Friends become Eagles together
Ten teens from New Fairfield troop earn scouting’s highest rank
By Geraldine Jove
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-TIMES
2002-07-25

 
Nick Zobler, right rear, decided to refurbish the crèche for St. Edward the Confessor Church. With him after completing the project are front left, brother Alex 
Zobler and Matt Monaco.
 

Nick Zobler, right rear, decided to refurbish the crèche for St. Edward the Confessor Church. With him after completing the project are front left, brother Alex Zobler and Matt Monaco.

Nick Zobler, right rear, decided to refurbish the creche for St. Edward the Conffessor Church. Whith hime after completing the project ar Front lef, brother Alex Zobler and Matt Monaco

 

Nick Zobler, right rear, decided to refurbish the creche for St. Edward the Conffessor Church. Whith hime after completing the project ar Front lef, brother Alex Zobler and Matt Monaco

John Gelcich, 
left, and 
Matt Monaco at work on 
Gelcich’s bridge 
project at Squantz 
Pond State Park. Below them is 
friend 
Garrett French.

 

John Gelcich, left, and Matt Monaco at work on Gelcich’s bridge project at Squantz Pond State Park. Below them is friend Garrett French.

Michael Scanlon 
cutting 
lumber to build a 
bridge 
at the 
Great 
Hollow Wilderness School.

 

Michael Scanlon cutting lumber to build a bridge at the Great Hollow Wilderness School.

When 18-year-old John Robertson was struggling with his Boy Scout Eagle project, his friend Matt Monaco said, "If you need me for anything, let me know.”

"He was there to add support and reaffirm that I could get it done,” said Robertson. "All nine of them were there for me at different points in time.”

Those nine, all 18, are Robertson’s fellow scouts from New Fairfield’s Troop 137: Timothy Taylor, Christopher Bopp, Michael Scanlon, Brian Stoddard, Brian Nichols, Monaco, John Gelcich III, Nicholas Zobler and David Santucci.

On June 2, all became Eagle Scouts. It was a huge accomplishment for each, made even sweeter because they are all good friends outside of scouts.

"All of us were friends and have been in scouts all our lives,” Stoddard said. "We have a common interest in the outdoors, scout activities and all the fun stuff.”

"If I was by myself and without my friends, I don’t think I would have gone through with it,” Scanlon said of his project. "It wouldn’t have been fun, nobody to help you out and chat with.”

Scanlon built a bridge over a trail that included some swampland in the YMCA’s Great Hollow Wilderness School for his Eagle project. "They helped me carry stuff in and helped put it all together. It took 60 hours of help to make the bridge and everyone was willing to help me out.”

"This group of kids clicked with their friendship, said Carl Bopp, the troop’s scoutmaster for three years, assistant scoutmaster for nine years and Christopher Bopp’s father. "Their friendship became stronger as a result of their involvement in the troop. They spent quite a bit of time together, and all to do with the Boy Scout program — achieving badges, a campout every month, and going on a High Adventure trip every year.”

Among the High Adventures the troop took were a 12-day survival training backpacking trip in New Mexico and a 10-day navigation trip aboard a 67-foot sailboat in the Bahamas using only a map and a compass.

"During those trips I learned how to survive the hard times and enjoy the good times,” Zobler said. "Both Philmont (N.M.) and the Bahamas taught me how to work as a team. Living with people for 24 hours a day and seven days a week for two weeks allowed me to learn who my true friends were. The relationship among the participating scouts developed into something special. We are closer and more open with each other than ever before.”

"The High Adventure trip helped us develop friendships more because we ended up acting more like a family as the trip went on,” said Robertson said the Philmont adventure. "As in any family, no one is happy with each other for the whole trip, and halfway through we would bicker with each other, complain, make excuses why it wasn’t our fault and why it was someone else’s. To go through it and knowing I could work with them as a team changed who I was.”

"There was nothing around us,” Santucci said, "and one day it was raining all day and the hostility in the group was so high at that point, and we (still) had halfway to go. We knew we had to get things done.”

The requirements to become an Eagle Scout are tough and take years to achieve. A scout must earn 21 merit badges, assume leadership responsibility within the troop and complete a 100-hour community service project. Only 4 percent of Boy Scouts achieve Eagle rank.

Many of the 10 scouts said that at some point they considered quitting scouts.

"Probably there is a point in time when everyone thinks about dropping out,” Chris Bopp said. "In middle school, you’re getting into a lot of schoolwork, and it helped that other people I knew were in it. We worked together to learn everything we needed to know for Boy Scouts.”

"I had Lyme disease and it was a chronic case,” recalls Robertson. "It was questionable if I was even going to be able to stay in scouts, let alone go up in rank. They would call me up or stop by my house if I couldn’t make a meeting and talk about what happened at a campout I missed. If I needed help with merit badge work I missed, they came over and we’d sit and talk and figure it out together. Without their friendship, there is no way I would ever have gotten my Eagle.”

"My friends helped me when I wasn’t advancing,” Monaco said. "I was getting discouraged. It was taking too long getting all the requirements done for each round. All nine of them encouraged me.”

Carl Bopp recalls how they pushed each other to each stage — 1st Class, 2nd Class and Leadership. "They were all working together,” he said. "In doing so, they helped a lot of the younger kids coming up in the ranks to that 1st Class level.”

The 100-hour community service project is the last step and probably the most challenging for an Eagle Scout candidate.

Under adult supervision and with at least five others, the scout must assume leadership of the project. He must plan the project start to finish, organize work teams, secure materials or supplies needed by raising funds, and complete the project by his 18th birthday.

Many of the boys chose to improve New Fairfield’s recreational areas. Monaco’s project was to remove two foreign invasive plant species, multiflora rose and Asiatic bittersweet, that were encroaching on native Connecticut plants at the Hidden Valley Nature Center. Monaco’s team had to cut plant canes down to the roots, using clippers, loppers and steel rakes; set up an erosion barrier; remove the plant systems with steel rakes, hacksaws and pry bars; plant grass seed; lay down straw mats; and finally fertilize and water the new grass.

"Ripping up the roots of the plants took longer than we expected,” Monaco recalls. "I had about 10 different scouts at different times helping me on the project. I needed to keep them motivated to help me.”

"If you had a problem, Matt told you what to do,” said Mike Cove, a fellow scout who assisted Monaco. "We worked together. It was very intense labor because of the root systems. We cut vines and a bunch of people got on the pry bars to pull the big roots up.”

"Each project is their own,” Carl Bopp said, but "friendship is a big part of it. Because sometimes (the scout) can’t get people to come, but one of your friends will come. They make the effort to be there.”

Taylor’s project was improving New Fairfield’s town beach. "I built new canoe racks,” he said. "The old rack was poorly built and only held two boats. Also, it was a slanted beach making it difficult to access the top level.”

Taylor ran into problems, but Stoddard, Zobler and Nichols along with other friends helped overcome them.

His plan included digging holes for the canoe posts and using a backhoe to level the beach.

"It was in January; the ground was frozen for three to four inches,” Taylor recalls, "but they just kept digging. I planned on using a backhoe when the (lake) water came down, but they (the lake authority) never brought the lake water down at all. So we had to dig out the beach instead of having the backhoe do it for us. It added another 10 to 15 hours more work. And we built a retaining wall, too.”

"Everyone came together and helped out,” Zobler said. "It was a contributing factor in getting the project done before the winter began. Tim was a fine example of leadership. He kept everything running smoothly, all of us well-energized and thoughtful of others.”

"Our troop took the Eagle Scout and turned it into a team kind of a deal without losing the individual honor,” Robertson said. "I thought that was kind of cool.”


Troop 137 Eagle Scout projects

David Santucci: Refurbished the theatrical production area of New Fairfield High School.

Michael Scanlon: Built a bridge over swampland at the YMCA’s Great Hollow Wilderness School in New Fairfield.

Brian Stoddard: Created a 1½-mile loop trail in Sweetcake Mountain Preserve.

Christopher Bopp: Refurbished classrooms in the New Fairfield Congregational Church.

John Gelcich III: Built a bridge connecting the boat launch and the parking lot at Squantz Pond State Park.

Brian Nichols: Coordinated a Child Identification Day at the New Fairfield police station.

Nicholas Zobler: Refurbished the crèche at St. Edward the Confessor Church and created storage space for it.

Timothy Taylor: Built two canoe racks to accommodate 16 canoes. Leveled off a large section of the New Fairfield Town Beach to make access to the racks easier.

Matthew Monaco: Removed two foreign species of invasive plants, multiflora rose and Asiatic bittersweet, from the Hidden Valley Nature Preserve trails.

John Robertson III: Developed a training program for the altar servers at St. Edward the Confessor Church.


Division of Ottaway Newspapers,Inc.
333 Main St. Danbury, CT 06810 (203) 744-5100

The News-Times Online Edition is published daily Monday through Sunday.

All items copyright © 2001 by The News-Times unless otherwise noted.

Questions or Comments contact webmaster@newstimes.com