Boy Scouts across the nation will celebrate a special birthday this week. The organization responsible for instilling the motto "be prepared" in more than 100 million youth turns 100 years old Monday.
Ten New London Scouts from Troop 228 plan to honor the milestone year with a major celebration of their own: achieving their Eagle award together.
The Eagle Award is the highest advancement ranking in Scouting, and Scouts must fulfill all requirements for the rank before their 18th birthday. Typically only 4 percent of all Scouts attain to the Eagle level, according to Allen Balay, Scout Master for the troop. Nearly all 10 boys in Troop 228 began their Scouting career together as Cub Scouts -- the original troop has lost only a few Scouts along the way.
It was 1½ years ago that Balay realized the 18th birthday for 10 of his Scouts fell within the BSA's centennial year.
Balay approached the boys and their parents with the news of the unique opportunity.
Since then, the troop has been working hard to complete their Eagle Projects and merit badge requirements. Balay said he hopes to have all 10 projects completed by September.
"It's amazing we've kept the group together this long," Balay said. "It's also remarkable to get 10 Eagle Scouts from a small community like New London."
Already, three of the 10 Scouts have completed their Eagle project and earned the required 21 merit badges.
Before the time of Eagle Scout Projects, former Willmar Mayor and Eagle Scout Dick Hoglund remembers earning the required 21 merit badges to obtain his Eagle rank in 1939.
"In those days we were required to earn the lifesaving merit badge," Hoglund said. "And there was no substitute for the lifesaving badge -- not even the cooking badge."
Today's Scouts are not quite as limited in merit badges -- scuba diving and video games are just two new badges being introduced in 2010. Despite subtle changes, Boy Scouts of America has held true to its original values and morals, according to former Trailblazer District Chair and Eagle Scout Ken Pauley of Willmar.
Those values and morals are reflected in the work Boy Scouts have invested over the past 100 years in the Trailblazer District, an area which covers Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle and Renville counties and portions of Meeker and Yellow Medicine counties.
Records show that in 2009 alone more than 20 local Eagle Scout projects were approved and completed in the Willmar area. Projects include everything from constructing new picnic tables at Willmar's Head Start program to raising and cleaning Crow River Cemetery monuments.
Projects must be approved by district advancement officers before any Scout can begin. Though projects involve hours of service, many Scouts agree the efforts are well worth the payoff.
"Once you earn your Eagle Award you're an Eagle for life," said Matt Glup, 15, of Willmar.
Glup, a member of Troop 224, earned his Eagle Award this past summer when he completed his project at the Weber Wildlife Production Area. At the site, Glup constructed new signage, repaired and replaced old signage, installed new benches and cemented walkways.
Though he has since received his Eagle Award, he still stays active in the organization. He plans to serve spaghetti at the annual Boy Scout Troop 224 Spaghetti Supper this Sunday at 7 p.m. at Calvary Lutheran Church in Willmar.
Glup joined the organization as a Cub Scout when he was 6 years old. Area Cub Scouts will not be left out of the festivities surrounding the organization's birthday. Spicer Cub pack 545, led by committee chair Nikki Thein, plans to celebrate 100 years by attending a workshop held the Home Depot in Willmar at 7 p.m. Monday. Cubs will have the opportunity to work toward achievements (the Cub Scout equivalent to a badge) in woodwork.
Though Balay's New London Troop 228 has their eyes on their Eagle Award for 2010, they won't forget to serve cake at their upcoming meeting on Monday.