By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Earning the coveted Eagle Scout ranking takes leadership, planning, dedication, and hard work, as two young men from Delano can attest.
Jacob Gerecke, the son of Todd and Mitzi Gerecke, and Sheldon Way, the son of Murray and Janet Way, received national approval of Eagle Scout status from the Boy Scouts of America in May.
Last week, they had their official ceremonies for the award.
“I’d recommend Scouting,” said Way, a 2011 Delano High School graduate. “I had a blast in it. You learn so much, and you make a lot of really good friends.”
Several accomplishments are required in order to become an Eagle Scout, and only a small fraction of Boy Scout participants receive the award.
One well-known prerequisite for becoming an Eagle Scout is developing an extensive service project.
“There is far more to being an Eagle Scout than just doing a project,” noted Gerecke’s mother, Mitzi. “Most people think that is all there is to it.”
Potential Eagle Scouts also must be active in the troop for at least six months after achieving Life Scout Rank, demonstrate a commitment to live by the principles of the Scout Oath and Law, provide names of people willing to provide a recommendation of character, earn a total of 21 merit badges, and serve in a leadership position within the troop, among other requirements.
Serving and leading
For the service project, Scouts must seek a project that benefits a religious organization, school, or organization in the community.
Gerecke started two years ago, with a project benefiting the Delano American Legion.
“We help the Legion put out flags every year [for Memorial Day], and they didn’t have organized records of all the veterans,” Gerecke said. “I decided I’d better fix that.”
First, he cleaned and reported damaged/missing veteran/auxiliary stars in all nine of Delano’s cemeteries. Then, Gerecke made maps for all the cemeteries, and categorized the names alphabetically.
“Some of them [the gravestones] were better kept than others,” he said. Many of the veterans’ stars were so covered with grass, leaves, and dirt that they were completely invisible.
The total project included 121 hours of work from Gerecke and his friends, family, and a few members of Delano Boy Scout Troop 273.
“It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, getting everything organized and getting everyone to work together,” said Gerecke, who will be a senior this fall at Delano High School.
“It is as much a leadership project as it is a task to complete,” Mitzi added.
Way’s project also entailed a great deal of effort.
Last summer, he designed, planned, and led the installation of a fire pit and improvement of the volleyball area at Light of Christ Church in Delano.
“There was an existing fire pit and volleyball court, but it was sort of overgrown,” Way said. “It just never really looked that nice.”
Before he went to college, Way had been active in the youth group at Light of Christ, and he wanted a project that would help his church.
“On Wednesday evenings during the summers, the group meets to play games and roast marshmallows,” Way said. “I’ve been going to the bonfires for probably six years.”
The restoration of the area took more than 150 hours of combined effort.
A life of Scouting
Way, who is originally from Toronto, moved to Delano in 2000.
“I had been involved in Scouts in Canada,” he said. “I started there at the youngest possible age.”
When he and his family came to Minnesota, Way joined the local group right away.
Some of his favorite memories were from Many Point summer camp.
“That was, by far, the most fun I’ve had as a Boy Scout,” he said. “You get to know people, and there are no other distractions. During camp, I never had any desire to be anywhere else.”
At camp, Way had the opportunity to try canoeing, archery, woodcarving, and other outdoor activities.
Gerecke also has many fond memories of Scouting.
“I joined way back in elementary school,” he said. “There’s lots of cool stuff you can do. They’ve got a merit badge for just about everything.”
From rifle shooting to learning how a radio works, Gerecke was exposed to an assortment of intriguing skills and information.
One experience Gerecke will never forget was wilderness survival.
“You hike out into the woods and construct a shelter to stay in overnight,” he said. “You’re allowed one tarp and some rope.”
Overall, Gerecke said everything went well, except for the bugs. A rodent also tried to chew through his tarp at one point, he added.
When Gerecke isn’t busy with Scouting, he also enjoys playing lacrosse at Delano High School.
In the future, Gerecke hopes to have a career related to computer programming.
Way, who is a year older than Gerecke, recently completed his freshman year at St. Olaf College in Northfield, and is planning to major in psychology.
In high school, Way enjoyed cross country, mission trips with his youth group, playing percussion in band, and being involved in Link Crew, a national high school transition program that welcomes incoming freshmen.
After college, Way said he would like to continue his involvement in Boy Scouts.
“I know how important it is to have the leaders there,” he said. “I think Scouting is a really good program. You learn things you wouldn’t learn anywhere else at that age.”