PENDLETON — Eleven-year-old Skyler Anderson said he wasn’t sure at first what his favorite activity was during “Weekend With Scouts” at Falls Park in Pendleton.
There were so many to choose from: archery, marksmanship, a pinewood derby and rain-gutter boat races, just to name a few.
“Maybe the races because it was kind of cool seeing a couple of cars and boats going down the track,” said Skyler, a fifth-grade student at Pendleton Elementary School-Intermediate, who attended with his father, Scott.
Story continues below gallery
“Weekend With Scouts,” which took place during the weekend, was arranged by Zachary Barnett, 17, a senior at Pendleton Heights High School who lives in Ingalls, just east of the Hancock County line.
A Boy Scout with Troop 232 in Pendleton, Zachary arranged the outdoors experience for children ages 10 to 17 with intellectual or developmental disabilities so they would be able to experience the joys of Scouting. It is his Eagle Scout project, which, if successful, will earn him Scouting’s highest rank.
“We’ve had a fantastic day,” Zachary said late Saturday afternoon as dinner was being served in the park’s community building. The eight campers, who came from Madison and Hancock counties, already had participated in shooting, archery, crafts and car and boat races, and still had a game of kickball, a bonfire and overnight camping to look forward to.
The day got off to a rough start, Zachary said. Heavy rains flooded the parking lot and took a toll on participation; 20 children originally had signed up to participate.
But the eight who braved the weather — six from Pendleton Heights High School, one from Pendleton Heights Middle School and one from Mt. Comfort Elementary School — didn’t seem to mind.
Once the activities got rolling, it was blue skies and smiling faces for campers and counselors alike, Zachary said.
“Everybody seemed to have a good time, especially the people working with the kids,” he said.
Michael Neeley of Pendleton was there with his son, Chris, 17, whom he and his wife recently adopted, along with Chris’ sister, Genna.
“This was awesome; I enjoyed it a lot,” Michael Neeley said of the day’s activities. “I’d really like to see it become more of an annual thing.”
That might indeed happen.
Zachary’s Eagle Scout project adviser said not only has the project gone over well in terms of meeting the requirements of the Scouting rank, but it’s been so successful in terms of community support and financing that it’s well- positioned for a repeat.
“In the end, the cup runneth over,” Tim Reese said, noting there will be almost enough money and other donations left over for the troop to offer a similar experience next year.
Part of the emphasis Zachary placed on the weekend was that is was to be free for participants and their parents, so there were no financial barriers. The tab for food, crafts, T-shirts and more was paid with donations.
Zachary said he’s received support from a lot of people and groups for the effort, including service organizations in Pendleton and Fortville, the Best Buddies program at his school, area businesses, and his troop and Scout district.
Donations continue to come in as word of the project spreads, and a group of Scouts’ parents, volunteers and contributors said there has been interest from other troops who want information on the event, so that they might offer it, too.
Tom Cole, a merit badge counselor with Troop 232, said the outing was more rewarding than he expected.
“I’ve been part of a lot of different Eagle projects; this is … probably one of the most gratifying ones that I’ve been on,” Cole said.
Zachary’s grandfather, Lyle Morrow, was on hand over the weekend to watch his grandson’s Eagle Scout effort unfold.
Zachary said he set his eyes on attaining the Eagle Scout from a young age because of his grandfather, who out of necessity had to leave Scouting in his youth to take a part-time job. Zachary said Morrow had expressed to him through the years admiration for those who have the commitment to stick with something to the end.
Zachary has some final paperwork to complete and will find out in November if he earned his Eagle rank.
On Saturday, Morrow didn’t talk only about the importance of finishing something you start; he expressed how everyone “seemed to love it,” and how there might be enough money for next year.
Skyler, who admitted he needed a little help adjusting his pinewood derby car to go down the track correctly, answered affirmatively when asked if he’d sign up if a program were offered next year.
“Yup,” he said, turning to his father in an excited voice. “Would you, Dad?”
Scott Anderson nodded with a smile.