Aiden Ashby, 15, knows firsthand the anxiety that children feel when a loved one is the subject of a 911 emergency call.
About two-and-a-half years ago, Ashby’s mother, Shelley Ashby, who had recently had a thyroidectomy, experienced a drastic drop in her calcium levels. The Pekin Fire Department was the first responder to his father, Jason Ashby’s 911 call.
“I was in full paralysis,” said Shelley Ashby. “I couldn’t move or breathe and had to be transported to the hospital by ambulance.”
Because the crisis occurred at 5:30 a.m., Aiden Ashby’s younger sister, Sophie, then 6 years old but now 8, was still asleep. But Aiden Ashby was awake and was a witness to the emergency response procedure.
Aiden Ashby, currently a member of Boy Scout Troop 62 in Pekin, has been in scouting since the age of 7, when he joined the Cub Scouts. An aspiring Eagle Scout when he began working on his Eagle Scout Service Project last October, he was influenced by his own experience of seeing a loved one in need of medical care, he said. He organized an effort to put together vinyl bags containing items like stuffed animals, toys, games and puzzles for local firefighters to carry in their trucks when responding to calls, said Aiden and Shelley Ashby. The items are designed to soothe worried children.
“When we had the 911 call for my mom, I believe these items would have helped my sister,” Aiden Ashby said. “Luckily, she was asleep. She didn’t get to experience (the medical emergency) and hopefully she never has to. But I know these items would have helped calm her and ease her a little bit.”
On Tuesday evening, Aiden Ashby presented 15 packages that he calls “comfort bags” to the Pekin Fire Department at Fire Station One at 3232 Court St. He also provided 85 restock bags to replace items taken from the comfort bags.
“We’ve had over 100 hours of donated time to put these together and over $700 (donated) from friends, family and local businesses,” he said. “My neighbor donated her vinyl machine and her time to make the bags, and I had some of my fellow Scouts from my troop help put them together.”
Pekin Fire Department Assistant Chief Rob Baughman said the contents of the comfort bags show that the people who filled them gave careful consideration to the idea that the eventual recipients are individuals, with individual wants and needs.
“We’ve had, at times, different things like stuffed animals,” he said. “But I like the fact that (the comfort bags) are age-appropriate and gender-appropriate. That, to me, was very well thought-out. Reaching for a stuffed animal for a kid that’s 10 years old may not be the answer. But something like a coloring book or something else may keep them occupied.”
An Eagle Scout Service Project provides a Boy Scout with an opportunity to demonstrate leadership while performing a service for the benefit of his community. The project must benefit an organization other than the BSA, and it cannot be performed for an individual or a business or be commercial in nature. Aiden Ashby is currently waiting for confirmation of his promotion to Eagle Scout from the National Boy Scout Council.
“We’re extremely proud of Aiden,” said Shelley Ashby. “We’re happy to see eight years of work come to fruition. It’s amazing that he has been able to keep up with his scouting and keep up with his school work.”