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Sierra’s silver-linings playbook aids Killbuck students in need of a friend

Killbuck Elementary second-graders Kylee Perrine, left, Elena Gilley, Mallory Marmet and Peyton Parks join Sierra Parks, a West Holmes Middle School seventh-grader and member of Girl Scouts of America Troop 777 of Killbuck, on one of the benches Parks built for her GSA Silver Award. The two friendship benches are something Parks wanted to do for her community.

Dave Mast

When Sierra Parks was trying to figure out exactly what it was she wanted to do for her Girl Scouts of America Silver Award, she knew only that she wanted to do something that would be meaningful and purposeful to her Killbuck community.
Then a project fell right into her lap, and she ran with it. She ran with it quite well.
Parks, a West Holmes Middle School seventh-grader who attended Killbuck Elementary and is currently a member of Girl Scouts Troop 777 of Killbuck, went back to her old stomping grounds on Wednesday, May 10, and with more than 300 young pairs of eyes glued to her, she gave a dedication presentation of a pair of friendship benches that now adorn the school grounds.
“My grandpa (Ross Lilley) and I built them together, and they are called friendship benches,” Parks said. “They are designed for kids who have an off day, and I know I have my own off days. Kids can come to the benches and sit down when they are sad and in need of a friend, and hopefully a friend will come and sit with them and brighten their day.”
Parks gave her dedication presentation in the gymnasium, and a few minutes after the presentation she went out back with some family members for some pictures. There on the four-sided bench in the school’s playground area sat a young girl in tears, surrounded by a multitude of friends who came to her side.
The benches are pine, and Parks said initially she had wanted to paint them but later felt a dark stain would look better. It turned out to be a great decision, and she said it helped the benches really stand out. The benches will now serve a very important purpose at the elementary.
“It’s a place where kids can go and sit and talk to friends, and hopefully they won’t be judged, made fun of or laughed at,” Parks said. “I really wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on the community and the people here at school. I know that this can make a good impact on kids because I went to school here, and I know there are days that don’t go well. It makes me happy to walk back here and see the kids using the bench already.”
Parks and her grandfather designed and built the two benches out of pine wood. The four-sided bench in the playground area is larger and invites a much bigger contingent to come and enjoy the solitude and shade where it rests. Parks also built a smaller bench that was erected in the west side of the school, which provides an even quieter point of solitude should someone seek it.
The Silver Award project began nearly a year ago when the school administration suggested the possibility of the benches. There was some planning time, and all of the materials needed to be rounded up amidst the busy schedule of a young teenager living an active life.
However, Parks was able to fashion the benches, accumulating beyond the 50 take-action hours required for a Silver Award project, and that led to the day of dedication. Although her grandfather was unable to make it due to other commitments, she did have a number of family members in attendance.
Parks said she was glad she had a chance to work together with her grandfather and that the time they spent together was worth the effort. While the project itself was hard enough, there was the additional dedication-day task of speaking in front of 300-plus people.
“Talking in front of 300 children can be hard, but part of what Girl Scouts does is prepare you to lead and to talk and present and to show who I am,” Parks said.
Parks had completed her Bronze Award a year ago when she created meals, fleece blankets and parent kits for Ronald McDonald House of Akron.
Now with her Silver Award behind her, she turns her attention to her Gold Award, one that she has several years to complete. However, her ambition for that project is a large undertaking, and she knows it will take time and lots of work to complete.
Parks said her family has adopted many animals over the years from the Holmes County Humane Society, and because of the connection she feels with that nonprofit organization, she is intent on helping animals find homes.
Her Gold ambition will be to create a website for the HCHS, one that will feature a pet profile for every single pet in the facility: that way prospective families wanting to adopt a pet can simply go to the website and search for a pet to get some idea as to what is available.
The Gold Award demands upward of 80 take-action hours, but Parks is more than willing to invest in something she has believed in for quite some time.
“It’s important to me, and I think it could be a great tool for people who are looking to adopt a cat or a dog,” Parks said. “I know it will be a lot of work, but it will be worth it.”
If she ever gets bogged down during her time creating the website, one thing is certain: She can find her way to Killbuck Elementary, where she can find solace and maybe even a friend on the benches she has built for the community.

Published: May 12, 2017
New Article ID: 2017170519983