Heart on her sleeve: Mukilteo student helps others through Operation Schoolbell

Hailey Hedlund has three dogs, three cats, two frogs, two younger siblings, an interest in all sports and a love of horses.

An eighth-grade student at Olympic View Middle School in Mukilteo, Hailey, 13, wants someday to be a veterinarian.

But what defines her most at this point in her life, Hailey said, is her involvement in Assisteens, an auxiliary of the Assistance League of Everett.

It’s a volunteer group Hailey couldn’t wait to join last year.

Her grandmother, Mukilteo resident Joanne Peterson, is a former chapter president of Assistance League. Her mother, school teacher Kristie Peterson, is a former adult coordinator for Assisteens.

“I’ve been visiting the Assistance League thrift store for as long as I can remember, hanging out with my mom and my grandmother as they put in their hours at the store,” Hailey said. “Of course back then, I went straight to the toy section.”

The thrift shop is the fundraising arm of the Assistance League, which, among other programs, awards scholarships to Everett Community College students, gives help to high school seniors with graduation expenses and offers vocational training and family assistance.

The league’s primary philanthropic program is Operation School Bell, which last school year provided new school clothes to 2,800 Snohomish County students from families in need.

And that’s where Assisteens comes in, Hailey said. As philanthropic chairman of the auxiliary group, she is active in the Assisteens’ Tees for Teens program.

The 25-member auxiliary raises its own funds through hours worked at the thrift store and other activities, and then uses the money earned to shop for T-shirts for middle and high school students.

“Who knows best but us what the styles are?” she said. “We do it so kids won’t be embarrassed by what the older ladies (in Assistance League) might pick out.”

The Assisteens have a fixed budget, but they shop for the T-shirts at Everett and Alderwood mall stores such as Zumiez, Hot Topic and Old Navy, Hailey said.

“We hope that what we do cuts down on the bullying that goes on at school,” she said. “It’s nice to know that we are part of something that allows students who need help to come in and get new clothes and build up self-esteem.”

Nobody wants to be teased because they are wearing ill-fitting hand-me-downs or the same clothes day after day, Hailey said.

For the same reason, Assisteens volunteers also assemble toiletry and grooming kits for teenagers that can be used at home or at school, she said.

Membership in Assisteens is a good way for teens who need volunteer hours to get involved, and Hailey said she plans to encourage a couple of friends to join up this school year.

The group meets monthly to plan its activities and schedule Saturday work hours in the thrift shop.

“I like meeting other people from other schools,” she said. “And the way Assisteens is organized, we learn leadership skills and the ability to speak in front of a group.”

Grandma Peterson enjoys “connecting” with Hailey in their shared work with Assistance League. She called her granddaughter a “take-charge” girl and a hard worker.

Sally Joy, Assistance League member and current Assisteens coordinator, agrees.

“Hailey takes on any job that needs to be done,” Joy said. “And it’s hard to believe she’s only 13.”

While her family, including her father Brian Hedlund, and the members of Assistance League are proud of her work with Assisteens, Hailey said the real reward is knowing that the goal of helping others is being reached.

“It’s just something our family does. We believe in it,” she said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427 or gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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