Local Eagle Scouts give back to community
— Two area teenagers were promoted to Eagle Scouts earlier this month after completing projects at Immaculate Conception School and St. Margaret of Scotland parish.
Jamie Laning, 16, and Ethan Downs, 15, both members of the Newark, Del.-based Boy Scout Troop 283, were promoted to Eagle Scouts on Aug. 2. As part of the requirements to receive this honor, Laning chose to build a gaga pit, where kids can play a form of dodgeball, and four Buddy Benches at Immaculate Conception School in Elkton while Downs erected a Blessed Virgin Mary statue and a reflection area at St. Margaret of Scotland parish in Glasgow, Del.
Both scouts had to complete a proposal packet, which included details about the idea, how to fund it and the construction process, before starting on their respective projects.
Laning, who attended Immaculate Conception from fifth to eighth grade, said he chose his former middle school because he saw a need for middle schoolers to have another activity to do during recess. He said the original intent was for the middle schoolers to use the pit, but said that neighborhood children have also been utilizing it.
“You can throw anyone in, anyone can play, no matter who you are, and it’s a fair game. You can’t make cliquey teams because you’ll have to turn on each other at some point,” Laning said. “Basically, it’s just the perfect game to get everyone up and active and not sitting around gossiping.”
Laning said he was also inspired to build the pit after he attended Scout camp in Pennsylvania a few years ago and saw how much fun kids there were having.
“They had a nice plastic gaga pit that all the kids played in and it was really cool because it was a dirt bottom, so everyone would get in there and come out covered in head-to-toe in dirt from playing,” he said. “They were so happy.”
The benches, on the other hand, were requested by school officials and are for those who are feeling lonely and are meant to encourage socialization, he said.
Construction on the pit and benches took place on April 30 and May 15. During the construction period, Laning said he delegated responsibilities to about 20 volunteers, who built the pit and benches. The pit and two buddy benches are located near the playground, while the two other benches are in the field across from the school.
The project began with a proposal packet, which was started last October he said. During the process, he met with the school about his idea and school officials asked if he could add the benches.
Of the $2,300 Laning raised, about $950 was left over and subsequently donated to the school, he said.
Jeanne Dinkle, Immaculate Conception School principal, said the students, parents and staff are appreciative of Laning’s efforts.
“It has been a benefit to everyone. Students, staff and parents are all overjoyed with it,” she said. “I think it’s a testament to Jamie. He saw a need and acted on it.”
The pit is another piece of equipment the middle schoolers can use during recess because as of right now, they can only use the basketball nets, while the playground is designated for the younger students, Dinkle said.
“It’s an opportunity for the students to have an organized activity at recess,” she said. “And the buddy bench, it’s an opportunity for students who feel isolated, for them to signal other students and invite them into conversations.”
Like Laning, Downs was inspired by past experience when he decided to erect a Blessed Virgin Mary statue and a reflection area at St. Margaret of Scotland, where he is a member of the church’s parish.
Downs said he was inspired to create the statue and reflection area because Mary is an important figure in the Catholic Church.
“She has a significance a little bit in my heart,” he said. “Also, a lot of the people in the church, whenever I’m talking to them, they feel inspired by her.”
He said he feels like Mary is “always watching out” for him.
The purpose of the statue and reflection area are for people to reflect and pray to Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, he said. There are three plaques, one for the Hail Mary, one for the Memorare and one acknowledging the project, near the pedestal, which the statue stands on. People are able to sit on one of three concrete benches, as well. He said Monsignor John Hopkins, the church’s pastor, came to him and asked if he could install a walkway so people did not have to walk on the grass, as well as solar lights.
“Ethan’s Eagle Scout project — this prayer garden and statue of Mary — allows the opportunity for people to come, to sit, to reflect, to pray,” Hopkins said. “It is very visible and accessible 24/7, especially given that we are not able to keep our church open 24/7. The members of our parish are grateful for Ethan’s work.”
Downs said he started the proposal process in April, which included meeting with the church, about where he could put the statue. He said his role was to lead the project and supervise about 40 volunteers including those from the troop, as well as parents, among others.
During the process leading up to the construction, he raised around $2,200 for the project and the $400 that was not used went to the church, Downs said. He said construction took place in May.
Jamie Laning stands in the Gaga Pit he built at Immaculate Conception School in Elkton as part of his Eagle Scout project.
Newark resident Ethan Downs stands next to his Eagle Scout project, the Blessed Virgin Mary statue and reflection area at St. Margaret of Scotland parish.