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Murray Journal

Three Girl Scouts create Halloween costume closet for their school

Dec 01, 2023 11:43AM ● By Julie Slama

Viewmont students, fifth-grader Preslee Andrew, sixth-grader Willow Hackwell and fifth-grader Laykin Cheney, put together a Halloween costume closet for their Girl Scout Bronze Award. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Cheney)

Three Viewmont girls were amongst 93 being honored by Girl Scouts of Utah in early November.

They received their Bronze Award, the highest award a Junior Girl Scout can earn. The girls identified a project in their community to improve, organized a plan and put it in action. 

Sixth-grader Willow Hackwell and fifth-graders Preslee Andrew and Laykin Cheney of troop 865, doubled the required 20 hours by creating a Halloween costume closet at their school and ensured its sustainability.

“We learned last Halloween there had been a lot of kids around school who didn’t have any costumes, so we decided we were going to do a costume drive and have a supply of costumes for students this year,” said Preslee on the day before Halloween.

The girls learned to market their idea by advertising to families via ParentSquare, the school communication application with parents.

“We had a bin by the front doors of the school with a sign we made so people had a place to donate costumes,” Preslee said.

Willow said the trio also organized the donations by creating a catalog, with the size, description and photograph of each of the 75 costumes now available at their school. 

“We learned how to plan and organize and stay on track. We put it together in a binder,” she said. 

The girls, and a neighbor, modeled the costumes for the photographs.

“That was the fun part,” Laykin said.

All three girls planned to wear costumes from the closet this past Halloween.

New and gently used costumes range from a clown and a bumble bee to Barbie and the Mona Lisa. The costumes were cleaned and mended, if necessary, then organized and labeled and put into large Ziplock’s that can be checked out for Halloween parties, trunk-or-treats, the school parade as well as trick-or-treating.

The Girl Scouts’ project, which began last February, was still receiving donations in October. They decided to share the additional 35 costumes with nearby Horizon Elementary.

Laykin said she was happy that they could share costumes with others.

“We don’t need all of them in our school and other schools probably have the same problem with kids not feeling included by not having a costume,” she said. “We’re helping make other kids happy.”

The girls created a PowerPoint and presented their project to about 35 members of the school PTA, who agreed they would keep up the costume closet to ensure its sustainability for future students. Laykin also presented the project to Murray’s Board of Education.

“It was fun to make the slides and add some Halloween images that we presented,” Willow said. “It gave us a chance to tell our story and how we wanted to help people who didn’t have costumes.”

Troop leader Jamie Cheney said through the project the girls not only used their computer skills to put together the PowerPoint presentation, but also used oral and written communication skills and organizational and management skills. They practiced budgetary skills by using troop funds they earned from selling cookies to pay for supplies they needed, such as catalog supplies, bags and storage bins.

The girls said the idea to get costumes donated came from their school counselor, Heather Preece.

“They asked me if there were any needs that the school had that they might be able to help with,” she said. “The pressing need that I had at that moment were Halloween costumes for children who may be new to the country, who may not be able to put something together at home, or whose family may have forgotten. Not all families celebrate Halloween, but for children coming to school sad without a costume (or for families asking for help), I wanted to be able to have a couple of choices to offer them.”

She said the generous outpouring of the community gave the Girl Scouts enough costumes to organize and fill four huge storage bins. She said that families also donated some trick-or-treat buckets.

“This makes it so easy to show the options to children, particularly when children are still learning English or are sad,” Preece said.

She’s familiar with “this phenomenal group of girls.” Last year, the troop created birthday bags using decorated gift bags to hold birthday party supplies, cake mix and $5 for oil and eggs. 

“They gave these to me for families who may need some extra help to make their children’s birthdays special,” Preece said. 

Cheney said they also prepared and gave similar holiday bags last year.

“Every year we try to do something service-based for the school,” she said. “This shows the girls can do something that can affect people for a long time. Sometimes you do service like you take a meal with someone and that’s great. This service is one that can be built upon as they’re going to put the bin out every year to keep adding to the costume closet, and it can also help other schools.”

Preslee agrees: “I like that we know these costumes are going to a good cause and people in the school as well as others are going to be affected by this change for a long time.” λ