Eagle Scout Court of Honor — A Grand Celebration!

There are few Scouting events more impressive than the Eagle Scout Court of Honor (ECOH) and this was certainly the case on Feb 4th, when Troop 353 recognized its 22nd Eagle Scout, Brad M.   This special celebration of Scouting’s highest honor was held at The Reformed Church of Bronxville, where Brad has been an active member all of his life.  Indeed his devotion to his church choir mirrors that of his scouting career:  he has been an active member of both for 12 years!  It was perhaps fortuitous that his Eagle Court of Honor was held at this church, as he earned his very first Boy Scout Award (God and Church) during his first year of Boy Scouts in 2006 at this church from then assistant minister Rich Lichti.  For his Eagle Scout ceremony, the current senior minister Dr. Kenneth C. Ruge, conducted the Invocation and it was discovered only a few weeks prior to the event that reverend Ruge is an Eagle Scout!

Troop 353 was privileged to have several other special guests attend & participate in Brad’s ECOH:  Mr. Marc Andreo (Sr. Scout Executive, Westchester-Putnam Council, Eagle Scout), Mr. David A. Pope (CEO of The Generoso Pope Foundation),  Mr. Lowes Moore (Executive Director of The Boys & Girls Club of Mt. Vernon, ordained minister, former NBA player, and a scout) and Mrs. Charlene Lambrecht (Director of the Eastchester Community Action Program).  Also in attendance were several political leaders that have always taken a serious interest in Scouting and whom also offered special proclomations and letters of commendation:  Joe Mammana & Mike Fix (American Legion), Bob Foster (VFW), Sheila Marcotte (Westchester County Legislator), Joe Dooley (Eastchester Councilman), Steve Ecklond (Mayor of Tuckahoe) and Stephen Quigley (Tuckahoe Village Trustee & T353 committee member–Steve’s son David was Eagle Scout #21).  And this list excludes a long list of Eagle Scouts from various troops.

The official guidance in the BSA’s Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook clearly states that a leadership service project does NOT need to be original but Brad was determined to create a service project that would include a combination of health & fitness (initially it was baseball only–another 12 year commitment!) with that of benefitting those less fortunate economically in our community.  Ultimately, the idea of a “gently used” sports equipment drive to benefit the children of The Boys & Girls Club of Mt. Vernon and the Eastchester Community Action Program evolved.  A massive marketing campaign for the used sporting goods was implemented throughout the community for 6 weeks.  The gear drive would eventually culminate in a “Sports and Fitness Day in Tuckahoe” at Parkway Oval and over 75 children participated in organized sporting & fitness activities, which included basketball clinics led by the renowned varsity coaches of Mt. Vernon High School.

The Generoso Pope Foundation generously donated customized performance t-shirts (created by Brad) as well as a DJ to add an element of festivity to the occasion.  Scouts were involved with the monitoring of the boxes used during the gear drive in 8 locations, the cleaning and organizing of +1700 sporting items, and the preparation of the park for the event as well as 100 lunches and the actual leadership of each organized sporting activity during the event.  At the end of the day, the children were surprised when Brad announced that all the assembled gear was to be given away.  Each kid took home at least 3 or 4 sporting items that day and the remaining gear was dispersed throughout the two beneficiary organizations.  To this day, the two organizations continue to utilize this sports gear in an effort to promote a healthier lifestyle for children.  This big sporting event was well-covered by the media and reflected exceptionally well on both Scouting and our troop.  There are many wonderful pictures of very happy & active kids during Brad’s Eagle Scout Leadership Project, which can be found by clicking here!

Like all Eagle Scouts before him, Brad has become a very accomplished scouting leader, has held every major youth leadership position, was elected to the Order of the Arrow and attended three high-adventure trips.  Troop 353 is blessed to have averaged one Eagle Scout per year since its inception 20 years ago.  However, Brad is the first “early” 17-year old Eagle scout in many years as the past several Eagle scouts have tended to be off to college as soon as they become Eagle scouts and thus the rest of the scouts do not benefit as much from having an Eagle Scout around for assistance.  Brad is currently involved in planning the troop’s upcoming high-adventure trip to Colorado in August and continues to participate in various community service events.  Scoutmaster Mike Occhicone noted in his speech during the ECOH how Brad always challenged himself and that his efforts hopefully would positively influence his fellow scouts to do the same.  Thus, the challenge has been made by Brad for all his fellow troop mates to obtain the rank of Eagle Scout before they turn 17 years old.  Though Brad will be heading off to Northwestern University in Evanston, IL in September, he has vowed to continue to try and live his life using Scouting principles.

Even though less than 4% of all scouts ever attain the rank of Eagle, it is clearly not the ONLY yardstick of success in our troop.  Importantly, what the adult leaders of troop 353 are striving to create is a rich and varied program that provides ample opportunities for ALL scouts to learn about the world around them, how to lead others, how to make strong moral and ethical decisions, to serve their community and fellow scouts cheerfully and to lead a healthy life style.  Advancement per se is not a goal of the Scouting program.  It is along the unique scouting trail, that many, many experiences of a lifetime are created for our boys and I am very sure that Brad would vouch for the truthfulness of this statement as he reflects back on the richness of his special experience in Scouting!  Congratulations to Brad M., Eagle Scout!  More great photos of Brad’s recent Eagle Court of Honor can be found here!

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Ice Climbing in Catskills

Most of our scout’s ice climbing high-adventure activity has occurred far north of here in beautiful Keane Valley, near Lake Placid, NY.  Recently however, our troop opted for a similar bit of excitement but a trip that would be much shorter:  the Catskills!  Many probably are a little shocked to learn that ice climbing exists only 120 miles away near Hunter Mountain, but it does and the ice flows were every bit as spectacular as those in Keane Valley.  Although the winter has been unusually mild there were a few very large ice flows that have been largely protected by the sun.  The only negative was the fact that there was no devoted trail to the climb site and the rocky and steep ground only had light snow cover, making it very difficult to traverse.  Once our small group of thrill seekers found the targeted ice flow, it was an afternoon full of climbing up to heights of as high as an estimated 75′!  One must utilize different climbing techniques than those used for rock climbing.  Ice climbing is a very strenuous task and requires one to overcome any fear of heights.  The end result is a very exhiliarating experience that one will never forget, as these pictures, which do not fully reflect the scale of heights and sheer beauty of the ice flows, clearly attest!

Winter Campout, Ex Snow & Ice

The troop recently took its annual pilgrimmage up to TMR where the temps are typically below freezing most of the month of January. As such, the lake typically frozen and ice fishing ensues. Unless snowball fights or sledding are more popular. This year, however, the weather has been unusually mild and the ice on the lake was too thin. Still, the boys spent most of the day Saturday outdoors: hiking and teaching advancement skills for the lower ranks. The traditional turkey dinner was expertly prepared by ASM Mike I, whom was shipping off to return to service for our country the next day. His presence, along Mr. William and Mr. Evans (both served in the armed forces) added a very special meaning to a very respectful and reverent flag retirement ceremony Saturday night. And the scouts got a first hand look at just how flammable a Christmas tree is when it is totally dried out! All in all, another awesome winter weekend at the base of the Catskills at TMR! Memorable photos are found here!