the catchphrase “we’re [gonna] fight this” to help her get through the hospital experience. Despite leukemia bringing major changes to the family, the Shahs did their best to keep a smile on their faces as well as Diyaa’s.

After countless hours of doctors visits and receiving strong treatment, Diyaa’s cancer was completely cured. It seemed like the end of a journey, but Dev was adamant that he find a way to thank the hospital for all they did for his family. 

“The Children’s Medical Center was the one that treated her, so I wanted to do something to honor that,” Shah said. 

Coincidentally, he was also trying to come up with an Eagle Scout project and he eventually decided to use it as an opportunity to give back to the hospital. He came up with the idea of starting a toy drive to benefit the medical center where Diyaa had been treated. Through the toy drive, Dev organized for toys to be delivered across the hospital.

We talked to our marketing team here at the hospital to put together a donation drive kit and made sure everything was as easy for him to put together as possible.

— Kiana Williams


“Originally I had to email the Children’s Medical Center, and I had to have Ms. Kiana Williams as my Eagle Scout beneficiary,” Dev said. “I asked her for some ideas and she said a toy drive, so that’s what I did.”

Dev chose to name his project “Project Gift a Smile” for many reasons, the main one being because when his sister would receive a gift from programs during her stay at the hospital, she would be gifted a smile. 

“I remember the hospital was really gloomy, but whenever she would get a gift it would also give a smile,” he said.

The development process involved writing an Eagle Scout project proposal, which would have to be approved by five different people before the project could begin. Then, Dev and a group of volunteers would go door to door, putting up flyers in the neighborhood to promote the project. Williams, who serves as a Volunteer Coordinator with the Dallas Children’s Hospital was a key contributor to the development and execution of Dev’s eagle project.

“[Dev] reached out to different toy stores and we talked back and forth about what would be the best places to speak to,” Williams said. “We talked to our marketing team here at the hospital to put together a donation drive kit and made sure everything was as easy for him to put together as possible.”

Williams primarily acted as a liaison anytime Dev had questions about what the hospital needed or when seeking input from them. She said the timing for Dev’s project could not have been better.

“It came at a perfect time since the Christmas season was when he was finished with it, and it came just in time for us to be able to give out gifts for the kids who were going to be at the hospital,” she said.

Williams said seeing the impact Dev’s toy drive had on patients was the most rewarding part of the project.

“We wanted to make the experience as nice as possible and whenever our kids smile, that’s all the payment that we need,” she said.

Diyaa expressed a similar sentiment and explained that she’s impressed with the success of the toy drive. 

“[I’m] proud of him,” she said. “I don’t know if being proud is the right word, but I’m glad he’s doing something he actually cares about.”

Diyaa herself is currently serving in important positions in multiple clubs supporting children who have been in situations similar to her own. She is the president and founder of Cancer Kids First, and it serves a similar purpose to Dev’s toy drive. She also works with Kindness for Kids, which was founded by her older sister. 

Working on a project like the toy drive, and meeting young people his age overcoming hardships, has inspired Dev to maintain a positive mindset no matter the circumstances. 

“Keep fighting,” he said. “Try to keep smiling and fighting.”

About the Contributor
Camden Coale
Camden Coale, Reporter
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