Today is National Boy Scouts Day. March 12 is National Girl Scouts Day and Aug. 1 is National Eagle Scouts Day. Great youth deserve special days to recognize them and Scouts are among the very deserving.

According to the websites of Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts USA, there are currently just under 5 million Scouts across the country, ranging in age from 6 to 21. We should also note the adult volunteers — 1.8 million strong — who guide these young people through the maze of growing up focused on Boy Scout’s principles: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent, and Girl Scout’s principles: honest, fair, friendly, helpful, considerate, caring, courageous, strong, responsible for what I say and do, respectful of myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.

Scouts do make the world a better place. In December, I wrote about a Sheffield Lake High School senior who created and then threw a Christmas party for kids and families immediately following the tree lighting at the city’s Joyce E. Hanks Community Center. While doing something to benefit her community, this bright young woman was also working on earning a Gold Award, the highest award given by Girl Scouts.

During 2016, the paper covered efforts by another Girl Scout to create a butterfly garden at Avon Lake’s Walker Road Park while a troop made mats for homeless people.

A few years ago, an Avon Lake High School student became an Eagle Scout by building a fence around a wildflower garden I was helping to install at Kopf Family Reservation. At times, there were dozens of volunteers hammering, digging, hauling and bringing food and water to the site. It became clear these Scouts and their adult supporters consider themselves family.  I saw it again at the Court of Honor ceremony where this young man was awarded his Eagle designation. On Sunday afternoon, people have plenty to do, including nothing. The hall was jammed with 400 people, all there to salute his achievement. I recall being told that afternoon that’s what Scouts do — be there for each other whether to work or to celebrate accomplishment.

Year in and year out, local Scouts have planted gardens, built fences, removed invasive plants, built trails and the list goes on. A Daisy troop helped plant flowers at the Sheffield Village municipal complex and an Eagle Scout helped to refurbish a garden at his church in Avon.

Matt Wendling, Scoutmaster for Avon Troop 333, says they provided over 1,000 hours of community service last year, “Doing big projects and small jobs — from building boardwalks at Findley State Park (in Wellington, Ohio), raking leaves for the elderly, and sorting food at the Second Harvest food bank in Lorain, to playing bingo with the residents of Avon Oaks Nursing Home.”

Scouting has made an indelible mark on the character of young people for more than 100 years. More importantly, it has prepared them for life. Wendling says, “Scouting continues to serve a critical role both in the lives of the individuals and in the communities served by the program. We not only teach young men to ‘do a good turn daily,’ we practice it, too.”

He continues, “These contributions to the community are important by themselves, but what makes this work critical is the habits that it forms and the lessons that it reinforces. We endeavor to develop citizens who contribute earnestly and selflessly to society. This mission, more than camping or hiking or canoeing, is our true purpose.”

Scouts have made their marks on every aspect of American life — as presidents, astronauts, business leaders, sports heroes and favorite entertainers.

Both of Ohio’s U.S. senators, Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, were Boy Scouts. Brown went on to become an Eagle Scout. Many recent presidents were Boy Scouts including John Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Former first ladies Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan were Girl Scouts. U.S. Supreme Court justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Steven Breyer and Sandra Day O’Connor were Scouts.

Astronauts Sally Ride and Neil Armstrong were Scouts. So were business executives Michael Bloomberg, Sam Walton, Bill Gates, J.W. Marriott and Martha Stewart. Media personalities Katie Couric, Barbara Walters and Walter Cronkite; athletes Michael Jordan, Venus Williams and Hank Aaron; TV and film stars Mary Tyler Moore, Lucille Ball, Debbie Reynolds, Steven Spielberg and John Wayne; and singers Jimmy Buffet, George Strait, John Tesh and Taylor Swift were Scouts.

However, the ones I salute today are the ones whose names are less recognizable. They are the hundreds living right here in Avon, Avon Lake, Sheffield Lake or Sheffield Village. Tim Houk, Scoutmaster of Avon Lake Boy Scout Troop 334, says, “Boy Scouts is not just a path but a lifestyle of leadership, service and integrity.” Julia Pyle, the Sheffield Lake student responsible for the Christmas party last December, shares this sentiment, “Scouting to me has meant being a part of a group that helps you to bring (out) the best in each other.” She adds, “I’ve learned lessons that will carry on with me for life.” Having had the opportunity to watch just a few of them tackle their service projects with incredible dedication, determination and enthusiasm, I can’t wait to see what this awesome group of young people do in the future.

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