Community finishes North Huntingdon boy's Scout project

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 4:54 p.m.

The sun broke through bare tree branches covering a North Huntingdon park trail as dozens of volunteers hammered away and carefully measured wooden planks cut on a chilly Saturday morning.

It was supposed to be the culmination of Michael Sweeney Jr.'s journey to achieve the Eagle Scout rank, but the 17-year-old Norwin High School senior never had the chance to build the fence that was his project.

Volunteers joined members of Boy Scout Troop 252 to complete the fence project at Braddock's Trail in North Huntingdon on Saturday morning. Sweeney became ill and died Sept. 8 before he could complete it. His death appeared to be natural, officials said.

“It's important to finish it in his honor,” said Hunter McGowan, 17, a Boy Scout and friend of Sweeney. “It's important to do it for him and his family.”

Some volunteers took rakes to clear away leaves from the walking trail. Others worked in the dirt to anchor posts for the 100-foot-long split-rail fence along the trail that edges close to a cliff.

The elder Michael Sweeney stood back, watching the progress on his son's project.

“I'm at a loss for words right now,” Sweeney, of North Huntingdon, said. “It's not just the Scouts showing up; it's the shop teachers. It means a lot to me to see those people coming out to support him.”

The project combined two things friends say Sweeney loved — woodworking and being outside.

“He would have been able to do this,” Bob Shuber, a technical-education teacher at Norwin High School said.

Shuber, who taught Sweeney woodworking skills from ninth to the 12th grade, said the teen would take his lunch down to the shop room just so he could spend time there.

“He liked working with his hands,” Shuber said. “He wanted to learn the trade.”

All the materials from the project were donated from local businesses. Many people, including other Boy Scout Troops, showed up to help with construction, said Don Brill, an assistant Scout leader.

“It's extremely heartwarming,” he said. “Mike was a fantastic kid, everything a Scout should be.”

Brill, along with other Scout leaders, are working to finish the paperwork with the national Boy Scouts of America office so that Sweeney will be approved for the Eagle Scout rank posthumously.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or

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