In September, Ashley Panko looked up from her computer in shock.
On TV, a reporter was telling the heartbreaking story of Troop 193 of Duncanville, Texas. The reporter said a thief had stolen Troop 193’s trailer and all the camping gear inside.
Ashley, an 8-year-old Cub Scout from Dallas, loves camping with her friends in Pack 325. So she knew just how terrible it must be to lose all the stuff you’d need to enjoy a camping trip.
Rather than simply feeling sorry for Troop 193, Ashley got to work. She rallied her community, asked for donations from her pack and even sold lemonade in her driveway. In the end, Ashley’s efforts raised $500 in cash and several hundred dollars’ worth of camping equipment.
All for a bunch of Scouts she hadn’t yet met.
“I felt sorry for them, and I wanted to help them,” Ashley tells Bryan on Scouting. “I also thought of the Scout Law because it says to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly and kind.”
We spoke with Ashley, her Cubmaster and the committee chairwoman of Troop 193 to learn how this incredibly great Good Turn came together.
Developing a plan
Though “youth-led” is more the mantra of Scouts BSA, Venturing and Sea Scouting, it’s never too early to entrust young people with positions of responsibility.
That was the technique expertly demonstrated by Wes Alost, Ashley’s Cubmaster.
“Ashley approached me immediately after she saw the news stories about Troop 193,” Alost says. “She was very motivated to help other Scouts who had lost the ability to go camping.”
In Ashley’s altruism, Alost saw a dual opportunity: a chance for his Cub Scouts to do a Good Turn and an opportunity for Ashley to take a leadership role in a cause she cared about.
“Ashley and I discussed several ways the pack could assist and developed a plan of action,” Alost says. “I encouraged Ashley to take responsibility for collecting contributions.”
With her parents’ help, Ashley created a short YouTube video. She circulated it within her pack and sent it to the Scouts BSA troop chartered to the same church. She also made announcements at pack meetings to encourage donations and even sold lemonade in her driveway.
“I learned how to email, make a YouTube video and a speech,” Ashley says. “I learned to make a plan and to put the plan into action.”
That plan was well underway when word got to Troop 193.
Disbelief and surprise
Bettie George is chairwoman of Troop 193. She remembers how the Scouts first reacted when learning of the theft: “What are we gonna do?” “We don’t have any of our camping gear.” “Now how are we going to be able to go and camp?”
The thieves had stolen propane tanks and cookstoves, shovels and rakes, cast-iron skillets and Dutch ovens. Gone were the water tanks and wash stations. The troop flag was taken, too.
Donations and words of encouragement started to come in from across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And then, a couple of months later, George got an email from Alost. He explained what Ashley was trying to do.
“We had never met Ashley nor any of her unit’s Cub Scouts,” George says. “We were complete strangers to her when she took on the effort to help us.”
George remembers thinking that Ashley must have good leadership in her life — from her parents and Scout leaders — “to have that much of a giving heart.”
George says her initial reaction to Ashley’s story (“How sweet!”) turned to surprise when she learned that Ashley had raised an impressive $500 on her own. As an 8-year-old.
“The actions of Ashley truly show that there is a generation out there that looks beyond themselves and out to others,” George says. “If, as citizens of the United States, we give the young people the opportunity to step up and do the things that are on their heart and mind, we would all benefit.”
No problem too big
Scouting is a family activity for Ashley. Her parents are den leaders, and her little brother is a Tiger. From his perspective as Cubmaster, Alost says he’s seen how Scouting has helped Ashley grow as a leader.
The Good Turn for Troop 193 has only accelerated that, Alost says.
“Although she’s always been a determined young lady, she’s seen that she can exceed her own expectations,” he says. “We promise to ‘do our best’ and ‘to help other people at all times,’ but this demonstrated to our Cub Scouts precisely what that means.”
To her fellow Cub Scouts, Ashley wants to share that you don’t have to wait to make a difference in someone’s life.
“You can make your own plan and talk with others and put your plan into action,” Ashley says. “Don’t be discouraged because you think you are too small or the problem is too big. Even small acts of kindness go a long way.”