Community Service — Tommie Cares Foundation — Always a FUN event!!

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During the past few years the local athletic clothing vendor of Tommie Copper has created a few seasonal events to benefit special needs kids.  Some events are on snow, others on horseback, but the summer events are probably among the most popular!  The Tommie Copper Foundation organizes these events with ample youth volunteers, including many local boy scouts, for each participant (at a 4:1 ratio) and with great preparation for the volunteers.  Volunteers also earn a few hours of community service and get a free t-shirt as well.  It is truly a FUN event for the volunteers AND the participating kids as these 2014 photos attest!

Community Service — A Special Day for Special Kids 

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It is not every day that a child with disabilities gets to have a social outing at a local swimming pool. It is also not every day that a scout gets to “earn” community service hours for playing in a water park, but both are exactly what occurred in August 2013.  Scouts from Troop 5 Bronxville and Troop 353 Eastchester participated in helping children with special needs enjoy a few hours of FUN at the local water park, Tibbetts Brook Park.  The event was sponsored by the Tommie Cares Foundation (TCF), which focuses on selected sports (selected water & snow sports) for children with special needs.  The TCF was started in 2013 by the founder of the Tommie Copper organization, a line of copper-infused compression sports clothing.  The event was exceptionally well-organized and the pre-event training for volunteers on how to understand and play with children with special needs safely and comfortably was exceptionally practical and thorough.  Even though passing thunderstorms delayed the start of the event for an hour, there was no shortage of FUN activities inside waiting for the rain to pass.  After an hour or so in the pool, a special awards ceremony recognized every child!  It was a particularly happy moment for many children and families.  Not only did the scouts have a very gratifying time, but the special needs children had the memory of a lifetime!  Here are some more great photos here!

Community Service — Graymoor: Annual Good Turn Weekend & Iron Chef Cookoff 

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It may not feel like it now with all the snow, but before the troop will be planning its annual spring time camping schedule.  For the past several years, our troop has adopted a Good Turn Weekend outing which includes camping on the beautiful grounds of the Graymoor Monastery in Garrison, NY.  The “Good Turn” element typically involves a “spring cleaning” of the prominent 9-11 prayer garden and surrounding area.  For most scouts, and especially the adults, the 6 hours of yard work is therapeutic, as there is a strong appreciation of the thousands of visitors that frequent this sacred ground throughout the year.   Our liason Brother Ted Novack is always careful in his choice of additional special projects and patient in his all-knowing horticultural guidance to the scouts.

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To get the best appreciation of the importance of the troop’s work maintaining the sacred 9-11 prayer garden, please check out these videos of the reverent & respectful services from 2011 & 2013 ==>  9-11 Services video clips.

Although the scouts claim to be “exhausted” and too tired to work any longer by 4:00pm, they miraculously “rally and play either kick ball or softball for at least an hour prior to dinner prep, which often includes a dutch oven treat prepared by one of the adult leaders using the special food ingredient for the next day.

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After a few years, a special feature was added to the outing:  the Iron Chef cookoff on Sunday morning (after Mass) with Brother Ted the tasting judge.  The winning patrol carries the coveted Golden Spatula award for the next twelve months.  The troop’s PLC chooses a special ingredient to be included in the popular cookoff event, such as apple, lime, chocolate, pineapple, etc.

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 The scout’s breakfast concoctions often are original creations–which is often a good news/ bad news development.  “Good” in that it spurs their creativity and there is planning involved, “bad” in that the end result is not always aesthetically pleasing to Brother Ted!  Rule #1 is that it must be edible and something the scouts will eat–not a bad rule to follow under any condition!

Pictures from  2012 are found here!

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Pictures from 2013 are seen here!

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Community Service — Honoring a Legacy: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

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The current generation of scouts has a difficult time fully appreciating the tense & tumultuous period of the 1960s in our country.  As each year passes, the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. become more and more awe-inspiring.  The fight for equal treatment of all human beings against a culture of segregation that was brutally enforced at times is an unbelievable endeavor that demands everyone’s utmost respect.  So it is with tremendous appreciation that our troop serves to perform the opening flag ceremony at the annual appreciation breakfast for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sponsored by the Eastchester Community Action Program.  The breakfast is attended by a wide variety of public service-oriented groups, including many politicians, to honor the legendary Dr. King.  And Troop 353 scouts proudly post the colors! More photos here!

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Community Service — Rebuilding After Super Storm Sandy 

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Soon after the Super-Storm Sandy devastated the Breezy Point Area, Troop 353  junior scouts conducted a local supply drive and raised money while senior scouts responded to the area. Recently, a few of those senior scouts returned to Breezy Point representing our troop and were recognized by members of the local community as well as by Habitat for Humanity.

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Thanks to Troop 353, a once uninhabitable structure now serves as a Learning Center for local students as well as the new Breezy Point Command Post for Habitat for Humanity. The structure was gutted by scouts and parents of our troop and rebuilt principally though the efforts of ASM Flannery and Flannery Contracting. Our troop also assisted with the collection of supplies and money. The funds raised by our scouts were matched (2x) by ASM DeKnatel’s company, Cisco Systems.  In addition, we brought several vans full of food, clothes, supplies, and raised over four thousand dollars to help the Breezy Point Community.

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At a ceremony in the New Command Post, our Scouts were acknowledged by Mr Jim Killoran, the Westchester Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity.  In honor of Troop 353, a full scale copy of Troop 353’s Patrol Flag is permanently affixed to the wall in the Command Post!! Mr Killoran said that the “Community Service” our troop flag represents will serve as an inspiration to the many other volunteers that will serve the area.

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Mr Killoran was joined by a Mrs Betsy Hendry who is the Director of this new Caffrey-Conroy Learning Center at Breezy Point. Mrs Hendry also thanked Troop 353 and became quite emotional.  She explained that her tears were from the “joy of knowing there are good people who would come to the aid of others”.

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Of course, while we were there, scouts and adult leaders alike rolled up their sleeves to do some additional community service by helping a family who’s home was still covered with debris.  We managed to spruce it up quite a bit which put huge smiles on the faces of the family that lived there!  Scouts still managed to find time for a few piggy-back relay races on the sand.

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Eagle Scout Beautifies High Traffic Twin Lakes Park Entrance

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Troop 353 Eastchester is blessed to have a wide array of talented young men with diverse interests. And this is best reflected in the breadth of Eagle Scout Leadership Projects our scouts pursue. Many Eagle Scout Leadership Projects entail either a repair job or a form of conversation work. Few Eagle Scout projects, however, have been more visible to the public or more badly needed than the one chosen by Matthew S. Over the years our troop has had a few various Eagle Scout projects within the Twin Lakes County Park, including the removal of invasive vines, the clearing of hiking trails and even the establishment of trail markers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The entrance to Twin Lakes park at the corner of California Rd and Highland Ave is an exceptionally busy one, with hikers, trail runners, dog walkers, cyclists, and even horse back riders.  For many years, the entrance was heavily  overgrown with weeds, invasive vines, and littered with trash, as seen in these pictures.  And the area frequently flooded during heavy rains, due to the clogged runoff drains nearby.  After extensive conversations with the County and local Eastchester authorities, Matthew finally was able to start work in late July (above photo, before) & finished by October (below photo, after). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Bug spray during the warm months was imperative as were several outdoor tools and yard gloves.  The group of hard-working scouts at this visible intersection did not go un-noticed–indeed at one point a gentleman (a total stranger) stopped by our worksite to drop off a case of bottled water.  We quickly learned that the man was a scout when he was younger and, importantly, that the scout’s good deeds were not going unrecognized in the community.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMatthew went above and beyond the call of duty in that he met with Eastchester Town Supervisor Tony Colavita whom arranged to have the nearby drains cleared out and to have a truck load of gravel dropped at the site; he also met with the owner of the local nursery Nature’s Cradle and arranged to secure several free plants and perennials; and he visited with the general manager of the nearby country club to see if there was an old large tree trunks available that could be made into a park bench (as seen at the right).

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The planting of the donated plants was done with a great degree of purpose and selection as raised garden beds were created with reinforced sidings and a wooden rail with deep posts was erected in the new garden, parallel to California Rd.  These extra efforts required power tools, a generator, the availability of several adults and lots of patience. With a black magic marker, we wrote on the wooden fence: “an Eagle Project by Troop 353 Eastchester”.  The troop is hopeful that other scouts from other local troops will carry on a tradition of keeping this popular entrance to Twin Lakes Park well-groomed while maintaining the selected plants and bushes. In the end, Matt’s Eagle Scout project received rave reviews by the many park visitors and an excellent overview in the local press.  Eastchester Scouts Complete Twin Lakes Eagle Scout Project, P.6.   Other great pictures of his Eagle Project work days can be found here!

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Six months later, Matthew S. experienced the highest award ceremony of all, the Eagle Court of Honor, the 23rd Eagle Scout for Troop 353 Eastchester.   Not surprisingly, Mr. Colavita was a keynote speaker and reflected on Matthew’s can-do work ethic that was obvious even at a very young age when he coached Matt in Little League baseball.  Several other dignitaries were present:  Sheila Marcotte (Westchester County Legislator), Luigi Marcoccia (Eastchester Councilman), Stephen Quigley (Tuckahoe Village trustee & T353 committee member–Steve’s son David was Eagle Scout #21), Bob Foster (VFW), Michael Fix (American Legion).

IMG_1042 A very special gift was offered by Assistant ScoutMaster & SGM Michael I, on active duty in Afghanistan at that time.  He ensured Matthew was presented with a special American flag that had flown on a predator drone on reconnaissance the day Matthew completed his Eagle Board of Review.  Similarly, through the office of Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Matthew was presented with a second American flag that had flown over the Capitol building on the day of his Eagle Board of Review.  Finally, several Eagle Scouts were in attendance, as could be expected, and each repeated their Eagle Scout Promise with Matthew during his ceremony.

IMG_1092Like all Eagle Scouts before him, Matt 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, Matt is one of the first Eagle scouts to have completed all requirements at least 6 months before he went off to college SUNY in Cortland, NY.  Accordingly, his presence at various scouting events as an Eagle Scout has been very beneficial for the younger scouts in our troop.

Even though less than 4% of all scouts ever attain the rank of Eagle Scout or Life Scout, 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 Matthew would vouch for the truthfulness of this statement as he reflects back on the richness of his special experience in Scouting!  Congratulations to Matthew S., Eagle Scout!

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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!