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!

Hiking With Eagles

During the yearend holidays, the troop arranges a hike with many of its Eagle Scouts that might be home from college, as well as those that have since graduated and still live nearby.  Too, the invitation list is not restricted to Eagle Scouts exclusively–all former scouts and/or their parents are welcome!  And that was the case in 2012 as a few parents participated without their sons!   This short hike is a terrific opportunity for younger scouts to mingle with Eagle Scouts and learn first-hand how & why these boys made it all the way to Eagle Scout (or Life Scout, etc).   The influence of a 22 year old on a 13 year old scout is far greater than any Old Goat!

There are a few hikes in northern Westchester County that are favorites, however, winter trail conditions can preclude certain hikes.  One that is nearly always accessible is Storm King Mountain, just north of West Point in the scenic Hudson Valley.  This year our group of hardy hikers opted for a longer hike, crossing a valley prior to climbing and encircling the cap of Storm King and then returning returning.  Still, we managed to make it to the northern side of the mountain for a brief lunch in the gusty wind.  Down below, parts of the Hudson River were visibly frozen and one could see Banneman’s Castle in the distance.   There are numerous scenic overlooks on this short hike that have helped make this one a Troop 353 Eagle Scout Classic!

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!

Eagle Scouts Unite For Annual Hike

Each year during the year-end holidays, Troop 353 attempts to gather its available Eagle scouts. These fine young men are often home from college and enjoy the reunion of old friends, notwithstanding any conflicting work schedules. As well, it is a terrific venue for introducing younger scouts to older scouts and to learn why it is important to strive for the rank of Eagle Scout. This year, the hike was to the scenic Storm King Mountain and its sweeping panoramic views of the Hudson Valley and Catskills. It was a crisp, bright day in January, but the exercise certainly re-emphasized the importance of layered clothing!

Storm King has a very interesting recent history. In 1999, under drought conditions, a forest fire spread throughout the state park. In the course of extinguishing the fire, exploding ordnance were unexpectedly discovered. “The ordnance had apparently been fired well over a century ago to test cannons manufactured at the West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, across the river and it exploded due to the heat generated by the fire. Subsequently, it was determined that artillery shells fired from the West Point Military Reservation may also have landed in the park.” It took the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over 4 years to clean up the park before it was reopened to the public.

There are actually two adjacent mountain peaks that our troop hiked and the vertical rise is a manageable 500 feet (or less) and we probably hiked only 2.0–2.5 miles in total. From the top of Butter Hill, only 45 minutes from the parking lot, one can view the Shawangunk Ridge to the west (and several major Catskill wilderness areas), Mount Misery to the South, West Point and Cold Spring to the Southeast and the easterly ledges of Storm King. Then a short walk north to northeast over to the Storm King mountain along the upper Yellow trail, gives hikers unparalleled views of the Hudson River to the north and the east. Directly across the Hudson River to the east is the equally scenic Breakneck Ridge trail, towering above Cold Spring, NY, which the troop hiked in April 2007.

There are no fewer than 7 different scenic view points on the trail map. At one of these points, the boys picked a perfect place to stop for a late lunch and a brief 30-minute rest. In the distance, one can easily view Bannerman’s Island and the remnants of the Scottish-style castle he built in the late 1880s to house his arsenal of second-hand military supplies which he sold abroad. Afterwards it was a comparatively quick jaunt for the scouts down the White / Bypass trail. This was a comparatively easy hike with varied geographic conditions and stunning views which scouts greatly appreciated as seen in these pictures. click for more scenic views

Eagle Scout Court of Honor – A Rare Celebration!

Eagle Scouts Thomas and Conor

It is a relatively rare event for a Boy Scout to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.  In fact, less than 4% of all scouts reach the highest rank of Eagle Scout.  I doubt if any statistics are available, but I have to believe the probability of two brothers who, along with their sister, are part of a set triplets that advance through the Scouting program to make Eagle is less than half of 1% of all scouts!!

As rare as this seems, it happened in Troop 353 not that long ago!  Conor and Thomas M. both celebrated this crowning achievement at the beautiful Generoso Pope Foundation building in Tuckahoe recently, along with a subtantial group of public officials and other important dignitaries:  Amy Paulin (NY State Congresswoman), Vito Pinto (Westchester County legislator), Tony Colavita (Eastchester Town Supervisor), Sheila Marcotte (Eastchester Council woman), John Fitzpatrick (Tuckahoe Village Mayor),  Clare Gorman & Steve Ecklond (Tuckahoe Village Trustees), Mike Yazurlo (Superintendent Tuckahoe School District), Robert Foster (VFW), Frank Morganthaler (American Legion), Mike Fix (former President of the Eastchester Historical Society and an Eagle Scout), Sandy Garufi (Tuckahoe HS Music Director) and Ms. Andrea Grimaldi (Director of HR, Westchester County American Red Cross).  Photos from the very special Eagle Court of Honor are seen here.

Like all of the boys in our troop, Thomas and Conor have achieved notable success in other endeavors.  Be it school (National Honor Society), sports (golf) or in other extracurricular activities (the World Championships of Traditional Irish Music), these young men have enjoyed truly world-class success.  It is interesting, but not entirely surprising, to note that both have chosen to study Engineering in college.

In Scouting, both have had extensive leadership responsibilities as either a Patrol Leader, Troop Guide, Assistant Sr. Patrol Leader, Sr. Patrol Leader and/or a Jr. Assistant Scoutmaster.  Conor earned 26 merit badges and Thomas ended up with 27 and both attained 3 different Special Awards during their scouting tenure:  Arrow of Light, Emergency Preparedness and the World Conservation Award.  From  the time each attained the rank of 1st Class Scout, it took each boy another 3.5-to-4 years to schedule and successfully complete their Eagle Scout Boards of Review – proving that patience and persistence can pay off handsomely.

Music is an important part of the Thomas and Conor’s family life and so it was natural for Thomas to target a revamping of his high school’s music department physical space in order to allow the roll out of a new senior student mentorship program for younger aspiring musician students for his Eagle Project.  According to the Tuckahoe School’s Band Director, this was a badly needed project that is expected to yield multiple benefits in coming years.  Pictures of Thomas’s Eagle Leadership Project are found here.

Community service, synonymous with any Eagle Leadership Project, is also an integral part of these two men’s family.  For his Eagle Leadership Project, Conor decided there was more work to be done with the local American Red Cross (ARC).  Like Eagle Scout Daniel A. before him in 2007, Conor knew that one of the best ways to help the community at large was to work with the ARC at the County level.  Conor undertook special instructor training in order to develop and implement an inter-active Emergency Preparedness Program utilizing the basic concepts of the ARC’s motto (Get a kit.  Make a Plan.  Be informed.) that was held at Cottle Elementary School.  Conor’s blueprint for the first ever Tuckahoe Family Preparedness Day is an excellent working template that ARC will use throughout other Westchester County communities going forward.  Photos of Conor’s Eagle Leadership Project show that, in addition to senior executives from ARC, other community entities were involved:  Eastchester Fire Dept., Hudson Valley Bank, & the Village of Tuckahoe (with partial funding provided by The Community Fund – not pictured).

As noted earlier, Thomas and Conor have accomplished much during their seven years of Boy Scouting – but so too have ALL of the scouts in our troop!  While Troop 353 has been blessed with, on average, one Eagle Scout per year, attaining Eagle Scout is by no means the ONLY yardstick of success in our troop.  More importantly, what we try to create is a rich and varied scouting program that provides ample opportunities for ALL scouts to learn how to lead others, make strong morale and ethical decisions and to serve their community and fellow scouts with cheerfulness.  Advancement per se is not a goal of scouting.  It is along the unique scouting trail, that many, many experieces of a lifetime are created for our boys and I am quite certain that both Conor and Thomas would vouch for the truthfulness of this statement as they reflect back on the richness of their clearly special experience in Scouting!  Congratulations to both Thomas and Conor – Troop 353’s newest Eagle Scouts!