As a member of his school’s Public Safety Academy, Luke Gwartney knew his Eagle Scout project would benefit local law enforcement heroes.
The 17-year-old has a beyond-his-years appreciation for the brave individuals who protect our communities.
But Luke hadn’t settled on a specific project until some deputies from the sheriff’s office in Johnston County, Kan., came to visit his school. That’s when Luke learned of Brandon Collins, a sheriff’s deputy killed in 2016 while conducting a routine traffic stop.
Luke, a member of Troop 83 from Olathe, Kan., wanted to find a way to honor peace officers like Collins who died protecting and serving their fellow citizens — people who “put the uniform and badge on, protecting our cities, counties and nation, and not knowing if they will return home to see their families,” Luke says.
Luke designed and led the construction of a touching, thoughtful memorial to fallen heroes.
“No matter how dark times get,” Luke says, “this memorial will shed light on those officers who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
For his selfless service and commitment to helping his community heal, the Eagle Scout from the Heart of America Council received the 2019 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award for the Central Region.
The 2019 Adams awards, detailed in greater depth at the end of this post, recognize outstanding Eagle projects completed by young people who earned Eagle in 2018.
A meaningful memorial
The memorial sits on a circular patch of grass encircled by white poles and chains.
A concrete path leads to a device called a Tribute Stone, which uses audio recordings to tell the story of Collins’ death — and, just as importantly, his life. The stone sits in front of a wall and a sign reading “Duty. Honor. Service.”
To the right rests a granite bench bearing the name of Collins and two other officers killed in the line of duty: Sgt. Willard N. Carver and Detective Gerald A. Foote.
Before Luke came along, the Tribute Stone had been stored inside while the sheriff’s office tried to find a permanent location. Now it has a long-term home sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who walks by.
Deputy Claire Canaan, a spokeswoman for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, tells me that the impact of Luke’s project “will be felt for years to come.”
“It will also cause all people — sheriff’s office employees, visitors, citizens — to pause for a moment and remember those public servants we have lost across the nation while simply doing their job,” she says. “It will serve to remind all future employees what level of dedication and valor is necessary to put on this uniform and wear this badge.”
What he learned
An aspiring Eagle Scout quickly learns that an Eagle Scout service project is far different from a standard service project.
There’s the whole “plan, develop and give leadership” part I’ve blogged about before.
As Luke watched his helpers pour concrete mix, plant Colorado blue spruce trees and install metal poles, this fact became abundantly clear.
“I learned that being the leader is very different from being the worker,” he says.
At the beginning of each of five different workdays, Luke gathered his helpers, explained the goal for that day and delivered reminders about safety. He then split the group into smaller crews and outlined each crew’s specific job.
During the hours that followed, Luke circulated from crew to crew to see if they needed extra supplies, had questions, and were staying safe and hydrated. He pitched in, too, demonstrating that leaders do more than stand around with their arms crossed.
And when the Pizza Hut delivery driver arrived with lunch, Luke paid the bill and made sure his workers got fed before he grabbed a slice. Leaders eat last.
Looking back, Luke says the project helped him with presentation skills, communication and the ability to rally a team behind a cause.
“I had some leadership skills before, but this project definitely advanced those skills,” Luke says. “Before this, I was kind of a shy-ish leader, but I learned a leader can’t be shy.”
How he raised money
I’ll add another skill Luke demonstrated: fundraising.
He initially estimated the project would cost about $2,000. But as his planning continued and the donations poured in, he increased the size and features of the memorial — adding touches like the memorial bench and four light poles.
“I needed to raise a good amount of money to make this project as beautiful as possible,” Luke says.
To raise that money, Luke set up a concession stand outside of a nearby Bass Pro Shops location.
He also visited local businesses in person, securing more than $6,000 in donated supplies and equipment.
Combining funds raised and the value of donated materials, Luke secured more than $12,700 for the project.
In the end, Luke raised too much money. He was able to donate the excess — totaling more than $3,000 — to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.
This practice is in line with the BSA’s rules, as outlined in the document titled “Procedures and Limitations on Eagle Scout Project Fundraising,” found in the Eagle Project Workbook.
Here’s the relevant line: “All proceeds left over from fundraising or donations, whether money, materials, supplies, etc., regardless of the source, go to the beneficiary.”
Luke’s project is about giving back to those who gave their all, and we couldn’t be more proud. Nicely done.
2019 Eagle Scout Projects of the Year
This post is one of a quartet of articles recognizing four outstanding Eagle projects by Class of 2018 Eagle Scouts.
Each project covered in these posts received the Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award, or ESSPY.
The ESSPY process begins at the council level, where each council can nominate one outstanding project to the National Eagle Scout Association. From there, one project from each BSA region — Central, Northeast, Western and Southern — is selected to receive the ESSPY.
Regional ESSPY recipients get $500 for future educational purposes or to attend a national or international Scouting event or facility.
Next, a special selection committee of the National Eagle Scout Association selects a national winner from among those four recipients. The national ESSPY recipient gets $2,500 for future educational purposes or to attend a national or international Scouting event or facility.
2019 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award recipients
- National winner (representing the Southern Region): Garrett Johnson of Troop 81 in Tulsa, Okla. (Indian Nations Council)
- Central Region winner: Luke Gwartney of Troop 83 in Olathe, Kan. (Heart of America Council)
- This post
- Northeast Region winner: Peter Livengood of Troop 687 in Dunbar, Pa. (Westmoreland Fayette Council)
- Read about his project in a future Bryan on Scouting post
- Western Region winner: Zack Moore of Troop 33 in Mountain View, Calif. (Pacific Skyline Council)
- Read about his project in a future Bryan on Scouting post