Helping others can be pretty sweet.
For hours on end, Eagle River’s Alaina Vik, 13, has stood in grocery store entrances or parking lots and approached strangers asking if they’d like to buy Girl Scout cookies. Often with her mom and siblings along to help, Vik has been “everywhere” from Anchorage to the Mat-Su selling the distinctive boxes, and the effort has paid off — last year, she sold more than 5,000 boxes to become Alaska’s No. 1 seller.
“I went out every day and I just kept going and asking people if they wanted to buy cookies,” she said.
Alaina’s mom, local realtor Amy Vik, said she and husband Curtis — an Alaska State Trooper — took time out to help sell cookies, as did Alaina’s older brother, Kyle.
“Every time she did a booth it was her and mom or her and mom and dad and even her older brother helped,” said Amy, who along with her husband is a Chugiak High grad. “It was definitely a big family effort.”
Sales of the cookies go directly to help local scouts (Vik is a member of Troop 690), so Vik’s feat is a big accomplishment in its own right. But there’s more to her story than just selling cookies.
“Two years ago, my friend’s dad was deployed and we thought we should send cookies, so we sent like 10 boxes to that unit,” Vik explained.
From those first boxes an idea was born that has since grown into “Operation Sweet Support,” a project Vik started to send care packages to U.S. troops deployed overseas. Since the project began, Vik has sent more than 800 boxes of cookies overseas in care packages she creates by hand. Earlier this month she sent another shipment of 87 care packages to National Guard units.
“I think they should be appreciated and honored and remembered,” Vik said.
It’s not just cookies. Each care package includes a personalized note thanking the troops for their service as well as personal items ranging from pencils and pens to beef jerky and baby wipes.
“It turned out to be a big project,” said Vik, whose website is full of pictures of herself lugging boxes upon boxes of care packages to the post office. In one photo, her two younger brothers peek from behind a stack of boxes piled in the back of the family car.
“Even my brothers helped load and unload care packages,” she wrote in the caption.
Vik has been received donations from numerous local businesses ranging from Red Robin to Red Apple Market and earlier this summer was the subject of a KTUU-TV news report.
Vik’s work recently attracted the attention of U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who made Vik his “Alaskan of the Week” honoree on Sept. 20. Sullivan served with Vik’s dad in the Marine Corps Reserves, and said during a speech on the Senate floor the effort has not gone unnoticed.
“It means the world,” he said. “It means that people back home are remembering what you are doing.”
Alaina said she never thought her project would get so much attention. When she heard Sen. Sullivan wanted to honor her work, she said she was in disbelief.
“I literally just went, ‘Wow!” she said.
Vik said she plans to continue selling cookies and making care packages and has started a website (operationsweetsupport.com) to take donations for her project, which continues to grow. “Maybe someday I may turn it into a nonprofit,” she said.
For now, Vik said she’s content in the knowledge she’s helping others.
“It makes me feel really proud of myself.”