Over 120 people turned out to witness Ethan Drain, Spencer Gumbart, Matthew McCann, Evan Siegel and Brendan Walsh be awarded the honor of Eagle Scout at a ceremony held at Parmelee Farm at the end of August. Most of the guests were family and friends, but United States Senator Richard Blumenthal, State Senator Edward Meyer, State Representative James Crawford and Killingworth First Selectwoman, Cathy Iino were also in attendance.
"It is a major accomplishment in the life of a young man to be awarded the honor of Eagle Scout," David Doolittle, Advancement Chair and Treasurer for Troop 18 said as he led off the ceremony. "Only 2% of all scouts achieve this goal," he continued. "On a more personal note," Doolittle states, "These young men have been scouting together since the
third grade. It is the second group of five scouts we have advanced to Eagle from Troop 18."
To be awarded the rank of Eagle, each boy scout must progress through the ranks from Tenderfoot to Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and then Eagle. The scout must also earn 21 merit badges, including all the Eagle required badges, serve six months in a troop leadership position; plan, develop, and give leadership to an approved service project; take part in a scoutmaster conference and finally, successfully complete an Eagle Scout board of review.
The Eagle project alone is a daunting task that takes a great deal of time and organization. Meetings are held with leaders in the scouting organization, including Mr. Tom Jump, regional Boy Scout Coordinator for all Eagle projects, as well as with members of the general community. For many, the Eagle project is the first time these individuals have had to show leadership and accountability in a project with adults involved. All this while the scout is in the throes of his junior/senior year of high school since it must be completed before their 18th birthday.
What is less obvious to the general public is that becoming an Eagle scout is only part of a much bigger picture. Under Killingworth's Troop 18 leadership the adage 'it takes a village' couldn't be more true. There are many terrific scout leaders involved who have volunteered a great deal of their time to help these boys attain this goal. As a small town, to turn out this many Eagle scouts from the troop is something to be proud of.
"We had six Eagle Scouts this year, five at this last ceremony and then earlier this year we had an Eagle ceremony for Drew Sodergren," said Sean Walsh, current Scoutmaster for Troop 18. Walsh has been with Pack 18 (Cub Scouts) for 6 years and with Troop 18 (Boy Scouts) for 9 years. "Troop 18 has had a significant number of Eagle Scouts including twelve in just the last two years. It has been very rewarding working with the Scouts and I am very proud of those who have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout." With the addition of these five scouts, the total number of Troop 18 Eagle Scouts is raised to 35.
"It is quite an honor," echoed Senator Meyer. "I have been witness to many Eagle ceremonies in Killingworth while I have been in office and I look to these individuals to be leaders in the future." Meyer and Representative Crawford bestowed upon each scout a framed citation from the CT General Assembly in recognition of achieving the highest honor available from The Boy Scouts of America. The new Eagle Scouts also received congratulatory messages from President Barak Obama; Past Presidents - George W. Bush and George Herbert Walker Bush; Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Senator Blumenthal addressed the new Eagle Scouts immediately following the ceremony. He recognized them as a group of future leaders and challenged them to continue on their path of involvement. He spoke to the fact that 4 out of the 5 scouts had Eagle projects that took place at Parmelee Farm. "There was a road established from the middle school to the farm, picnic benches built, invasive plants removed and a bridge built linking the two back fields," stated Blumenthal, recognizing that these projects were conducted on town-owned property which supports the kind of community involvement he feels is important for our future.
Troop 18 was organized in 1963. Next year the troop will celebrate 50 years. As Doolittle recounts, "The Eagle Scouts who have come through the troop have moved on to become good citizens. One became the Superintendent of schools of Madison, one is the Commanding Officer of the Mountain Division at Fort Drum NY, another is a LT Col. of the State National Guard, and all are outstanding adults and citizens. These are only a few of the outstanding young men who have come through Troop 18," he continued.
"Don McDougall and I became involved in Killingworth Scouting in 1977,"
Doolittle recalls. "We have been a team ever since." Walsh, as well as Doolittle, McDougall, Ed Funaro and Todd Blewett should all be recognized for their many years of volunteer service to Troop18. They have led weekly meetings, walked hundreds of miles on troop sponsored hikes and attended numerous other overnight, skiing and boy scout sanctioned events to bring the troop to where it is today. Walsh's son Brendan was among this group of Eagle scouts.
Blewett, Committee Chairman for Troop 18 for the past 8 years and before that a Den Leader for 7 years states, "During their years in scouting, it has been a pleasure working with this group of boys who formed such close friendships over the years that they went on to challenge, motivate and help each other finish all the requirements and the important final project". Blewett also commented, "The adult leaders, particularly Scoutmaster Walsh, strive to provide a positive, fun environment that has kept these boys involved in scouting."
"Ultimately it is up to each individual young man to work on
the various requirements, track his progress, and finally choose and complete a project," Blewett continues. "While each scout deserves the credit for their own achievements, they are all quick to credit the others as part of their inspiration. The troop is fortunate to have other groups of boys that are coming up through the ranks together and I look forward to seeing them complete their path to Eagle with similar success."
And how do the scouts themselves feel upon their accomplishments? Evan Siegel states, "Scouting to me has been about the good times with friends at the same time as learning how to do new things and being a better person. It has been about continuing the scouting tradition that has existed for 100 years and being a part of something that not everyone has the chance to do."
Matt McCann emphasizes. "Scouting has been a very challenging, yet rewarding journey and I have made many great friends and many great memories along the way. Our scout leaders deserve just as much recognition as we do. They have been there from the beginning and for us to achieve Eagle is for them to achieve it as well," McCann states, in a typical, humble fashion so evident among all these young men.
"Being a scout has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for me," states Spencer Gumbart. "Seeing scouts through as far as Eagle only makes it a even better one for me. I look forward to seeing all the younger scouts who I know are working towards Eagle attain this goal in the future. I know they can make it," he encourages.
Brendan Walsh says that he will forever have friends and memories resulting from his years in scouting. He states, "My favorite times were summer camp and the 50-mile hike. After all these years I have completed the entire Long Trail and done some sections more than once." Expressing the mantra of what all of these scouts have come to embrace, Walsh says, "Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout."
In addition to becoming an Eagle Scout, Ethan Drain, also received a "Good Scout" award from The Boy Scouts of America’s Connecticut Rivers Council. Drain is involved with the Killingworth Fire Department, where he started at 13 years old. He taught wilderness first aid to adult classes.
Scouting is just a part of their relationship together. Most
of these young men also ran track together during their four years at HKHS. And what's next for these young men? McCann is studying Mechanical Engineering at UCONN, Gumbart is at Champlain College to study video game design, Drain is attending Southern Maine Community College to study firefighting and emergency rescue. Walsh is at Johnson State College in Vermont where he will major in Outdoor Adventure Education or Environmental Science and Siegel is studying biochemistry at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
Laurie McCann, Matt's mother, sums up the whole experience from
a parent's perspective in saying "I am a proud parent of an Eagle Scout. Be prepared and the world will grant all great things. Prepared these young men truly are!"
At the conclusion of the event, the scouts and their families made a contribution of $600 to Troop 18 to be used as the troop leaders see fit. Doolittle accepted the check and in a heartfelt thanks told the audience that the funds will go to the Helping Hands Fund.
"We have always believed that if there is financial reason a boy cannot become a Scout of Troop 18, the Helping Hands Fund will assist with equipment costs, dues, summer camp, and any other monies needed for the Scouts," Doolittle explained. "Originally this was funded internally. We now use the monies collected from the bottle and can return available at the transfer station. The monies collected from there is divided between the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts. We also share with the town food pantry when needed," Doolittle concluded.