BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN Only 4 percent of Boy Scouts become Eagle Scouts.
Using that math, Delano’s Trees Patrol would be fortunate to have one Eagle Scout, but they aimed for 100 percent, and they hit it when Nick Harper became the seventh Scout in the patrol to earn the Eagle Scout rank.
During a June 10 Court of Honor ceremony, he joined fellow Eagle Scouts Martin Eichers, Grant Hellmich, Carson Hage, Elias Potter, Klay Trujillo, and Ethan Gruba.
A Delano patrol has never accomplished this feat before.
“Additionally, it is a rare event across the nation,” said Garry Hellmich, one of the patrol’s scout leaders. “It is unusual for an entire patrol to be made up individuals that have the skills and interest to become Eagle Scouts.”
“We are very proud of what they have accomplished,” Hellmich continued. “They are a unique group of Scouts. They all have different interests outside of Scouts, but work well as a team while at Scout events. They can all be leaders when needed, but are also great team members.”
Hellmich said the Scouts didn’t just achieve a rank, but they also gave back to other Scouts.
“They have been great role models for the younger Scouts,” Hellmich said. “They are all very willing to train younger Scouts.”
The community at large has also reaped the benefits of the Scouts’ work and dedication.
“Our community is fortunate to have benefited from so many great Eagle Scout projects,” Hellmich said. “Each Scout chose a project that reflected their interest.”
The local troop also includes Derek Spencer, Alex Moe, and Nathan Moe, who are in the patrol one year younger than the Trees.
Here’s what the Trees Patrol Scouts and others had to say about their accomplishments and projects.
Eichers has been a Scout since elementary school.
“I was greatly involved with scouting, participating in exciting camping excursions and fun activities, so I decided to strive for its highest honor,” Eichers said.
His project took place in Independence’s Pioneer Creek Park, where he planted 100 trees; built several bird, bat, and duck houses; and constructed a kiosk displaying information about the local species of animals and plants.
“I wanted to complete an Eagle Project in my local community that would continue to have an influence on it in the years to come,” Eichers said.
Independence Mayor Marvin Johnson said that was the case.
“What he did is going to be there for years to come,” Johnson said. “ . . . When he made his presentation to the council, I was very impressed by him. He just did an impressive job.”
It took nine months to plan and complete the project with the help of other Scouts and leaders from Troop 273, as well as donations from businesses and community members.
Eichers said he has learned leadership through Scouting and the Eagle Scout process.
He said the Trees Patrol’s accomplishment shows what can be accomplished with hard work, dedication, and guidance from adult leaders and the support of the community.
Becoming Eagle Scouts was just one part of the adventure.
“We survived torrential rain while hiking at a high adventure camp in New Mexico with high spirits, explored the sea at another high adventure camp in Key West, and camped in different locations, such as caves,” Eichers said. “We have grown up together and succeeded together.”
Hellmich became a Scout in first grade, and aged out when he turned 18.
“The journey of becoming an Eagle Scout, and the challenges along the way, help to challenge you as a person and teach you important life lessons,” Hellmich said. “It helps shape character and teach young men to be strong leaders. After seeing the way my father, a fellow Eagle Scout, exemplifies this in all aspects of life, I developed a desire to follow in those same footsteps.”
Hellmich and a small army of volunteers edged and mulched around all the trees, stained the outdoor worship area, and planted flowers at the Delano United Methodist Church, in preparation for its big tent revival. The process took three to four months and 123 volunteer hours.
“The members of my church were very thankful for the project, and I received a fair number of compliments,” Hellmich said.
He has learned a number of skills from setting up a tent, handling an ax, and starting a fire, to personal finance skills, cooking, and proper planning. Learning went beyond those skills, too.
“It was learning teamwork when we went caving and had to help hoist each other up a slippery rock wall, resilience after walking five miles through the pouring rain and then having to set up camp, and friendship when our tent ripped in a storm and everyone loaned me towels and blankets to replace my wet sleeping bag,” Hellmich said.
He added that the patrol has always challenged each other, shared in highs and lows, and supported each other along the way.
“We have not only proved that our success as individuals is award-worthy, but our success as a team is award-worthy,” Hellmich said.
Hage has been a Scout since fifth grade.
“When I joined the Scouts, I wanted to become an Eagle because of my friends and the leaders teaching me,” Hage said. “However, as I progressed, I wanted to become an Eagle Scout because of the opportunities I knew it would give me, connections with others, and the lifelong memories and lessons acquired.”
Hage renovated the St. Joseph Cemetery centerpiece and painted a nearby shed that had been graffitied.
“I chose this project because St. Joseph has been a major part of my life since I was baptized, and I wanted to give back,” Hage said.
It took six months of planning and pre-approval paperwork and two days of physical labor to complete.
He said he has learned how to be a servant leader willing to make sacrifices to help those around him.
“The most important thing I learned, though, is that the best thing you can have in life is amazing friends to support you,” Hage said. “Without my fellow patrol members, I would not be the person I am today. These six other boys helped shape me to become the strong, selfless, and motivated leader I am today. They have been there for me in the toughest of times, and also in some of the best moments in my life. They will be my friends for the rest of my life.”
Hage added that he is very proud of his fellow Trees and he believes they are all deserving of the rank.
Potter has been a Scout for about 10 years, and he said he wanted to be an Eagle Scout because it is the hardest honor possible.
For his project, he installed two sets of horseshoe pits in Central Park.
“I just thought of the idea when I was talking about it with my dad, and I asked the city, and they loved it,” Potter said.
With paperwork and preparation included, the project took about a year and a half.
He said he has received a great response from city officials and the community at large.
“What’s really nice about it is all these little things are attractions to Delano,” Mayor Dale Graunke said. “When the Scouts take on a project like that, it takes the burden off of public works so they can focus on bigger projects because there’s so many things to do and all projects are important, whether it’s a horseshoe pit or anything else.”
Throughout his decade in scouting, Potter has learned it is always best to be prepared.
He said he is excited for the Trees Patrol, but “the best part of the scouting experience wasn’t achieving the rank; it was having fun with all my brothers for all those years.”
Trujillo has been in Scouting for six years.
He built Gaga ball pits for Delano Middle School.
“I remember being bored out of my gourd during middle school recess because of a lack of fun things to do,” Trujillo said. “I wanted to give the kids there a way to let off some steam between classes.”
Students and staff have taken advantage of it.
“The Gaga ball pit has been a real centerpiece for our fifth- and sixth-grade recesses,” DMS Principal Barry Voight said. “There is always a lot of interest among students and staff for participating in this game.”
Trujillo said the main thing he has taken away from the Scouting experience is a newfound confidence in being a leader and role model.
“I have learned what it means to be a contributing member of the community, and how to live a virtuous life,” Trujillo said.
Teamwork has been an important part of the Trees Patrol, he added.
“I think it goes to show that when you are all working toward a common goal, it is 1,000 times easier to accomplish it when the support of your friends,” Trujillo said.
Gruba has been a Scout since first grade.
He said he believes becoming an Eagle Scout will be beneficial in the long run.
He built a little free library full of children’s books in front of the Delano Community Education building.
He gives his mother credit for the idea, which took about three months to complete.
It appears to be popular.
“Every time I see it, it’s usually about halfway empty, so I like to think that it’s appreciated,” Gruba said.
Delano Community Education Early Childhood Program Coordinator Jane Schaefer, who helped Gruba coordinate the construction of the little free library, said that is the case.
She shared the story of a mother who said she would be adding books to the library, which her children use regularly.
“I do know it’s getting used,” Schaefer said. “Ethan did a really nice job of building the library here and getting it installed. It was a nice project for him to complete to get his Eagle and a nice project for us to get an access point for kids to get a new book to read and discover some new things maybe.”
Harper has been a Scout since he was about 6.
He called becoming an Eagle Scout a great honor, especially doing so with his friends.
His Eagle project was building Delano Elementary School’s buddy benches, which will be introduced to students when they return to school in September.
DES Principal Darren Schuler explained the rules of the benches.
“If you’re sitting on the bench, play with the first classmate who invites you,” Schuler said. “While you’re sitting on the bench, look around for a game you can join. Two friends sitting on the bench can turn to each other and invite each other to play. The bench isn’t for socializing.”
Harper created a skit for students to act out to show other students how the benches work.
Schuler said the benches fit perfectly into the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports.
Harper liked the thought that his project, which took six to seven months to complete, will include everyone.
It’s no surprise, then, that Scouting has taught him to value friendship.
“Make good friends because they’ll always be by your side,” Harper said when asked what he has learned as a Scout.
“It’s exciting and I’m proud of us all,” Harper concluded. “I think we display a good image to the rest of the troop.”