You know the old saying about dogs being man’s best friend? Well, Adel currently has more than 200 registered “best friends” in the city but nowhere for them to safely run, play, socialize and sniff each other — all while enjoying the freedom of being off their leashes.
That is why Kylie Shafer, Rebecca Yanacheak, Piper Giles and Rachel Helm — all 11-year-olds from Adel — and the rest of the members of Adel Girl Scout Troop 505 dedicated their bronze project and many hours over the last year to creating Adel’s very own dog park.
In order to successfully complete their bronze project, the girls first had to come up with an idea for something sustainable, unique to the community and measurable, and the project had to be accomplished only with mentoring from their troop leaders.
And that was just the beginning of the long process.
Once the girls came up with the idea of a dog park, they then had to pitch the idea to the Adel City Hall and the Adel Parks and Recreation Board. The city authorities told the girls to choose a location, which became a topic of much controversy after their first choice was shot down.
After further brainstorming, the girls came up with the idea of using the north side of the aquatic center. They presented their proposal to the powers that be, and the powers that be accepted it.
“We were really relieved when city hall said yes,” Rebecca Yanacheak said, “and I even heard the mayor tell the others to make sure they make it happen!”
In order to enlist community support for their project, the girls gave their presentation to the Adel Rotary Club, Adel Lions Club, American Legion and Adel Kiwanis Club. All the civic organizations helped along the way, not only by encouraging the project but also financially and logistically.
“The best part of attending the meetings and presenting,” Piper Giles said slyly, “was missing some school time!”
Once the location was decided on and the dog park came to be more of a reality, the girls had lots of brainstorming sessions and spent many hours on Pinterest, seeking ideas of how they would make the money to make the whole project possible.
Over the last year, the girls worked hard, first making hundreds of dog pillows, dog blankets, tie toys, homemade dog biscuits, homemade laundry detergent and even cat toys.
Once everything was made, then the selling began. The girls went door-to-door, set up in cookie booths. Harvey’s Greenhouse let them sell there during Girl Scout Cookie season, and Bryce Smith at the Adel Family Fun Center let them sell there, and he even paid the girls to bus tables during a bowling tournament.
The local dog training facility also let them have a booth to sell their things. The girls held a free-will-donation yard sale in April and Kylie’s grandparents, Penny and Craig Buckingham of Treynor, came for the yard sale and sold hot dogs and shaved ice, donating all sales to the project.
All in all, the girls raised and earned an astonishing $17,000 all on their own!
“Wow! People really love their dogs,” Kylie Shafer said. “It’s time for me to get a dog.”
Building the park was no easy task, a lesson the girls quickly learned. They were lucky enough to get help from Chris Shire and Shannon Gapp, engineers with Confluence, a Des Moines-based landscape design and urban planning company. Shire and Gapp took them on field trips to another dog park to get ideas, and they sat in on brainstorming sessions with the girls to help plan the park. They even drew up the sketch.
All of these services were offered to the girls free of charge from their friends at Confluence.
“Chris and Shannon were great helping with the planning,” Rachel Helm said. “It’s great to see a female role model in the engineering field. Shannon helped us from beginning to end and stepped in when the city had questions we couldn’t answer as 11-year-olds.”
These self-starting girls have definitely been blessed by the kindness of the many people who have reached out to help them. No one donation means more to them than another. Whether it was $5 or $1,000, the girls were amazed with how much the city pulled together to make this possible.
For example, Jacob Lukins is building benches and obstacles to donate to the park. A landscaping company has donated two trees. Dan Juffer is donating the sign posting the park rules. Two DogiPot waste receptacles were sold to the girls at cost.
The girls have also been promised free booth space at an October pet expo, where they hope to raise enough money to add a butterfly garden and more benches to the dog park, pending city approval. The girls received donations of fabric to make more pet toys and numerous items for the free-will yard sale they had. The community support was tremendous.
But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the dog-park project. The girls learned to take “No” for an answer and now have an insight into the inner workings of a project of this magnitude. Between all the presentations they gave, from city hall to the parks and recreation board, and the land acquisition meetings they attended, the girls accomplished their goal and built their self-confidence and public-speaking abilities in the meantime.
They far exceeded the number of volunteer hours they needed to complete their bronze project.
“I’ve already told the next troops to think ‘smaller’ on their projects the following years,” said Adel Girl Scout Troop 505 Leader Jackie Giles of Adel, “but I am very proud of the team work and dedication these four young ladies had this year. And it goes to show no matter how young you are, big things are possible. It only takes the courage to ask to make things possible.”
The new dog park is located at 1800 S. 15th St. in Adel. A grand opening is planned for Aug. 14 at 2 p.m., when the girls will be giving away cupcakes, water, homemade dog ties, dog tattoos, stickers and even dog biscuits for their four-legged guests to enjoy. The Girl Scouts have poured their hearts into this project over the last year, and they encourage everyone in the community to come out and celebrate with them.
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