In face shield service project, clear proof that when things are bad, Scouts step up

Left: Life Scout Holden Sanderson holds completed face shields. Right: Tenderfoot Mark Chang delivers face shields to a local hospital.
Life Scout Holden Sanderson holds completed face shields.

Sometimes a simple suggestion is all it takes.

When Troop 378 Senior Patrol Leader Enzo Ishihara’s leaders told him about an opportunity to construct and distribute 3D-printed face shields for first responders and essential workers in Torrance, Calif., “we could see his face light up,” remembers Assistant Scoutmaster Brian Sanderson.

”He was ‘all in’ with fundraising, donating, assembling and distributing the shields to those that needed them in our community,” Sanderson says. “Enzo took the proposal to the [patrol leaders’ council] for a vote, and we were off and running.”

Running like an efficient, Scout-led machine.

The Scouts raised $3,145 for the project — even choosing to divert money they had initially earmarked for future Scouting adventures. That was enough to make 2,500 face shields, including more than 900 the Scouts built themselves.

With the state of California expected to face a shortage of personal protective equipment for another two years, this Good Turn comes at the ideal time.

All told, 44 Scouts contributed a combined 155 hours. Only four adults were directly involved, not counting drivers. As with any Scout service project, the experience strengthened the Scouts as much as it helped the community.

“I learned I can still help people,” Enzo says, “regardless of the environment around me.”

A thought on ‘Scout-led’ troops

There’s another lesson here. Even though Troop 378 is run by youth leaders like Enzo, the idea for this project came from one of the adults.

Supporting a Scout-led troop doesn’t mean every idea must originate with the Scouts. It’s absolutely appropriate to suggest trip destinations, meeting activities or service project ideas to your Scouts.

But after you share an idea, try to return to the back of the room (or back to mute on Zoom) and let the Scouts vote on what to do with your suggestion.

That’s how it worked in Troop 378’s case, where “the Scouts were involved from start to finish,” Sanderson says. “If I had to use percentages, I would guess 80% Scouts and 20% adults.”

As Enzo and his fellow Scouts prove, young people can and will impress you if you give them space to do so.

Instead of yet another extracurricular activity where adults tell young people where to stand, which play to run or which song to perform, Scouting puts them into real leadership roles. When that happens, it’s incredibly rewarding to watch as they turn your suggestions into something spectacular.

They might fail a little along the way. During Troop 378’s project, Scouts broke three headbands and nine plastic shields. But that made the learning experience even better.

How it started

Troop 378, like so many troops, has successfully transitioned to Scouting at Home during the pandemic. But the Scouts were missing something that’s a little tougher to replicate from home: opportunities to help others.

One adult leader suggested that the Scouts fundraise to buy face coverings for those who couldn’t afford them. That was the plan until Sanderson noticed his employer was supporting a nonprofit called SoCal Makers COVID Response Team. This group of engineering volunteers makes face shields using available 3D printers across Southern California.

“This project interested us as it involved many facets of leadership skills and allowed the Scouts to be directly involved,” Sanderson says.

Sanderson and Scoutmaster Derek Kawamura pitched the idea to Enzo and his fellow youth leaders. They loved it.

But as any project manager can tell you, going from idea to execution wasn’t easy.

A composite image of four Scouts delivering face shields.
Troop 378 created this image to promote its efforts on social media — a good reminder of the importance of telling your #ScoutingStories anywhere and everywhere you can. Clockwise from top left: Life Scout Enzo Ishihara, First Class Scout Jake Yamada, First Class Scout Matthew Chao and Star Scout Ethan Chao.

How they did it

  1. Vote on the idea: Enzo met with the members of the Troop 378 patrol leaders’ council (Ethan Chao, Ethan Oh, Kenton Chao and Aaron Chee) to vote on the idea. It passed unanimously.
  2. Make a fundraising plan: The PLC discussed ways to raise the funds they’d need. They started by voting to divert money from the troop coffers to the effort. They needed more, but Enzo and the other youth leaders didn’t want Mom and Dad’s direct donations. They asked the Scouts to “open up their piggy banks” and donate or ask others for donations. In a little over a month, they raised $3,145.
  3. Contact the project beneficiary: Enzo and his assistant senior patrol leaders drafted a proposal to SoCal Makers, and the group happily welcomed the Scouts’ involvement. The PLC decided that 900 face shields was probably the limit their Scouts could assemble, sanitize and distribute. They asked SoCal Makers to use the rest of the funds to build additional face shields. The money was enough for 2,500 shields spread across 37 locations.
  4. Gather supplies: Sanderson picked up the materials, and Enzo and other Scouts distributed the supplies to the doorsteps of Scouts in his troop.
  5. Assemble the face shields: Scouts wore face coverings and rubber gloves to avoid contact with the materials. Because a plastic shield is highly susceptible to attracting lint and hair, the Scouts prepared a clean area at home by spreading plastic sheeting over a table. To make each face shield, Scouts mounted the clear plastic onto the headband using the provided holes. Following the assembly, they sprayed each shield with isopropyl alcohol and sealed it in plastic bags for 72 hours.
  6. Deliver the shields: Each Scout was able to decide for himself where the shields would go — somewhere personally meaningful, perhaps. They participated in the contactless drop-offs at hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, senior living centers, grocery stores, schools and even a pet care center.

‘Pride in what they accomplished’

When First Class Scout Jake Yamada looks back on this project years from now, he’ll know he didn’t watch the pandemic as a passive passenger. He did something to help.

“I learned that helping the community is a vital thing for us to do — and at the same time feels good to do,” he says. “I think that all Scouts should help the facilities that care for the people that most need it.”

Sanderson knows that the Scouts of Troop 378 did something special, too. He even has the handwritten thank-you notes to prove it. But he believes that the Scouts got something special in return.

”We want the Scouts to have pride in what they accomplished,” he says. “We want them to tell others, for years to come, how when things were bad, Scouts stepped up to help others in need.”

About Bryan Wendell 3032 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.