Historic Night for Troop 353 Adult Leaders

 

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On May 12th, 2014, Westchester-Putnam Council, BSA had their annual recognition dinner with the primary billing being the Court of Honor for the award of Silver Beaver for adult volunteers that have made exceptional council-wide contributions over time.  The Silver Beaver award is the highest honor an adult volunteer can receive in a local Council.  The Court of Honor MC was the incoming Council President, John G. Callahan.  John is also the founding Scoutmaster of Troop 353 back on May 1, 1992.  It was a very special evening for both the Callahan family as well as Troop 353 as seen in the photo above, as most of the troop’s prior and current Scoutmasters were present as well as a few Eagle scouts that started as Cub Scouts with Mr. Callahan!  Congratulations to John Callahan and all his family!

From left to right:  David Kindberg (Eagle Scout, Cubmaster Tuckahoe Pack 7), Mike Occhicone (Scoutmaster 2011–2013), Tom McCandless (Eagle Scout, Scoutmaster 2006–2010), Dave Flannery (present Scoutmaster), Mrs. Lynn Callahan (current Pack 7 & Troop 353 Chartered Org Representative), John Callahan (Troop 353 founding Scoutmaster, Silver Beaver 1999), Richard Schraudner (Scoutmaster 1998-2002, Silver Beaver 2006), Matt Keller (Eagle Scout 1999), Don Wauchope (Scoutmaster 2002–2005), John Clark (Eagle Scout 1999, Scoutmaster 2005), Andrew Callahan (first Eagle Scout of Troop 353, 1997).

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!

Fall Court of Honor – Annual Troop Award Surprise

The 2011 Fall Court of Honor and Pot Luck Dinner was another huge success!  An ongoing slide show, lots of good food and good fellowship preceded the formal Court of Honor!  The dinner was a huge success in itself, largely due to Mrs. Rose Poletti, Leah Lazzaro and Lisa Brown–thank you ladies!!   As the Court of Honor that immediately follows summer camp, there were a number of merit badges and rank advancment patches to hand out.  In addition, it was the announcement of the Annual Scout of the Year award and the Good Turn Service Award — the troop’s most prestigious awards!  Scouts were awarded 106 merit badges, 25 scouts advanced in rank and numerous special BSA Awards were handed out!

The troop also surprised long-time sr. committee member, former Committee Chair and former Scoutmaster Richard Schraudner with a Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by his long-time colleague Mike William (a prior year Lifetime Achievement Award winner). 

The highlight of the evening was the announcement of the winner of the Annual Good Turn Service Award and the Annual Scout of the Year Award.  For the Good Turn Service Award is given to the Scout with the most community service hours accumulated through Scouting, School, Religion and general volunteer work.  The clear winner in 2011 was James T–even excluding his nearly 50 hours of community service as a Den Leader, James still had more community service hours than nearly every scout in the troop!

The Annual Scout of the Year Award is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement award and it measures a broad base of activities including advancement, leadership, training and participation.  As well, adult leaders offer their perspective on various candidates and which scouts consistently display the best overall Scout Spirit throughout the past year.  In 2011, lightning striked twice as there was a tie between Will B (a prior year Good Turn Service Award winner) and current SPL Chris L!!  All in all, it was a very memorable evening for Troop 353 and its growing family, as these great pictures (Courtesy of Anita Rosner) will attest!

Fall Court of Honor & Annual Troop Awards

The fall Court of Honor in our troop is always the biggest and best as a pot luck dinner is a part of the festive night!  This year was no different, as more than 75 people were present and a record number of advancement awards were handed out following summer camp at Read Reservation: + 80 merit badges for 12 scouts & 12 scouts advancing in rank.  Also, special congratulations to Michael P–winner of the 2009–2010 Scout of the Year.  There was a two-way tie fo the Annual Good Turn Service Award between William B & Michael I, as these scouts accumulated more than 100 hours of community service across a wide range of community service opportunities.  Special BSA Emergency Preparation and Mile Swim Awards were also handed out to Willaim B, Chris L & Michael P.  Here are a few pictures from this memorable night!

Eagle Court of Honor – Going Green

Troop 353 has been exceptionally fortunate in that we typically average one Eagle Scout per year and 2010 was no different!  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 this year a scout (David Quigley) came forth with a very unique idea that our troop leaders had never seen before.   The concept was to assist community officials and other volunteer groups in a major project to assess the economic impact of the urban canopy in the village of Tuckahoe.  This type of appraisal includes a measurement and inventory of all trees that belong to the village.  To correctly assess, one has to go through training and submit evaluations on the condition of the tree & whether there is any overhead wire interference or uprooted sidewalks, possibly signaling potential economic problems during future storms.  Such ultra-green practices are cutting edge urban management strategies being deployed on a growing list of rapidly expanding cities worldwide, including 21 different cities in CA; Portland, OR; Jacksonville, FL;and more recently including Washington, DC; Rockville, MD, Shoreview, MN; Nashville, TN; Seattle, WA and several others.  More info about David’s project can be seen on the Eagles Nest page of this website.

David’s accomplishments are numerous and impressive.  He held a variety of key youth leadership roles:  Troop Guide, Patrol Leader, Assistant SPL and SPL.  Not only did he manage to take on the demanding role of Sr Patrol Leader during 11th grade, but he also managed to complete a few more merit badges, complete his Eagle Scout Leadership Project while taking all honors courses in his senior year and while playing on varsity soccer and crewing for Fordham Prep.  David has a wonderful talent for successfully executing many troop activities with limited time constraints in such a way that one would believe the event had been planned for months!  I have personally known David since Cub Scouts and he has grown to be an extremely caring, capable young man and should represent all Eagle Scouts well.

Like nearly all of the Eagle Scouts from Troop 353, David’s parents were very active in our troop and Mr. Steve Quigley was the Advancement Chair for many years.  Mrs Quigley was very active in girl scouts and both of David’s sisters, Eileen & Laura completed their Gold Award.

Due to David’s very demanding schedule, even after graduation, it was a challenge to schedule his Eagle Court of Honor!  July 25th turned out to be the best available date for the Quigley family and one of the more meaningful participants was David’s grandfather, himself an Eagle Scout.  Former Eagle Scouts and several current scouts gathered during that hot day in the beautiful Generoso Pope Foundation building in Tuckahoe to celebrate David’s special day of celebration.  In attendance were the faithful group of public officials:  Nita Lowey & Amy Paulin (NY State Congresswomen), Vito Pinto & Sheila Marcotte (Westchester County Legislators), John Fitzpatrick (Tuckahoe Village Mayor), Clare Goreman and Steve Ecklond (Tuckahoe Village Trusteees), Robert Forster (VFW), and Frank Morganthaler (American Legion).

David, like all of the scouts in our troop, has accomplished much during his youth scouting career and we are equally excited to see where his college studies at Holy Cross take him professionally.  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 David would vouch for the truthfulness of this statement as he reflects back on the richness of his special experience in Scouting!  Hats off to Mr. David Quigley, Eagle Scout!  More pictures of David’s uniquely “Green” Eagle Project and Eagle Court of Honor can be found here!

Special Court of Honor

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According to the Scoutmaster’s Handbook, the four stages of advancement in Scouting are learning, testing, review & recognition.  The last step, “recognition”, is regarded as being extremely important to every scout and this is represented by a special awards ceremony called a Court of Honor.  While all Courts of Honor are special events the Fall Court of Honor for Troop 353 is the most distinguished.  Not only is it a night for fellowship and to enjoy a family-style pot luck dinner (thanks to Mrs. Poletti and several other moms), but it is also a night of very special recognition.  This special evening occurs relatively soon after summer camp, where the scouts have frequently earned many merit badges (65 total) and /or advanced in rank.  The annual Scout of the Year Award is given to a deserved Scout that has exhibited the best traits of Scouting throughout the past year (advancement, training, & participation in all troop activities).  The annual Good Turn Service Award recognizes a scout’s community service efforts often go beyond scouting to related activities for school & through their church or synagogue.  In 2009, if all of the advancement and annual awards were not enough, a surprise Lifetime Achievement Award was given to one of the more devoted adult scouters in Troop 353’s history.

The court of honor took a special turn and a healthy dose of Scouting Spirit was introduced to court of honor with an opening of a few very funny skits representing comical scenes from the high adventure Sea Base camp earlier that summer as well as the senior scout’s favorite spirit song (this is a a do-as-I do song) from Sea Base during the dessert hour.  How wonderful it was to see the older boys having fun time and spreading their infectious enthusiasm!

The annual Scout of the Year Award in 2010 was won by D. Appia.  D. Appia had superior results in all categories that mattered:  he advanced, he took advantage of most troop activities (including summer camp), he took on meaningful roles of leadership and did so in a cheerful manner.  From the Scout of the Year Committee’s perspective D. Appia was the undisputed leader across these categories and was particularly well-deserved to earn this prestigious once-in-a-lifetime Scouting award.

When the number of submitted service hours that one particular scout had accumulated were examined, I thought “this cannot be possible”.  Yet, the Good Turn Service Award committee had dutifully accumulated and verified the data.  After a few phone calls, it was abundantly clear that J. Gonzalez had indeed accumulated approximately 175 hours of total community service work hours during the chosen measurement period!  In fact his hourly totals were over 100% higher than the second place finisher.  Again, the winner of this award was particularly clear cut.

The last award was one that was particularly important to keep “quiet”, as the recipient was also heavily involved in Scout of the Year committee and had intimate knowledge of the Court of Honor program details.  The adult leadership committee was unanimous in its decision that the one individual that had devoted most of his adult life to Scouting in some fashion and, even long after his youngest son had made Eagle Scout, graduated from college and entered the workforce, this dad still spent considerable energy contributing substantially to a number of key scouting activities throughout the year for Troop 353, giving special consideration to first year scouts.  Moreover, this senior scout leader over the years had deliberately chosen to expend his scouting time and energies toward the scouts of Troop 353 and not toward larger Council-type events was thus ineligible for any of the Council recognition awards.  Given this criteria, the obvious Lifetime Achievement Award winner was senior committee member Mr. Michael D. William!  For the perfect trifecta of award winners and other great pictures, click here.