WAXAHACHIE — Shifting youth culture to equip younger generations with responsibility, leadership, and a stable community base since its start in 1910, Boy Scouts of America is continuing the tradition today. Within the Southern Star District, one Waxahachie local is making a difference so other can have personal independence.

“David built a new helmet cabinet for the new arena,” stated Melody Seremet, president, and founder of Midlothian’s Paws For Reflection Ranch. “We needed something the students could go and find their helmet and size, and it would protect and keep the helmets clean and safe.”

Earning a badge in the process, David Reidy, Life Scout soon to earn his rank as an Eagle Scout, is impacting his community through meticulous service hours and the Scout Law. According to the Scouts' handbook, its members must be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”

“I’m really grateful for Paws for Reflection that they allowed me to do my project there and that they’re able to help Eagle Scouts out, and Life Scouts to become Eagles through their projects,” Reidy acknowledged.

As a place of healing and therapy, Paws For Reflection Ranch is a non-profit organization that provides recreation, education, and motivation in partnership with equine and other animal-assisted therapies to help clients from all walks of life.

To earn his Eagle Scout classification, Reidy was required to develop a plan, culminate a design, and give leadership to others in a service project that would be helpful to an organization or institution of his choice.

“The one thing that really set my sights on them was the things they do for veterans. They’ll offer free services for vets coming home and for those with PTSD,” Reidy explained, coming from a family of military veterans.

Through the ranch’s program, Boots of Honor, offers counseling, horseback riding, group horsemanship and music therapy to aid communication skills, manage stress, and improve coping mechanisms. Among assisting veterans, the Ranch is also pro-active in helping the local community of scouts.

“We do Scout projects and allow scouts to come and do their Eagle Projects, or the Girl Scouts will do Silver and Gold awards,” Seremet explained. “It’s a great way for us to get new projects done that wouldn’t have been something we could get to. So this a great opportunity for scouts to build something from scratch that we need, and then part of their project is that it has to be sustained, so we can sustain it after they get it here and get it going.”

As curiosity catches unfamiliar attention, so did Reidy’s focus toward the ranch’s needs, hitting a soft spot in his heart.

“It first started off as a church service project for the ranch, and we were clearing out brush so they could make a fenced-in area for their horses to run around in. When I did that, there was a small mention that if anyone had any projects that they needed to do, it was always available there because they always need help,” Reidy explained, later being approved by Seremet to start his project for the ranch.

BREAKING THE STIGMA

Progressing to the rank of Eagle Scout is no easy task. Entailing intense dedication through assorted projects, academic proficiencies, and community effort, it takes years for a scout to achieve such an honor.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the advancement levels every Boy Scout achieves must go through seven required ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle, which is not something one can teach in a short amount of time.

“Boy Scouts is more of a community than anything else, where boys can come to learn and be friends. When I joined, I could socialize more and start learning aspects, not just camping, tying knots, and those are good tools, but it’s meant to be a guidance through life program,” Reidy clarified.

As stated by an article from Wicked Local, despite the overwhelmingly positive impact of the BSA on America, over the years the organization has been made out by popular culture to be nerdy, geeky, or uncool.

The difference in society's view of scouting is easily contrasted between different generations. During World War II, for example, scouts were regarded as young patriots, selling war bonds and collecting scrap metal for the war effort. Seventy years later, though the BSA hasn't altered much as an organization, society seems to view it as more of a club for outcasts rather than a character development program.

Not only do the BSA program influence personal growth, but also community maturity. As stated by the Scout’s vision, the curriculum is meant to "prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader."

Over 114,000,000 youth have been a part of the organization, according to BSA's 100 Years in Review of 1910-2010. Today, out of 861,898 Boy Scouts under the age of 18, only 51,820 become Eagle Scouts.

“Six percent of boy scouts make it to Eagle. They don’t take the commitment because when a lot of people think about Boy Scouts, they think people camping, troop codes, and it’s not,” Reidy mentioned, defining the reputation. “We learn to manage money, have physical fitness, cook, how to apply first aid, know emergency preparedness and life-saving skills, and having citizenship in the community and world."

Each scouting rank is broken down into increments requiring the scout to master the skills of personal care and safety for one's self, such as indoor sustainability, outdoor survival, and the ability to work with others; whether as a team or as their leader. Until the scout displays proficiency for what is required within each rank, he is not able to advance.

The 21 required merit badges — 13 Eagle specific — are also challenging. Each Eagle Scout must complete a hike that is over 20 miles, list the six functions of government as noted in the Preamble to the Constitution, and make a timeline of the history of the environmental science in America.

“When I was a Life Scout, holding a leadership position, I was in charge of my troop, hosting meetings, taking care of things, and making sure things went smoothly,” he remembered, developing from a follower into a leader.

Intertwining knowledge with involvement is what sets the Boy Scouts apart from the rest. And to prove the validity of the Eagle Scout’s achievements, 181 NASA astronauts were involved in Scouting, where 39 were Eagle Scouts. Out of 36.4 percent of scouting cadets involved in the United States Military Academy, 16.3 percent are Eagle Scouts. And from 189 members of the 113th Congress who participated in scouting, 27 are Eagle Scouts. These are the few scouts who are giving back in an astounding way.

“That’s one thing with scouting, is that a lot of people who reach Eagle do it just for benefits and leave. Then there are others, and you’ll see this more often, there’s other Eagle Scouts who put a lot into it and want to continue with that because they understand how much good it does,” Reidy recognized.

SERVICE AND LEADERSHIP

Learning large amounts of information to complete the Eagle required merit badges is included with the physical aspect of the scouting spectrum, combining all skills within the Eagle Project.

“Basically you have a plan, then when you have a basic outline of it, you go to someone who’s your coordinator, they check over it and say, ‘Yeah, this sounds like a good project,’ and they’ll check off on it. From there, you start doing the more serious planning on what you’re actually going to do with the project,” Reidy described.

“The scouts have to design it from scratch, and they have to plan it, coordinate the construction if it’s something to build. Out here, most of it is built,” Seremet added. “We had a Girl Scout build the tic-tac-toe game out on the sensory trail, and a standing rose garden as part of her Gold Project. We’ve also had some girls build horse jumps, and that was for their Silver Project. We have another one right now that’s working on an obstacle course for our goats because they have goats, and they relate to that. So we’ve had different ones do different things throughout the years."

Developing a plan and reaching out to Seremet to sustain it, Reidy immediately took action in the building process, wasting no time.

“The point of the Eagle Scout Project is for the scouts themselves to be the leader of their project, and, of course, you get support from others, but it’s mostly lead by the Boy Scout. They come out and visit with me prior to deciding their project,” Seremet recounted.

“So I usually give them four or five ideas. We take them around and are like, ‘This is something you could work on,’ just showing them different opportunities and different things to see if they connect with,” she described, as Reidy was hooked on the ranch’s veteran program, dedicating his project towards helping those who protect and serve.

Establishing a need for a large cabinet to store helmets in for the arena’s riding program, Reidy got to work, readjusting his first set of blueprints.

“I built a cabinet, but originally I was supposed to be building two cabinets. They weren’t quite as big as the one I made, but we decided it would be best to do one cabinet and make it bigger. So I changed the drawings and design on it, and then we did an estimate on lumber. Lowe’s was able to give us all the lumber that we needed at 50 percent deducted cost, I still had to pay for it and raise the money for it,” Reidy entailed.

While working at Chick-fil-A to guarantee the lumber, the 16-year-old purchased the wood and enlisted a few fellow scout volunteers.

“One of the volunteers is an engineer, and he helped me make the design bigger and restructure things. So it’s a tour plan for how things are going to get distributed, like the resources and the people and how they're going to get their out. So I did a loose tour plan that’s more verbal than anything else, so I communicated with my dad and took the material down to a different ranch I was building it at, and from there we took the lumber and went over to

“Originally I had my plan for building the cabinet, and it was Okayed by a volunteer engineer, which is the guy that owns a workshop where we designed it at. So on the day, we were going to make cuts, and have all of our volunteers come in the next day and build it, we figured our plans wouldn’t work properly. So, working alongside the engineer, we developed a better plan, and with another volunteer, we built the cabinet to where it needed to be,” Reidy recalled, adapting to frequent struggles one might find with any construction project.

“The next day, when I had a group of volunteers, I had them help me sand, stain, and put on the doors and let it set. Finally, once it was finished, I had one of my friend’s dads come over, with what was supposed to be a truck and trailer, but the moment we were going to pull the trailer out, it had a flat tire. So we fit this cabinet in the back of a Toyota truck. As long as the lid was pulled down, it would fit. So we strapped it down and stored it at my friend’s house,” he expressed.

Knowing Reidy’s father, Terry, was more than proud of his son's work, Reidy waited for his father to return from a business trip to present the project to the ranch. Together, with his dad present, Reidy and his volunteers installed the cabinet, helping the non-profit who already serves so many.

“So we put the cabinet in the back of the Toyota, drove it down to Paws For Reflection Ranch where we took it off, set it up, and connected it to the wall,” Reidy described the journey.

With 30 individual cubbies, eight volunteers, and over 100 man-hours, the project was a total success.

“The other cabinet was just shelves, and so a bunch of helmets would be together on one shelf where visors were breaking off, paint getting scratched, so it’ll keep it nicer,” began Seremet.

“It keeps the helmets clean, safe, and dry. They're each in their own cubby hole, and we’re going to label that with sizes so that way the rider can find their helmet that they wear, and if they have something they need to leave, like a hat or headband, then they can put that in their little cubby right there,” she added.

“It’s going to benefit the ranch by giving them a cleaner space to put their helmets, keep them organized, and allow then for expansion. So when they get the horses that they said they’re going to bring in, that they can put more helmets in. It’s about the students’ independence level. They can come in there and open up the lock themselves, and they can pull open the doors and grab their own helmet,” Reidy interjected.

“So it works out, because they're like, ‘Oh, I’ll just leave that there and switch it out for a helmet.’ Cause part of the riding lesson, we’re trying to teach students to be independent, so they know the routine is, they have to get their helmet, get their grooming supplies, and then they go to their horse. So when they're done, then they go in reverse, they put their helmet back, and they know right where it went and makes it easier for them to follow the routine,” Seremet articulated the thought further.

MERIT BEYOND THE BADGE

Filling out his Eagle Scout application, Reidy is one step further to stepping into a higher level of responsibility and commitment.

“With this, I am very close to finishing my Eagle Scout application, which is what I’ll send in before I go to the Board of Review. That’s where I’ll get asked questions about my scouting and my projects,” Reidy expressed.

“If I’m received and deemed worthy, then I’ll get my Eagle Scout award, and from there I will get my Palms and make sure to stay in the scouting community because I would like to help younger scouts achieve Eagle also,” he included.

A heart engraved with community service, Reidy understands the significance and influence the Boy Scout program has on the younger generation from his own experience with the program.

“I believe it’s truly something that helps guide young men. What you see nowadays, schools don’t really teach anything that has to do with going out in the real world, so when they get out there, they’re stuck trying to figure out how to balance check books, learn the basics on stocks, or personal management,” Reidy expressed.

“A lot of things I’ve heard is when you’re applying for a job, and you’re a full Eagle Scout on your resume, compared to another guy who may have more experience than you do, they most often choose the Eagle Scout. The reason is, they know scouts have the skills and commitment it takes to do that position,” he concluded.

As for Reidy’s future, he plans to pursue college in a degree he’s passionate about – engineering.

“I’m not sure which one yet, but engineering, of course. I’m definitely planning on going to college, hopefully at Colorado School of Mines,” Reidy specified.

Referred to as “the West MIT,” the prestigious engineering school would be lucky to have an Eagle Scout as a student. And with college being just around the corner, the High School Sophomore is expectant with future possibilities, while remaining grateful to the Boy Scouts and the people who are helping him get there.

I’m thankful they have open arms for it, because the people there are just such lovely people. They have such great hearts. It was a pleasure to work with them on this,” he finished with a smile.

To connect with Paws For Reflection, visit pawsforreflectionranch.org or call (972)-775-8966.

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Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer

(469)-517-1450