In Memoriam – Charles Graff – 1924-2018 A Scoutmaster to Remember

I was 12 years-old.  He was 40.  It was 1964.  He was the Chief Electrical Engineer for the Saturn 5 Rocket that enabled men to land on the moon.  As an infantryman in World War II, he was one of a few survivors of his company, and helped liberate a concentration camp.  And I was…well, just a kid, having recently survived the 7th grade, and lacking much in the way of self-esteem or confidence.

Today, I marvel on what sometime seem to be relatively insignificant events, but in fact, represent points in time upon which an entire life can pivot.  The activities that we join, the people we include in our lives, the choices we make, can all cast our future down different highways.  I spent more than three years with this man, and they were exactly such a pivotal encounter.  His influence sent my life on a completely different arc.

His name was Charles Graff, and he was my Scoutmaster.  Very active in his community and church, he also somehow found the time to be Scoutmaster to Boy Scout Troop 72, located in Huntsville, Alabama, home to the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center and Redstone Arsenal.

This was a man who lived his ideals – he was generous with his time and interest in us. He was kind and patient. I had an abusive childhood, but Boy Scout Troop 72 was a very safe place where I would never be hurt. It was not long before I realized that I wanted to live in the world that he lived in. As a boy, I never knew about his WWII experience, or the importance of his position and work. He never talked about any of that. He took us camping, helped us with our advancement, and demonstrated a life of compassion and commitment.

Thanks to his dedication, the Boy Scouts introduced me to advancement, goal-setting, and leadership. Becoming an Eagle Scout and leading our troop as a Senior Patrol Leader influenced my entire career, starting with jobs in college.  It was only later in my life that I realized just how much I had modeled my life after his, and as a result, reached out to thank him.  This included a number of trips from New York to Huntsville to visit with him and his family.

Charlie passed away on New Year’s Day at the age of 93.  He was truly a great man who influenced all those around him.  He was an inspiration for both my professional career and personal life. This website, my Eagle Scout coaching, and my volunteer work at Boy Scout District and Council levels would not exist but for his life and influence.  I thanked him many times while he was alive, and one more time, “Thank you, Charlie, and God bless your Spirit and your deeply saddened family.”

“Oh, the possibilities!”

Coach Hunt

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Welcome, Girls!

I have received at least a dozen inquiries asking for my opinion about the 2017 decision by the Boy Scouts of America to invite girls to join the Cub Scouts, and eventually (in 2019) have a program that will allow them to reach Eagle Scout.  Am I for it?  I am for anything that will help our young people better prepare for life!

Joining the Boy Scouts and becoming an Eagle Scout profoundly changed my life, and I have watched the program do that for innumerable young people.   There should be no controversy, and here is why:

  • The Boy Scouts have included girls in their programs for over 40 years!  Exploring went co-ed in the early 1970’s, and the 20-year old Venturing program was co-ed from its inception.  The Boy Scout high adventure bases and Jamborees all have girls and women attending.
  • Women have been Scoutmasters and other leaders in the Boy Scouts for over 30 years.
  • Nearly every other country in the world has co-ed Scouting, including Great Britain, the home of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting program.  The United States is unusual in having separate Boy and Girl Scout organizations.
  • The Boy Scouts of America today has what is considered the gold standard of youth protection, the elements of which have been adopted by other youth organizations.  This is ingrained by mandatory recurrent youth protection training of all adults, and protects children of both sexes.
  • Boy Scout co-ed youth events have been held for many years, and have always had safeguard standards.  (As an example, a co-ed youth event must have adult leaders of both sexes.)
  • There are many other youth activities that compete for a youngster’s time.  Sports, robotics, and music to name a few.  And there are many Scouting-type organizations such as Camp Fire, Girl Scouts, Baden-Powell Scouts, Boys and Girls Brigades, Trail Life, and American Heritage Girls.

As in almost every area of our lives, we have more and more choices.  There will be girls who prefer the Girl Scouts (my niece earned the Gold Award and loved the Girl Scouts), and there will be those who prefer a different program or activity.  Many people are surprised to learn that my son was not a Boy Scout.  We did visit three different Boy Scout troops together, but in the end, he made his choice and pursued his passion in music instead.  So, let’s celebrate all the choices that children have today.

Girls, welcome to EagleCoach.org!  It’s never too early to be envisioning yourself as an Eagle Scout.  See you in 2019!

“Oh, the possibilities!”

Coach Hunt

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Eagle Palm Requirements Have Changed – For the Better!

The requirements for Eagle Palms have changed.  Boards of Review are gone, and there are more ways that you can meet leadership and participation requirements.  But the single most important change for Eagle candidates is the opportunity to be instantly awarded palms for your additional merit badges at your Eagle Scout Board of Review.

Yes, that’s right!  That is the one opportunity to avoid a three-month requirement for an Eagle Palm.  That means you earn one palm at your Eagle Board of Review for every 5 merit badges you have earned beyond the 21 required for Eagle Scout rank.  I recently conducted an Eagle Board of Review for a Scout who earned a bronze, gold, silver and another bronze palm (he had earned 44 merit badges.)  You can read all the requirements here.

This is wonderful news for Eagle candidates who are approaching their 18th birthdays. They will now be recognized for their past merit badge ambitions.

So you may want to consider taking stock of your merit badges before your Eagle Board of Review.  Ask the Advancement Coordinator in your unit for a “Member Unit Advancement Summary.”  This is a report from the BSA database that will list every merit badge that your have earned.  You just might be one merit badge away from one or more Eagle Palms!

“Oh, the possibilities!”

Coach Hunt

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New 2017 Eagle Scout Rank Application

A new 2017 Eagle Scout Rank Application has been released.  For the most part, the application is very similar to the 2016 printing, with minor changes to language and format.  You can tell if you have the new application form by looking at the bottom right corner of page 2.  It should say “April 2017 Printing.”  The Eagle Scout Rank Application that you download from this website (or from Scouting.Org) is now the 2017 version.

If you have already started your Eagle Scout Rank Application with the 2016 printing, it can still be submitted until the end of this year.  The 2017 printing must be used beginning on January 1, 2018.

Oh, the possibilities!”

Coach Hunt

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How to Prepare Eagle Scout Rank Recommendation Letters

From the the Eagle Scout Rank Application:  “Demonstrate that you live by the principles of the Scout Oath and Scout Law in your daily life. List the names of individuals who know you personally and would be willing to provide a recommendation on your behalf.”

You will need to provide the names of five individuals (six, if you are employed) who will speak to your character.  Their recommendations take the form of confidential letters that will only be opened at your Eagle Scout Board of Review.  You will never be allowed to see these letters – this is a guarantee to the person providing the letter that they may speak openly.

Councils across the country have different procedures regarding these letters, so first and foremost, check your Council website for current instructions.  Normally there is form that you will provide to the person providing the recommendation.  This form usually provides the Scout Oath and Law and then asks for an opinion as to whether you uphold both in your daily life.

One letter must come from your parents or guardians, one from a religious source (if you do not belong to an organized religion, then a second letter from a parent must speak to your spiritual values), one from an educational source (principal, teacher, coach, counselor etc.), one from your employer if you are employed, and two others.

How to Prepare Your Eagle Scout Rank Recommendation Letters will help you assemble your recommendation letters, and is located on the Downloads page of this website (or click the title above.)  Just be sure it does not conflict with your Council instructions.

“Oh, the possibilities!”

Coach Hunt

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Boys’ Life Eagle Project Showcase

boys-life-eagle-project-showcase-bannerA great new resource for Eagle Scout candidates is here!  If you are looking for an Eagle Project, this new website is a must.  Sponsored by Boys’ Life, this is a wonderful source of creative and different projects.  And, it’s sorted by category.  So pick your category and then scroll through the projects.  Categories include projects for animals, gardens, historic sites, erosion control, trails, veterans, wildlife, churches, schools and many more.

hunter-duffel-bag-projectFor example, the Scout to the left is Hunter, and his Eagle Service Project raised $10,000 to fill and provide 100 duffel bags for foster kids who are moving from home to home.  It was so successful, that he later developed a plan to provide more than 3,000 duffel bags to children in 22 counties in his state.

So, check out the website!  eagleprojects.boyslife.org    Who says finding an Eagle Service Project has to be hard!

And if you have already finished your project, consider telling Boys’ Life about your project by submitting the information online.  There is also information on how your can submit your project for consideration of the The Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award.

“Oh, the possibilities!”

Coach Hunt

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A Scout is Reverent

A Scout is Reverent (2)Your Eagle Scout application will ask for five reference letters, six if you are employed.  One of those references is labeled “religious.”  This is a request for someone who knows you well enough to speak to your religious or spiritual values.  This could be your pastor or other adult from your house of worship (perhaps a youth group leader.)

And if your family does not belong to an organized religion?  The twelfth point of the Scout Law is that “A Scout is Reverent.”  From the Scout Handbook, “A Scout is reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

If your religious duties are minimal or non-existent, then you certainly must be reverent.  What does that mean?  It means recognizing that in the majesty and immensity of the universe is a greater intelligence much larger than we are.  It means listening to what is called, “the small, quiet voice within you.”  That is the voice that tells us right from wrong, and helps us discover our calling.  We usually have to get very quiet to hear that voice – traditional ways are prayer, meditation, contemplation, or even exercise.  When we get quiet and share our innermost feelings with Spirit or God, amazing things begin to happen.  I urge you to use silence to deepen your connection with God.

My wife and I are both interfaith ministers.  We studied all the major faith traditions when we were in seminary together.  One amazing fact is that there are two primary core commandments in nearly ALL the major faith traditions.  The first is to love Spirit or God above all else, and the second is treat other people the way we would like to be treated.  Take care of these two commandments, respect the beliefs of others, and you will be a most reverent Scout!

Back to the Eagle Scout application:  If you do not have a religious affiliation, your parents or guardians should be listed as this reference.  In their letter, they should speak to your spiritual values, and how you observe the 12th point of the Scout Law, “A Scout is Reverent.

“Oh, the possibilities!”

Coach Hunt

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“Getting Started Checklist” for the Eagle Service Project

eagle-scout-service-project-checklistGetting started with an Eagle Scout Service Project is a daunting task.  I have tried to make it a little easier with a “Getting Started” checklist.  The checklist has the very first things you should do to launch your service project.  Just start at the top of list, complete the item and check it off!  You can download the checklist from the “Downloads” tab, or here.

As I note in the checklist, different Councils have somewhat different requirements.  So as part of getting started, please access your local Council instructions.

Speaking of which, this is not one of those situations in life where “if all else fails, read the instructions.”  The Eagle Scout Service Project is a complicated affair.  You (and your parents or guardians ) should review the instructions before you begin.

“Oh, the possibilities!”

Coach Hunt

(Would you like to receive an email every time there is a new post at EagleCoach?  Just send an email to CoachHunt@EagleCoach.org and request to be put on the subscriber list.  We promise your email will not be shared with anyone else.  Scouts honor!)

 

Ideas for Eagle Projects

Eagle-coyotes-484-220x115Okay, why do I have a photograph of a coyote in a blog for Eagle Scout candidates?  Because this coyote was the beneficiary of an Eagle Scout project to build shelters for coyotes!  (I am sure that all coyotes would love to have a place to rest after chasing roadrunners.)

You can read about this and other great Eagle Project ideas at ScoutingNewsroom.org.  It is a great source for Eagle Project ideas.  To go directly to Eagle Projects, use this link: http://scoutingnewsroom.org/?s=eagle+project.

Let’s see … we have hiking trails, meditation paths, dog beds, ga-ga pits (?), college campus renovation, a seed library, an anti-bullying project, cemetery restoration, creating prosthetic hands with a 3-D printer, a fire-pit, a walking track, a learning garden, providing needy kids with bicycles, replacing a walkway, a Blues-A-Tron invention (?), a dog agility park, and a bee-nesting project.  And many more.  A great illustration that there are potential Eagle Projects everywhere!

I have NEVER had an Eagle candidate fail because he could not find a project.  So don’t get discouraged, get creative!

“Oh, the possibilities!”

Coach Hunt

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Your Eagle Project Does Not Have to Be Permanent

Ross-and-greyhoundsBryan Wendell in a recent post in “Bryan on Scouting”, wrote, “Nowhere in the rules does it require the beneficiary of an Eagle project to be human.”

He goes on to describe a greyhound rescue Eagle Service project:  “Ross R. of Circle Ten Council’s Plano, Texas-based Troop 1000, organized an adoption event and raised awareness in his community about retired racing greyhounds. He also held a collection drive for dog toys, treats and towels for the dogs in foster care at this nonprofit corporation that has assisted 2,700 greyhounds to date.”

This beautiful Eagle Service Project also illustrates that your project does NOT have be something permanent.  This is not to take away from the many thousands of benches, bridges, sheds, and animal shelters that have been built over the years!  But the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project is designed to allow an Eagle candidate to “plan, develop, and give leadership in a service project,” and that can be done in many ways.  Here are some examples of non-construction projects that have been approved:

•  Raised money to buy duffle bags for foster children and filled them with blankets, flashlights and stuffed animals.

Ran food drives, organized the pantry and reached out to families who could use assistance

•  Collected books and distributed them to children in need

•  Built awareness of autism by designing a program for participants to experience challenges that some people with autism face

•  Ran a donation drive, and then separated, organized, catalogued, packed and shipped donations to recipients

•  Created a program to collect worn out American flags with collection boxes, and then disposed of them properly in a flag-burning ceremony, allowing people to burn a flag in someone’s memory

•  Ran a community collection drive for personal items to send to our service men and women overseas.

•  Assembled volunteer musicians, rehearsed, used Scouts as ushers, and held a band concert to raise food for a food pantry (or for concerts at local VA Hospitals or nursing homes)

•  Organized knitters and quilters to make blankets for the neonatal intensive care unit at a local hospital

The opportunities are limitless.  Just look for people (or animals) that need to be helped.  They are all around us!

“Oh, the possibilities!”

Coach Hunt

(Would you like to receive an email every time there is a new post at EagleCoach?  Just send an email to CoachHunt@EagleCoach.org and request to be put on the subscriber list.  We promise your email will not be shared with anyone else.  Scouts honor!)