Some Scouts find Eagle project ideas by talking to community leaders, asking their teachers or searching online.
All Ethan Garner had to do was look across the dinner table at his dad.
Michael Garner was 17 in 2000 when he built benches at an animal shelter in Allen, Texas, for his Eagle Scout service project. He was a member of Troop 224 of the BSA’s Circle Ten Council.
In 2020, Ethan — himself a 17-year-old member of Troop 224 — renovated those same benches and added an A-frame agility ramp for dogs to play on as they await adoption.
Two impactful Eagle projects at the exact same place, completed exactly 20 years apart. It’s proof that the Scouting tradition of serving others can be hereditary.
“I’m amazed that the benches have lasted 20 years and were in great shape — and that he had an opportunity to link them to his project,” Michael says. “I’m happy that he enjoyed a similar experience.”
2000: Michael’s project
In 2000, Michael led a team of volunteers through an effort to design and construct a pair of benches with attached tables for the Allen Animal Shelter’s exterior dog playground and visitation area.
Even though Eagle Scouts must create and get approval for a meticulous project plan (easily the toughest part, if my memory serves), that doesn’t mean everything will go according to plan.
Even two decades later, Michael remembers his expectations for the project not matching reality.
“The execution of the project was much more difficult than I expected,” he says. “I had expected it would take two or three meetings to build and install the benches. It turned out to be about six meetings.”
That memory remains — and so do the benches themselves.
“I drive by them nearly every day,” Michael told The Dallas Morning News, “but it never occurred to me that they would last this long.”
2020: Ethan’s project
In 2020, Ethan led a team of volunteers through an effort to design and construct an A-frame agility ramp while also restoring the benches his dad built in 2000.
In addition to fulfilling all the official requirements for an Eagle project, Ethan’s project meets my own unofficial requirement: A project should mean something to the Scout.
Ethan loves animals, and he’s familiar with the shelter and benches from talking about them with his dad.
”We drive by the shelter often, and I saw the benches my dad built many times,” Ethan says. “It made sense to see if there was a possible new project.”
But Ethan had his own set of challenges that could never have been predicted two decades ago. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Ethan started later than he wanted to.
He had hoped to begin work in May but instead started in August. He also required each volunteer to wear a mask and get their temperature checked before working.
Looking back fondly
With 20 years to reflect on his time in Scouting, Michael speaks with appreciation for our movement.
He shared a shoutout for Rod Britton, the longtime Scoutmaster of Troop 224. Britton was the troop’s new Scoutmaster when Michael earned the Eagle Scout Award in 2000. The volunteer “provided much support and guidance during my project,” Michael says.
Britton stepped down from the Scoutmaster role when he moved to New York in 2019, meaning he wasn’t there to guide Michael’s son through his final Eagle requirements. But his impact was still felt.
”He was a big part of Ethan’s first five years with the troop,” Michael says.
Asked to reflect on his time in Scouting, Ethan shares two reasons why he’s glad he took the journey. One reason is personal, the other practical.
“I enjoyed all of the adventures I went on in Scouting,” he says. “And I wanted it for college applications and my résumé.”
Take the #EagleScoutChallenge
Remember to share stories and/or photos from your Eagle project on social media with the hashtag #EagleScoutChallenge.
After all your effort to complete an Eagle Scout project, taking the #EagleScoutChallenge will be a breeze. Here’s how to participate.