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Middletown Transcript
  • Markell signs bill making channeled whelk official shell of Delaware

  • Gov. Jack Markell signed legislation Tuesday that established the channeled whelk as the official shell of the First State, concluding an odyssey that began with one Middletown Girl Scout determined to make a difference.
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  • Delaware is no longer without an official state seashell.
    Gov. Jack Markell signed legislation Tuesday that established the channeled whelk as the official shell of the First State, concluding an odyssey that began with one Middletown Girl Scout determined to make a difference.
    “I can’t believe it actually happened,” Allyson Willis, the sixth-grader at Louis L. Redding Middle School said after attending the bill signing ceremony at Legislative Hall in Dover with the governor, various state legislators, Girl Scout officials and her family. “I can’t believe I’m actually here.”
    Allyson first proposed the idea of an official shell after reading a book about the birds, flowers and other symbols of various states.
    “I noticed then that Delaware doesn’t have a state shell when so many others do, and they don’t even have as many beaches as we do,” she explained last summer. “I talked to some of the other kids in my class and they felt the same way I did.”
    Allyson decided then to try to convince state leaders to correct the oversight as part of her Girl Scout Bronze Award project.
    After collecting signatures from her classmates and fellow Girl Scouts, she then began a letter-writing campaign that caught the attention of state Rep. Quinn Johnson (D-Middletown) and state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown), who co-sponsored a bill to make Allyson’s dream a reality.
    While Allyson had originally identified the Jingle Shell as her favorite, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control instead suggested the channeled whelk, whose shells are commonly referred to as conchs.
    One of two predatory sea snails found on the floor of the central and lower Delaware Bay, the channeled whelk is among the largest commercial fishery resource by weight in Delaware. The channeled whelk and the smaller knobbed whelk – the official sea shell of New Jersey and Georgia – are typically canned for export to Southeast Asia, the Caribbean Isles and the Mediterranean, where they become the central ingredients in dishes like scungilli or conch chowder. 
    The shell bill passed the state House of Representatives in January and cleared the state Senate in March before landing on Markell’s desk this week.
    “I didn’t know that the state of Delaware didn’t have a state shell and other states did, so I was pleased Allyson worked so hard to make this happen,” the governor said after signing the bill into law Tuesday. “I think it shows real persistence on her part and she’s a role model for other kids so they can see what’s possible if they’re willing to work cooperatively.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Anne Hogan, the CEO of Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, said she also was impressed with Allyson’s achievement.
    “This is the kind of story you love to tell,” she said. “Usually a Bronze Award project is something that’s done by a whole troop and impacts their local community. She did this all on her own and her achievement impacts the whole state. I just can’t get over it.”
    Allyson’s mother, Renee, said she’s not sure her only daughter fully understands the scope of her accomplishment just yet.
    “Honestly, I don’t think any of us expected to end up here when we started,” she said. “It was just a fun project, but she saw it all the way through to the end. She’s a big inspiration.”
    Allyson said her first priority after getting the state shell bill signed into law would be to enjoy some of hot dogs with her family, including her grandparents Jim and Starlene Willis who flew in from New Mexico to attend the bill signing.
    But after that, the 12-year-old said, anything is possible.
    “I’ve already started looking through books to figure out what other official things other states have that Delaware doesn’t,” she said. “I’m hooked.”

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