If the Girl Scouts don’t give Hayley Long a Gold Award, I’m boycotting those cookies.
I met Hayley last week when she strode into the newsroom wearing cowboy boots and toting a purple Girl Scout folder filled with project plans that would put a CEO to shame.
There were the flyers she created to advertise Project Mission Helping Hands and a month-by-month donation plan and signed letters from 12 donors, committing themselves to helping with the project — and thus the People’s City Mission — long after Hayley graduates from high school and leaves scouting behind.
“I tried to get everyone to commit to five years,” the 18-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador says. “I want the program to go on for 10 years at least, hopefully more.”
Way to sell your idea, Future State Patrol Dog Handler. (Hayley is a Crete High School senior who plans to attend Wayne State College, majoring in criminal justice and minoring in business, before getting on at the patrol and eventually making her way to the canine unit. Case closed.)
Hayley grew up in Lincoln and went to Kahoe Elementary, Mickle Middle School and Northeast High School before her family moved to a Lancaster County acreage last fall.
She sings in show choir and plays in marching and jazz band and shoots trap with 4-H.
She was a Lincoln Northeast Rocket last April 19, when she ended up with a traumatic brain injury.
The school’s jazz band was heading east out of town for a performance in Kansas City when a car blew through a stop sign and hit its chartered bus.
Hayley was in the middle of that bus and her head flew forward and hit the seat in front of her and everything went black.
And then she could see again.
No one on the bus went to the hospital, but they didn’t go to Kansas City, either, Hayley says.
The brunt of the impact hit the under-bus storage, where all the instruments were stored, and when Hayley saw her tenor sax case again it was folded like an accordion and the only thing she could save was her mouthpiece.
The migraines started a few days later and then the trouble concentrating in class, the forgetting and the stuttering.
Her doctor diagnosed her with a concussion and later a TBI. She went to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital for therapy to retrain her eyes and learn tricks to get her words out and to help her with homework.
She had physical therapy, too, to regain the strength she’d lost when her brain sapped all her energy.
You’d never know, said Michele Orth, the People’s City Mission’s community relations director.
“She is a delight,” Orth says. “She is a powerhouse.”
Part of Orth’s job is helping students who want to give back, or earn badges, and sometimes some of the organizing work falls on her.
Not with Hayley.
“She’s done all the legwork. Basically, selling her idea and owning the whole project on her shoulders.”
Hayley had her Gold Award idea before the accident. But she’s done all the work in the aftermath. (And she will get the award in a formal ceremony June 8. Congratulations in advance.)
She’s no longer an honor student. No longer in AP classes. She can’t remember what she learned in calculus and sometimes she’ll see someone she knows and can’t pull their name from her memory bank.
It was tough, said her mom, MeLisa Long. Especially at first.
Hayley wanted to be a marine biologist. She was on track to have two years of college credit before she finished high school. She’d picked her dream college.
“It’s a hard realization for somebody who has been working toward that for 12 years.”
But she’s still Hayley.
She loves her new high school, where she started a club and named it The Secret Kindness Agents.
“We basically just do random acts of kindness.” (Watch out teachers.)
She’s a former Girls State delegate, a veteran of the State Patrol Junior Law Cadet Program and member of the Girl Scout Real Life Academy who looks for female role models (she job shadowed a female firefighter and wants to trail a female police officer, too).
Girl Scouts is about leadership, she says. Searching out women to look up to and being one, too.
Hayley joined Girl Scouts as a ninth-grader — waaay late! — after her mom got a job with the organization. But she whipped through the requirements younger scouts would have already finished and got on her way to the highest award and her City Mission project.
She was already a volunteer at the day care there, by the way.
“She’s just passionate about that,” her mom says. “She loves those kids down there.”
The idea for Hayley’s project came from one of those visits and a tussle between two toddlers over a toy.
In the three months since she kicked off Project Mission Helping Hands, the organizations she’s recruited have delivered 100 bags of supplies. Diapers and sheets and toys and toothbrushes and books and more.
Now it’s Hayley’s turn. She picked April and the anniversary of her accident — “the day that changed my life forever” — as her personal push for donations.
And she hopes Lincoln will show up at Eastridge Presbyterian Church on Monday afternoon with diapers and sippy cups, toys and books and baby wipes, twin-sized sheets and toothpaste.
“The children of the People’s City Mission have the same basic needs as any kid,” she wrote on her flyer. “The goal of Mission’s Helping Hands is to provide basic comforts that most take for granted.”
Hayley leaves me a pair of those flyers.
She thanks me for my time. She shows me a picture of her dog, Duke, and tells me she has two little brothers and that trapshooting is her favorite thing to do.
She still has migraines. But she barely ever stutters and she’s learned new ways to learn.
She has new goals and her eyes on the future.
She’s as good as she’s going to get for now, Hayley says.
I’d say she’s gold.