A Tradition of Service: Chesterfield Scouts Present Eagle Project
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Sep 5, 2012, 11:39
When students and teachers return to Ecoff Elementary in September, they will be greeted by a new water garden, complete with a water fall, in the courtyard of their school. Visitors to the Chester Family Y.M.C.A. will also be able to enjoy a new amenity: a freshly repaired dock on the pond behind the building.
The community oriented projects were planned and executed by Chesterfield Boy Scouts Tyler Grabham, 16, and Berkeley Dale Ward Galstan, 13, as part of their work to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest award given by Boy Scouts of America.
“That’s one of the hallmarks of being a boy scout, is helping your community,” said Alston Heggie, scoutmaster for Galston’s Troop 819, out of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Chester, one of the oldest troops in the state.
The “Merit Behind the Badge” study conducted by Baylor University showed that in 2011 alone, more than 51,000 young men earned the Eagle Scout Award, tallying up 6.7 million hours of community service.
“There is not a community organized in the country that hasn’t had an Eagle Scout project benefit it,” said Mark Wheeler, who recently retired as scoutmaster for Troop 2860 out of Woodlake United Methodist Church, which has one of the most active scouting programs in the state.
Wheeler led Grabham through his work on the garden.
contributed photo Berkeley Galstan, 13, earned the rank of Eagle Scout after restoring a dock behind the Y.M.C.A. in Chester.
Galston said he had noticed the poor condition of the dock behind the Y.M.C.A., where he occasionally goes for recreation, and thought it would make the perfect Eagle Scout project.
“It was really dangerous, so it felt good to fix it,” he said.
In addition to building the dock, Galston had to choose a design and make arrangements to have the supplies donated or sold for reduced price, which teaches the young men important life skills, Heggie said.
“There’s a lot of extra work that goes along with it, not just the physical work that people get to see at the end,” Heggie said. “...There’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes before they even start the project. I think a lot of people don’t realize that.”
Sometimes that behind the scenes work can be more challenging than the physical work, where scouts usually get help from their troop, family and friends.
For Grabham, arranging the rocks donated by Vulcan Materials and putting the skills he learned from rigorous study of YouTube videos about pond installation to use was much more straightforward than the preparation.
“Planning the pond wasn’t that hard,” he said. “It was getting it approved by all the different departments of Chesterfield County, like risk management and everything, was the hard part.”
He had hoped to finish the project during spring break in April, but the approval process didn’t conclude until the beginning of June.
Grabham’s water garden was the result of a personal request from one of theteachers, whose son plays soccer with Grabham’s younger brother. Atone of the games, she heard Grabham’s parents talking about potential projects for their son and chimed in with the proposal.
contributed photo Tyler Grabham, 16, stands by the water garden he constructed for the students of Ecoff Elementary in Chesterfield.
“This project specifically helps the kids with their SOLS,” Grabham said, noting that the toad population that had mysteriously made its way into the courtyard was already showing its appreciation for his work. “The toads have started to use the pond and everything, so it’s just basically going to become an ecosystem.”
Dr. Joshua Cole, the principal of Ecoff Elementary, said he was looking forward to seeing the students’ faces when they saw the new learning accessory.
“Kids like to get their hands dirty when they’re learning,” he said.
“Between the kids and the teachers, we’re hoping they really utilize it for outdoor classroom lessons.”
Grabham, who will start his junior year at James River High School in the fall, has been a scout since he was six years old.
“We go camping a lot and stuff like this gets done for the community,” Grabham said, describing why he likes being a scout.
Galston, who has been scouting for the past three years, likes the camaraderie that comes with the activities his troop does.
“It’s fun to be a scout,” he said. “You get to hang out with people. It’s fun to work together with them and you learn skills you wouldn’t learn anywhere else.”
By becoming Eagle Scouts, Grabham and Galstan have joined a 100 year tradition.
Since Arthur Eldred of New York earned the first Eagle Scout Award in 1912, two million other young men have contributed an average of 130 hours each of community service in pursuit of the Boy Scouts of America’s highest honor.
Wheeler said that the work of Eagle Scouts is particularly prominent in Chesterfield County where the scouting community is strong.
“Tyler has a scouting base what was very strong,” said Wheeler. “He’s a great kid. ... He has honored this process and just done wonderfully.”
“There’s a lot of stuff that we do out there,” he said.
Heggie said he passed by the project Galstan finished in the spring and was still able to see all the work that went into it.
“It still looks brand new,” he said. “He did a fine job with it.”
Wheeler said that he has tried to impress the importance of the Eagle Scout projects on all of the scouts who have been in his troop.
“An Eagle Scout project isn’t like having homework or something. This is a life changing activity,” he said. “It’s going to change who you are and how you’re seen for the rest of your life.”