Ariel Buttram, 14, is on her way to earning the silver award as a Girl Scout. Buttram has set up boxes around Dawson County to collect stuffed animals that she will then donate to emergency services, hospitals and fire and police departments, so officials can distribute them to children in crisis situations, or who have illnesses, to comfort them.
"My family does medical work. I thought having stuffed animals would help workers make kids more comfortable," said Buttram.
Throughout the month of June, various businesses, including Kroger and the Rock Creek Park Sport Complex, kept boxes outside to help Buttram collect the stuffed animals.
Buttram's parents are proud of their daughter's efforts to help children in precarious situations.
"My daughter got the idea when her father was helping Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005. She gave her own stuffed animals so her dad could give them to the children coming off the planes in Dobbins Air Force Base," said Dee Buttram, Ariel's mother.
Joining the Girl Scouts has been a valuable and enjoyable experience for Ariel Buttram.
"It's fun and I get to help out the community all at the same time," she said.
Ariel was the top Girl Scout cookie-seller in the county for 3 years and sold the highest number of cookies in her troop every year since she joined, 8 years ago.
"She sold over 800 boxes this year," said her mother.
Participating in the Girl Scouts is also a treasured tradition for the Buttram family.
"I was a scout when I was a child and I wanted to pass that on to my daughter," explained Dee Buttram. "It's a valuable experience. She's learned so much about leadership and community service. This will help prepare her for life when she's grown up."
The Girl Scouts organization has a number of different phases for participating girls. Before moving on to the next phase or level, a girl scout must complete a series of badges and projects. To complete each level, juniors must earn the bronze award, cadets must earn the silver award and seniors must earn the gold award.
These awards are earned by conducting projects that benefit the community.
Once Buttram completes her project and earns the silver award, she will move on from being a cadet and progress to the final stage of being a Girl Scout, a senior.
When Ariel was a junior Girl Scout she earned her bronze award by helping Katrina victims along with the rest of her troop. The troop collected bikes, fixed them up and donated them to victims. They donated baby supplies to Catholic Relief Services and delivered cleaning supplies to victims.
Buttram's current project will continue until the end of July. She will continue to collect more stuffed animals and then will divide them all up and begin donating them to various agencies in August.
Buttram's personal goal for this project is to collect 15,000 stuffed animals. Donated stuffed animals can be new or slightly used. So far she has collected over 1,000.
To donate stuffed animals, you can e-mail Dee Buttram at: firstname.lastname@example.org.