2017 Eagle Project of the Year: He built sensory rooms for kids with autism

Ever since he was in Cub Scouts, Blake Deaton knew he wanted his Eagle Scout service project to help students with special needs.

Students like his twin brother, Shane, who is autistic and legally blind.

So when he became a Life Scout, Blake approached Savanna Hersh, Shane’s special-needs teacher. He asked Hersh (seen with Blake in the photo above) what Shane’s classroom needed most.

“And, I said, ‘an iPad?'” Hersh remembers telling Blake. “You know, we could always use some more technology. And it was, ‘No. Think bigger.'”

So Blake and Hersh determined that the school could really use a sensory room specially designed for children with autism. A sensory room includes special lighting, padded floors and educational toys.

That “think bigger” approach to helping others earned Blake a writeup on People.com and, announced this week, the 2017 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award.

The Eagle Scout is a member of Troop 130 in Morehead City, N.C.

Above and beyond

When Blake settled on the plan to build the sensory room at Morehead Middle School, Hersh was “cautiously thrilled.”

Cautiously, she says, because “to set up and fully equip a sensory room is well over $10,000.”

Blake was undeterred.

“Sure, raising $10,000 can be a difficult task,” he says. “However, if it’s for a worthy cause, and you have a plan, the task gets easier.”

Blake sold T-shirts and held a one-day fundraiser where members of the community could pay to ride in an airplane.

He called his project  “Wings for Autism,” because “I’ve always believed that those with special needs are God’s special angels,” Blake says.

In the end, Blake raised $30,000 — enough to build not one but two sensory rooms. The People magazine story brought publicity that led to donations and lots of volunteers willing to help Blake reach his goal.

“I can’t get over it,” Hersh says. “The fact that he raised enough money not only for one sensory room but for two sensory rooms. That means these students have this resource to carry them on through the years. For that, I, myself, and, I know the families surrounding who this room affects — we definitely appreciate it. So thank you, Blake.”

Watch the videos

Find two videos below. The first was made to celebrate Blake’s winning the 2017 Eagle Scout Project of the Year Award.

The second was his submission video for the award.

Congrats, Blake! Great job.