Kaitlyn Wilkins, 14, was awarded the Girl Scout Silver Award on March 15 for restoring the Lakeview Cemetery.
WILLSBORO — You may have driven by Lakeview Cemetery last summer and noticed the burial ground on the country lane was flecked with hundreds of American flags.
That was the brainchild of Kaitlyn Wilkins, a ninth grader at Willsboro Central.
Wilkins, 14, chose to refurbish the cemetery as part of her Girl Scout Silver Award project, the highest award a Cadette can earn — a national honor.
She succeeded, and was honored with other local scouts on March 15 at a ceremony at the Champlain Valley Senior Community.
The extensive project saw Wilkins log 98 hours of service.
It wasn’t a cakewalk, and the two-year project saw its fair share of setbacks.
Wilkins always knew she wanted to tackle a beautification project. She settled upon Lakeview and learned the association was trying to secure funding for a decorative chained fence around the perimeter, a $2,000 cost.
Wilkins wrote a grant to the Essex Community Fund in 2015.
It was tough work, and she was happy when it was completed.
But Kaitlyn was crestfallen to learn the application had been denied because projects needed to be wrapped under the banner of a 501(c)(3) organization.
By law, cemeteries are not allowed that designation.
“I was very upset when I didn’t get that grant,” Wilkins said. “To have all that hard work be thrown back at you, it felt terrible.”
That didn’t dissuade the scout and she went back to the drawing board.
A second pass-through grant was successful — “It was wonderful,” she said. “I was jumping with joy” — and the $1,400 allowed Wilkins to refurbish the gardens, plant flowers, erect a flagpole and clean gravestones, which she completed last spring and summer.
With the help of her grandfather, Gale, Wilkins built a sign, bought metal letters and installed the unit.
And on July 4, she borrowed 300 American flags from a local resident to adorn the graves, which stayed planted until Memorial Day.
Leslie Wilkins beamed over her granddaughter’s accomplishments.
“It’s a very rare and prestigious award for Girl Scouts,” Leslie said. “For girl scouting, it is a very big deal.”
Kaitlyn will begin work on the organization’s highest honor, gold, shortly.
“It was a tremendous learning experience,” Leslie said. “For a 14 year old, we’re all very proud of her.”
Lorilee Sheehan, a state representative for the Girl Scouts of Northeastern York, was scheduled to bestow Leslie with the honors on Wednesday evening, after this edition went to print.
“We’re very honored she’s able to present Kaitlyn this award,” Leslie said.
Kaitlyn will also be honored with other recipients of the Silver Award at the Great Escape Lodge in Queensbury in June.
None of it would be possible without the help of the community, she said.
“I’m so thankful for their support, and for the Essex Community Fund,” Kaitlyn said.