In Hailee’s honor: Benches to be made in memory of local Girl Scout

Girl Scouts changed Hailee Jones’ life.

Once she finally found a troop that would accept her, she liked spending time with the other girls while participating in a variety of activities and field trips.

“She was a happy-go-lucky little girl,” said Darlene Beavers, who was Hailee’s troop leader for four years. “She enjoyed coming to Girl Scouts. She always had a smile on her face.”

On July 23, 2014, Hailee, who had autism and epilepsy, had a seizure while sleeping and died. She was about a month from her 14th birthday.

Beavers said she was devastated by the news.

A couple of years later, Hailee’s mother, Tabitha Norris, said she wanted to do something in her memory.

She had heard about Green Tree Plastics in Evansville offering a program called A Bench for Caps, where plastic caps and lids are recycled and turned into a bench.

For the smallest bench, it takes 400 pounds of caps and lids — 10 55-gallon trash bags full — and there is a $200 processing fee.

Beavers spread the word to local Girl Scout troops and others in the area.

The collection didn’t take off like she hoped, but Beavers recently said she is giving it another shot to try to get enough caps and lids to have two benches made.

Anyone interested in donating may contact Beavers at 812-525-0207 after 5 p.m.

“To me, it’s really important because this would be something that I could say that me and my daughter and her mother has done for this special little girl,” Beavers said of Hailee being best friends with her daughter, Dawn.

“She deserves something like this because I know she was really, really special to her mother, and she was really special to me, too. If you met her, I think you would fall in love with her,” Beavers said. “I just want to do it in honor of Hailee.”

Norris said she appreciates Beavers’ dedication to making the benches happen.

She plans to place the two benches at her workplace, Seymour Crossing. She said Hailee loved going to the nursing home and reading to residents and pushing them around in their wheelchairs.

“I asked people at Seymour Crossing if we could put it there, and they loved that idea,” Norris said. “They also saved bottle caps.”

Norris said a teacher at Seymour High School also collected caps and lids and donated to their cause.

“I think it’s a great way, especially for the kids, to get involved to help to celebrate someone’s memory,” she said.

Norris looks forward to the day she sees the completed benches outside Seymour Crossing.

“I just cry thinking about it,” she said. “It’s going to help with the healing process, for sure.”

For years, Norris said she had spent time trying to find the right Girl Scout troop for her daughter. She said she was fortunate to find Beavers’ troop.

“She welcomed Hailee immediately,” Norris said.

“It was really nice, and it helped her social skills so much. I was so, so relieved when they helped her. It made her feel welcomed and normal. Being autistic and having epilepsy, you don’t get that feeling a lot. Girl Scouts was just something that made her feel normal every day.”

Norris always went to meetings because Hailee had severe epilepsy, and Norris liked watching the other girls interact with her daughter.

“They were just so wonderful with Hailee,” Norris said. “All of the other girls accepted her. Darlene accepted her. She was able to go on all of the field trips with them.”

Beavers said Hailee’s favorite field trip was to a Build-A-Bear Workshop store.

“She just ate that up,” Beavers said. “She was on cloud nine going to Build-A-Bear.”

Hailee’s last field trip with the troop was to Big Splash Adventure, a water park in French Lick. She and the other troop members spent the night at the park’s hotel.

Beavers and the girls in Troop 6219 went to Hailee’s funeral, and Beavers spoke during the service.

She talked about how the girls would get in a circle and recite the Girl Scout promise at the end of each meeting, but Hailee never wanted to do it.

After two and a half years, Norris joined the circle in hopes her daughter would, too, but Hailee got upset and wouldn’t do it.

Beavers then talked to Hailee and got her to join the circle.

“Finally, she just got enough courage to do it,” Beavers said.

That made Hailee smile, and Beavers still smiles today thinking about it.

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Anyone interested in donating plastic caps and lids to be recycled and made into two benches in honor of Hailee Jones may contact Darlene Beavers at 812-525-0207 after 5 p.m.