Kevin Link
Kevin Link

Eagle Scouts are supposed to be rare birds. It takes years of work to become an Eagle and scout leaders say that only a small fraction of the boys who take part in scouting earn the program’s highest rank.

But this year, the boys in Troop 304 at Lovett School apparently didn’t get the message. In November, Troop 304 graduated its own flock of Eagles. This group claimed their Eagle badges in numbers usually reserved for eggs or doughnuts: There are a cool dozen of them.

“I think we beat the odds,” former Troop 304 Scoutmaster Kevin Link said one recent evening as he and some of the boys gathered at Lovett’s Scout Hut.

These aren’t Troop 304’s first Eagles. The Lovett-based troop has produced about 100 Eagles since it was chartered in 1996, Link said. The troop actually has twice before awarded more than a dozen Eagles in a single year, with 13 bestowed in 2006 and 2009.

Part of what’s unusual about the 2015 group is that these guys did it all together. The path to an Eagle badge takes commitment. Eagle scouts work their way through all other scout ranks, then accumulate 21 merit badges, which each shows a proficiency in certain areas such as citizenship, personal fitness or emergency preparedness. Eagles must also think up, organize and manage public service projects in their communities.

Troop 304’s dozen Eagles helped one another out along the way.  They all joined scouts in first grade and stuck together through their senior year in high school. “It was a group journey to this point,” new Eagle Sam Baker said.

They went to scout camp and on scout outings together. They worked on one another’s Eagle projects. “I think part of it for me was there were 11 others,” said Matthew Boutte, whose Eagle project was to renovate the Columbarium at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. “I think we were really supportive of each other.”

Baker remembered when a lot of scouts started dropping out of the troop in middle school. Having a group of friends he’d known since first grade stick with scouting made it easier for him keep going. “If these people weren’t in it, I don’t know if I could have done it,” he said.

A little friendly competition helped, too. “Other guys getting their projects done … it’s kind of a kick in the butt,” said Freddy Achecar, whose Eagle project installed posts for displaying signs at Chastain Park.

Their Eagle projects now pop up all over Buckhead and a few other areas. Taken together, their projects contributed more than 1,500 hours of community service and involved more than 130 volunteers, the troop said in a press release.

Griffin Leinbeck refurbished duck boxes at the Blue Heron Nature Center. Sam Baker worked on the community garden at Little Nancy Creek Park. Joe Callaway and Ned Ellis did landscaping and built picnic tables for the farmers market at St. Philip’s Cathedral.

Wil Harrison renovated a work shed at Chastain Park. Andrew Link built picnic tables for the Vinings United Methodist Church. Maxwell McCrady built a sign for Atlanta First Station 26 at Howell Mill and Moores Mill roads.
Patrick McGuire installed picnic tables at a school in Jonesboro and Hayden Page and Garrett Wright restored a playground and added picnic tables and a bench at a women and children’s shelter in East Point.
Page moved to Colorado recently, but, in November, he was back and the entire dozen Eagles assembled at Lovett’s Scout Hut to receive their Eagle badges.
Andrew Link said making Eagles gave them “a sense of accomplishment since we stuck with it from the beginning and didn’t quit.”
Callaway nodded in agreement. “It’s been 12 years of our lives working on this,” he said.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.