For one local Scout’s project, it’s more about helping those in need than earning Eagle Scout status.
Allison Hilliker, 19, of Chehalis, is a member of the local Scouts BSA chapter, formerly known as Boy Scouts. The national organization announced in 2018 that it was changing the program’s name and would welcome girls as well as boys ages 11-17 starting February 2019.
“I jumped on that opportunity,” Hilliker said.
Hilliker joined that month and is now on the cusp of earning her Eagle Scout ranking. She’s currently working on her big Eagle Scout project, creating 50 toiletry kits for teens in foster care.
Hilliker, a W.F. West High School graduate, has family members who were in foster care at one point in their lives before they were adopted into her family.
“I figured they probably didn’t go through the easiest things during their childhood before they found their forever home,” Hilliker said. “I decided, ‘Wouldn’t it be so cool if they had something to call their own?’”
There were 423,997 children living in the U.S. foster care system as of June 2020, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services. Twenty-five percent of those are teenagers.
Her first thought was to gift suitcases with books and other items. Then someone mentioned that foster children need toiletries more than anything. Children in foster care are often shuffled from house to house and need new belongings each time they move, Hilliker said.
Each kit she’s putting together includes about 13 items. Items found in both boys’ and girls’ kits include soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, nail clippers, a bath towel, deodorant and so forth. The girls’ kits include scrunchies and hair brushes, while the boys’ have combs.
“This is a way for them to have their own toiletries, their own soap, their own toothbrush that they can take with them,” Hilliker said.
Hilliker first started out in Adventure Crew, a program aimed at helping teens deepen their connection with nature and the outdoors. She then decided to join the Scouts to be with her brothers: Justin, 17, who is also working on his Eagle Scout project, and Ryan, 14, who is in the First Class ranking.
“I definitely didn’t imagine I would be hand-in-hand with my brothers doing this at the same time,” Hilliker said.
After joining the Scouts, she became the senior patrol leader for their girl troop at that time, guiding a group of nine girls, some of which were as young as 11 years old.
“It was quite the position to be thrown into at the very beginning,” said Hilliker, who also staffs a leadership camp near Olympia during the summer. “It is really cool to be able to lead a group with that type of diversity with the ages.”
The usual deadline for a Scout to earn Eagle status is the member’s 18th birthday. Because she was 17 years old when she joined, the Scouts gave her an extension. She had until Dec. 31, 2020 to complete all merit badges and requirements. Then they told her if she wanted to be included in the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts, she would have to complete her work by Oct. 31, 2020. Since then, she’s been furiously knocking off merit badges and coordinating her project to reach the deadline. She hopes to have all her merit badges completed by Oct. 19.
Scouts progress through a seven-part ranking system, going from Scout all the way up to Eagle. Hilliker is currently at the Life ranking, one step below Eagle. Members earn merit badges to advance through the rankings, completing tasks such as riding a bike 15 miles, a hike where you gain 1,000 feet of elevation and 15 nights of camping in the wilderness, for example.
To earn her Eagle Scout ranking, Hilliker needs to complete her Eagle Scout project and finish 21 merit badges, 10 of which she has yet to complete. One is a 15-mile bike ride while another is creating a 13-week budget where she keeps track of her spending and saves receipts. She has to show what her expectations were beforehand versus what ended up happening, and what she would have done differently with her purchases.
One of the most rewarding aspects of joining the Scouts has been working with younger kids and seeing them progress as young people and Scouts.
“I’ve been able to see the growth of so many of those kids, from the time they were fresh Webelos coming into Boy Scouts, to the time where they are helping other kids by themselves,” Hilliker said. “It’s just been cool to see that growth and confidence.”
She’s not sure if the kits will go to Lewis County teens in foster care. Hilliker is coordinating with the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families, the state’s newest agency which partners with state and local agencies, tribes and other organizations in communities across Washington to support children and families.
Hilliker plans to have the kits ready to go and delivered to the agency on Friday.
“I’m excited to have it finished and delivered,” Hilliker said.