U.S. soldiers benefit from Eagle Scout project
By Les Harvath
Published: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Regardless of the generation of today's moviegoers, few, if that many, are unable to relate to Dirty Harry's – aka Clint Eastwood – infamous “go ahead, make my day” comment, a comment often, ahem, repeated for varied points of emphasis.
Belle Vernon Area High School senior Cameron Beichner is, to paraphrase the thug-busting San Francisco cop, “hoping to make someone's day, so far away.”
With only his Eagle Scout final project — Scouting's final exam, noted Jeffrey Baker, Beichner's Scoutmaster — standing between him and the prestigious award, Beichner is one step closer, having completed his task of creating and sending care packages to not just any United States soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, but “those who do not have any family back home to send them some basic necessities,” he said. “I know how much the troops give to us, what they do for us, and they don't ask much in return.
“This is a good way to give back to them, to help them in any way possible.”
But not only has Beichner accepted the responsibilities of organizing his care-package program, “this was a way to also get the community and Belle Vernon students involved,” he added. “I want to make someone's day, someone so far away.”
A member of Boy Scout Troop 1543 in Belle Vernon, Beichner contacted school officials and sent a one-page typed letter to Rostraver Middle School and Belle Vernon Area High School teachers regarding his wish list for the troops. He placed collection boxes in classrooms for the Jan. 14-18 donation time span and organized the donations prior to his Jan. 25 shipment abroad.
On Jan. 18, along with his mother, Kerri Beichne; brother Caleb, 12; friend Fred Reeb; Reeb's son, Chris; and fellow Scouts, when Beichner visited each school to collect and begin sorting and packaging the supplies.
“We collected a lot of toothpaste, canned goods, batteries, puzzle books and non-perishables like duct tape, beef jerky, crackers and hard candy,” Beichner said, adding with a chuckle that “we collected so much toothpaste there must have been a sale somewhere.” Boxes to collect the supplies were donated by a local moving company.
Once everything was sorted, Beichner obtained 25 12-inch-by-12-inch-by-5-inch shipping packages from the post office to send the materials on their way. In addition to the legwork, Beichner was responsible for shipping fees of $13.45 per box. However, he was permitted to set up a collection bucket at Kmart and received approximately $200 in donations to defray the cost of shipping. He also received permission in the high school to sponsor a Hat Day, whereby each student who wore a hat donated $1 to help pay for shipping. Anything he was unable to ship was donated to the local food bank.
While he found fascinating the amount of toothpaste he collected — at least 50 tubes, he laughed — he was moved by several letters to soldiers written by one anonymous middle schooler.
“I was surprised, pleased, and happy to see that one middle school student cared enough about the soldiers to take time to write the letters,” he said.
Not surprised by Beichner's thoughtful gesture, Baker has known the soon-to-be Eagle Scout more than five years through scouting and described him as “outgoing, conscientious, and considerate of others' feelings. Cameron is strong academically and likes becoming involved in activities in and out of school. He is a very involved young man. We are all very proud of him and his work in scouting. Once he begins a project, he is determined to see things through.”
Through their Scouting association, Baker has seen Beichner “mature and became a natural leader for younger scouts. Cameron demonstrates a willingness to mentor younger scouts and share his experiences and knowledge.”
In order to have an Eagle Scout project approved, the initial step is to go through the Scoutmaster, followed by the district Eagle Advancement chairman. Once Beichner, who has maintained a 3.75 overall grade average throughout his high school academic career, had his Scouting leaders' approval, his next step was to gain approval by school officials.
“I was very pleased when Cameron not only approached us about his project,” Baker continued, “but pleased that he developed a project of this nature, which demonstrates good citizenship and an appreciation for the military. Cameron and his project exemplify all the values we hold in scouting. Everyone involved in the decision to approve the project considered it a positive project to help our military stationed overseas. Once he was given the green light, there was never any doubt that he would be successful.”
With the physical work of collecting and sending the materials completed, Beichner, whose Scouting career began as a Tiger Scout in first grade, will provide a report summarizing his project to his the scouting board, which will review his presentation during a comprehensive question-and-answer session. Upon completion, Beichner will receive his Eagle Award within months.
When considering various options regarding his Eagle Scout project, Beichner, even though he works at a flower shop, decided against any outside-type landscaping project, primarily due to the weather. But when Reeb suggested helping America's soldiers, Beichner jumped at the opportunity, even though he does not personally know any soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan.
“I contacted Military Connections (in Penn Hills), and they have a care package program in which soldiers who have no family members will receive packages,” Beichner explained. “Because of security reasons, no names of soldiers who would receive the packages were identified.”
Beichner, however, does not limit his extracurricular activities to Scouting. He plays the bass guitar in the Marching and Jazz bands, and the upright bass in the Concert Band. As a freshman he was a member of the lighting and sound crew for the Belle Vernon Area High School musical, but abandoned the booth in favor of the stage as a sophomore. In successive years, he has performed as one of Joseph's brothers in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” as Tommy in “Annie Get Your Gun” and this spring he will appear as Willard in “Footloose.”
While Beichner is undecided about a specific college he will attend this fall, he plans to major in mechanical engineering.
“I like math-based classes,” he said. “I enjoy that sort of thinking.”
And he won't permit any amount of work to get in his way.
Les Harvath is a freelance writer.
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