Stephen offered the following comments - his Scouting story - during the 13th Annual Technology “Good Scout” Award Luncheon on October 19, 2010.
“This is a real privilege to talk to you a little bit about why I think Scouting is wonderful.
My name is Stephen Lippincott. I am the 72nd Eagle Scout in Boy Scout Troop 8 in Bethesda, Maryland. Since this luncheon is in support of our local Scouting program, I’d like to talk a little bit about the merits of Scouting and my personal experience in the program."
When most people think of Boy Scouting, they picture a boy and his dad going camping in the woods, or an able young man helping a little old lady across the street. Some folks know other things, such as the value of the Eagle Scout rank, or the variety of merit badges offered to Boy Scouts. Many people don’t realize that there’s more to Scouting. The Boy Scout Program does more than just teach kids how to tie knots, use proper first aid methods, and survive in the wilderness. It also helps pre-teens and teenagers mature into young men. Two aspects of Scouting that help with this process are earning merit badges and participating in service projects for others. Merit badges are symbols of achievement in Scouting, but the merit badge program also provides important windows of opportunity into potential hobbies or even your future vocation. The second example of helping boys mature into more selfless young men involves service projects, which I’ll address in a minute.
Now I’ll tell you my Scouting story. I first encountered Scouting when I was eight years old. I went to my cousin’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor in Upstate New York, to recognize his achievement. After the celebration, I was so pumped up that I wanted to join Scouting. My parents searched for a Cub Scout pack that my brother and I could join, and soon I was learning and growing within Cub Pack 460 in Kensington, Maryland, my hometown. I made friends, learned new skills, earned pins and achievements, and had a blast as a Webelos Scout for two years. I then ‘crossed over’ into Boy Scouting and joined Boy Scout Troop 8, which is one of the oldest Troops – we’re celebrating our 92nd anniversary this year.
This is the start of my sixth year in the Troop and I have done a lot since I began. I have earned 60 merit badges. I have participated in as many Scouting events as I can, especially service projects, and because of attaining the rank of Eagle, I recently became a junior assistant Scoutmaster for my Troop.
But to get to this point took a lot of planning and effort. An Eagle service project requires you to work with a non-profit organization to plan, prepare for, and carry out a beneficial project for that organization. Successful completion of your project is your sole responsibility – in the words of my mother, the buck stops here! You are the head of the project, and you task others to assist you in achieving that goal. The project really provides insight and develops leadership ability.
In seeking an appropriate Eagle Project, I discovered the Children’s Inn at NIH, a non-profit organization that houses families with a youth member having treatments at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. The Children’s Inn has been open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since June 1990. While NIH is the “world’s premier biomedical research facility”, the inn provides a respite at the end of a long day filled with all those IV drips and doctors.
The first thing I had to do for my Eagle Project was to meet with senior management of the Children’s Inn. After consulting with them, I chose a two-part project plan. My Eagle Project consisted of refilling six 6-foot-long flower planters with potting soil, flowers and perennial shrubs and assembling a minimum goal of six wooden Adirondack chairs, to place on the lawn outside the inn. With a lot of prayers, effort, and initial planning, my project began to take form.
In talking with the Children’s Inn leadership, I discovered that the inn was short on its funding, and wouldn’t be able to purchase chairs. I then realized my Eagle Project would require a lot of fundraising! I started with a “zero” budget, and spoke with several folks about how to go about raising the necessary funds. My plan was to ask for donations to pay for the Adirondack chairs, but I also intended to request potting soil and flowers (for the second part of my project). The chairs cost about $150 each, and my minimum goal was to obtain six chairs. Although the Children’s Inn leadership encouraged me to do my project, they also kept saying my project was “ambitious” – it started to make me nervous! Was I crazy to try, during a recession, to raise all this money? Would people be receptive to helping me with my project? If not, was I ready to pay for the chairs out of my own money earned over the summer?
My project plan was approved and four weeks of intensive fundraising followed. I asked friends, neighbors, family members, my doctors, even large companies. Amazingly, the donations started pouring in – I was humbled and grateful for people’s generosity. American Plant Company and the Montgomery College in Germantown were amazing in their planting donations. Generous monetary donations from the Bethesda Chevy-Chase Rotary Club and the Washington Post company allowed me to buy the necessary chairs – and then some! We were eventually able to place an order for 19 chairs – over three times my original goal! In all, I raised over $3,500 in checks and in-kind donations, simply from asking people to donate to my cause. Thanks to the many willing donors, hard work from my volunteers, and with many answered prayers, this Eagle Project was nearing completion.
You may be wondering why I chose an Eagle Project benefiting the Children’s Inn. Well, on a more personal note, I know what it’s like to live with medical conditions. I was born with bilateral club feet. For most of my life I have worn fixed-ankle AFOS (in other words, plastic leg braces) to support my feet, since I was born with little Achilles tendon strength. My first club foot surgery was when I was seven months old. My second surgery was a major corrective surgery on both feet, at the same time, December 2008. Post-op, I then experienced an extensive rehabilitation period (seven weeks in a wheelchair, non-weight-bearing; then eight weeks with a walker; then crutches; and finally three months of physical therapy three times a week). The most recent surgery was at children’s hospital in Philadelphia (or CHOP) and while my mom stayed in my hospital room with me, my dad and younger brother slept nearby at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. That facility was amazing—so many volunteers provided many life comforts, good meals, and evening activities for families of patients at chop. It was a real blessing to our family and a memory we will hold onto forever.
Wanting to serve my local community, I learned more about the Children’s Inn at NIH. This facility reminded me a lot of the Philly Ronald McDonald House, is very similar in scope, and has amazing programs and support for their guest families. The Children’s Inn can accommodate up to 59 families per night; has a lending library of DVDs and books; and has a game room, a rec room, a computer room, a TV room, and a craft room where different civic or church groups come and present programs. A van shuttle takes Children’s Inn guests to the grocery store, metro, and airport. Every day, the kids staying at the inn go to their “mail box” and receive a “thoughtful treasure”—a touchpoint from a staffer or volunteer. Several kitchen areas allow moms to make home-cooked meals for their children, after a long day of treatments. Incredibly, the cost is free, making it possible for the folks at the Children’s Inn to strive to make it “a place like home”—they sure succeed.
I personally loved helping the families staying at the Children’s Inn and give back a little to this amazing facility. As a Troop 8 Boy Scout, while wearing my leg braces, I’ve biked along the 184 miles of the C&O canal, rain or shine. I have also gone canoeing and hiking, played soccer, been on a swim team, and am a lifeguard at our neighborhood pool during the summer. Through my efforts and my Eagle Project I wanted to show the kids staying at the inn that medical conditions are only obstacles if you let them get in your way. Don’t give up and keep an active faith. Live each day helping someone else.
In conclusion, Boy Scouting is an amazing program. There are many advantages to it, from learning something as simple as a square knot, to giving folks a major opportunity to serve through an Eagle Scout project. It has had a big impact on the way I interact with others, and is about more than just camping in the woods. With the lessons I have learned, and opportunities I’m still being offered in Scouting, I am certain that I will “be prepared” to “do my best” to do greater things later in life. Becoming an Eagle Scout isn’t as much about the Scout leading the project as much as it is about giving back and serving others.
Thank you again.”
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