TOWNSEND — When she decided to join the Boy Scouts, and aspire to the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout, Kaylee Meadows didn’t have to look far for inspiration.
The 17-year-old joined a Scout troop in Oregon led by her grandfather, participating via Zoom throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and occasionally flying to the West Coast to work on badges in-person over the past two summers.
For her Eagle Scout service project, she found an opportunity closer to home. She built a firefighter gear dryer for Townsend Fire Station 3, where her father, Michael, is a firefighter and EMT.
Meadows raised more than $2,000 to buy the construction materials. Then she spent more than 70 hours assembling PVC pipes in the form of a coat rack, and attaching an air dryer usually used for a bounce house.
“We found the blueprints online from another girl who actually did it in Florida, I believe, and we just decided to do that as my project,” said Meadows, noting that her parents and a family friend who is a retired carpenter helped out.
Late last month, Meadows presented her project at the station, with her proud father looking on.
“It was really impressive to see Kaylee be able to complete this project because this is her project,” said Michael Meadows, himself a former Boy Scout. “I don’t really have any say on the design or anything, she came up with her modifications and I said, ‘OK, it should work.’”
Acting Fire Chief Gary Shepard said Meadows’s project will help improve firefighter safety.
“Anything that we can do to help facilitate the safety of all of our personnel, we’re receptive to it,” said Shepard, who is an Eagle Scout and a former assistant troop leader. “She’s doing a wonderful thing, to get that to us, so that we’re able to make sure we keep our personnel safe.”
Meadows’s journey to become an Eagle Scout comes as girls across the United States are ascending to the Boy Scouts’ highest rank. Last year, the BSA, as the Boy Scouts organization is known nationally, welcomed its first class of 1,000 female Eagle Scouts, the Associated Press reported.
In Massachusetts, girls make up just 5.4 percent of the total 26,681 youths who collectively belong to 1,311 troops, according to the six state councils. There were 1,105 Scouts who achieved the Eagle Scout ranking in 2021 in Massachusetts, according to data compiled by the councils.
Since girls were allowed to join the Boy Scouts in 2019, there have been 59 female Eagle Scouts from Massachusetts, according to the councils. The state also has at least one all-girls Boy Scout troop, BSA Troop 12 for Girls in Acton, which has one Eagle Scout and one girl working toward the rank out of 24 members, according to its troop leader.
Meadows credits her grandfather for encouraging her to pursue the rank of Eagle Scout. Her teenage aunt in Oregon, who is also an Eagle Scout, is another inspiration. “I thank my grandfather for that, for showing me and inviting me into his troop and meeting all the different girls that I’ve met over the past few years when I’ve been part of that troop,” she said in an interview.
In two years, Meadows, a high school junior, has completed all of the 21 merit badges required to become an Eagle Scout. With her badges and service project completed, Meadows soon will participate in a Board of Review over Zoom, which will determine if she gets the Eagle Scout ranking, she said.
She is confident of her accomplishments.
“Being a female shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want to do, especially when it comes to Boy Scouts,” Meadows said. “Any girl is capable of doing anything that a guy can do, and don’t let what other people say get in the way of stopping you because you can do anything.”
She was a Girl Scout in middle school, and loved working on “fun badges,” such as arts and crafts, she said. As a Boy Scout, she has embraced new and different challenges. “You learn all these knots and learn how to use a pocket knife,” Meadows said.
Some people are surprised to see her dressed in a uniform adorned with the badges and emblems of the Boy Scouts.
“People have this image of a Boy Scout, being a boy,” she said. “When I tell people that I’m a Boy Scout, they kind of look at me confused because they don’t really understand it because, well, I’m a girl wearing a Boy Scout uniform.”