By Christy Fleming
Deep in the woods in North Wilmington’s Hanby Outdoor Center, under the canopy of tall oak trees, leaves dripping with rain, 17-year-old Connor Miller marks his 2’ x 4’ and then hammers away at the wooden planks that will form a giant balance board for summer campers next year.
This was Miller’s 11th summer at the Brandywine YMCA’s Camp Quoowant at the Center – his second as a counselor. When the Wilmington Friends School Senior was younger, he remembers that everyone’s favorite activity was the low ropes course out in the woods. The course somehow disappeared a few years ago, and now Connor is bringing it back – rebuilding each of the four activities with wood, nails and gumption and a team of kids from Boy Scout Troop 29.
Reinstalling a low ropes course and leaving a lasting impact on the summer camp he is so fond of has been a dream of Connor’s, which he has made a reality with his Eagle Scout project.
“It’s been a really great opportunity to offer an activity to the camp that has meant so much to me. Lots of great memories are here for me, and I hope this lasts for many years,” said Miller.
The Eagle Scouts rank is Scouting’s highest, and one of the greatest achievements of any young boy. Only two percent of young men who join as Cub Scouts will go on to earn the rank of Eagle. This is Miller’s 11th year with Troop 29, where he has assumed a steadily growing level of responsibility – where all of the Scouts grow into adulthood.
Connor started mapping out his project about six months ago. After a lengthy review process — first his Troop and then by a local Scout Board – he was able to fundraise for materials, line up volunteers and schedule the work. By next weekend, Connor and his team of volunteers will have constructed four low ropes activities that are designed to encourage teamwork and leadership skills among campers.
To see Connor nearing the completion of his project is quite moving from his parent’s perspective, who remember well his earliest days as a Cub Scout. “It’s been many years of watching him help others and now taking a leadership role. It’s exciting to see because you really blossom in this program,” said mom Susan Miller.
Connor’s Scout Leader and mentor, Chuck Kunz, says Connor is a superb example of a Scout who works hard to achieve his goals. Prior to the first construction weekend, Miller and Kunz had logged over 40 hours of planning.
“That’s the key to making the Eagle project run smoothly – that the work is done and the thoughtfulness is put into it. We (the adults) have been standing back, and Connor is leading, which is the way it should be,” said Kunz, who is a partner at Morris James.
Miller picked one of summer’s rainiest weekends to assemble the four activities that make up the low ropes course. But the team forged ahead, working in teams where Miller paired an older scout with one or two younger scouts. The project required 75 pieces of lumber, five cubic yards of mulch, hundreds of screws and a variety of saws that Miller had to research to find for the project.
“All the Scouts who turned out to volunteer have been extremely helpful,” said Miller. “This project wouldn’t have been possible without them. Especially the Scouts who brought extra materials and the older Scouts who helped guide the younger Scouts because that’s really what we’re all about – teaching the new kids what they can do to help.”
The low ropes activities will consist of 4 areas:
- The Whale Watch: a giant balance board.
- The Alligator Crossing: two elevated 4’x4’ platforms eight feet apart from each other with only a stand-alone six-foot board in between and requiring teamwork to cross
- The Tee Pee Shuffle: a long log where campers stand with arms linked and one has to make their way across without falling off
- The Zig Zag: a portable activity made up of four 2’x4’s connected together by hinges where campers have to link arms and make their way across with their teammate
Miller’s younger volunteers ranged in age from 11 to 16. But several dads pitched in – they typically do – who were especially helpful with heavy equipment and helping to ensure safety.
There were a lot of variables and not everything has gone as planned. But to Miller, there was no question that he wouldn’t attempt his own Eagle Scout project. “From the time you join Scouts, you are encouraged to help all other service projects, whether you need it for a Scout service requirement or not. It’s just the right thing to do to help other Scouts.”
Miller has appreciated the project in more ways than one. “It feels great knowing how much I have accomplished and grown from a young boy to a young man. I’ve learned so many skills and beyond that made so many more friends in Troop 29. We foster teamwork and leadership and that has all come to play today in our project.”
Any Eagle Scout project helps all Scouts grow and mature. But for the one who achieves the rank, the effort is all the more special.
“Their ability to communicate and lead others and give back to the community is really what this is all about,” said Kunz. “You hope that one day, when Connor’s walking down the street, that someone would say, ‘That’s what an Eagle Scout looks like. That’s who an Eagle Scout is.”