There are seven ranks in scouting and the Eagle Scout rank is the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America. A scout needs to fulfill over 350 requirements in his path to Eagle. Probably the most noteworthy of these is where the prospective Eagle needs to “plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community.”
I have been a Life scout, one rank below Eagle, since February 2006. My fascination with puzzles and brainteasers began I was a young child. In fact, one of my first puzzles was a Binary Arts (now ThinkFun) product called Port to Port. In spring 2008, I began actively searching for an Eagle Scout project. After a few discussions, one idea came up: what about offering mind challenging games to senior citizens?
A few calls later, I was able to contact and meet with Mrs. Ruth Junkin, the director of the Herndon Senior Center. Mrs. Junkin, herself the mother of an Eagle Scout, was very supportive of the idea. The Herndon Senior Center sponsors an activity called Mental Muscle, led by Mrs. Donna Sugermeyer. The program was focused on word puzzles, and I thought that giving the seniors other games could improve the program.
After obtaining project approvals from my troop, I talked with Mr. Bill Ritchie and Ms. Andrea Barthello, the founders of ThinkFun, who were equally enthusiastic about the idea. They donated some games for research, which I brought to the senior center with a few other scouts to three sessions of Mental Muscle. After figuring out the games the seniors liked, I organized a fundraising campaign from Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church so that we could purchase more games for the project. Considering the economic downturn that the country was experiencing, the results were rather surprising: over $2,000 was collected. In fact, I was still getting donations two months after the weekend of fundraising.
The funds, coupled with ThinkFun’s additional donation of games, allowed me to purchase two storage carts and games for the center. I was also able to create two other portable units which could be taken to other Mental Muscle programs around Fairfax County.
I brought 14 scouts with me to help present the games on the December 30, 2008 session of Mental Muscle. The seniors were extremely excited, and about 70 seniors attended the event — thrice as many seniors as are normally present. The seniors enjoyed the games and the refreshments provided. According Mrs. Junkin, the games are now popular even among seniors outside of the Mental Muscle program!
So, my Eagle Scout project is done. It’s nice to know that I’ve finally finished, and even nicer to know that I managed to make a lot of people happy while on the way. Finally, one of the best lessons I have learned through this experience is that it takes a lot of help from individuals and organizations in order to carry out a successful project. I could not have done this project without the support of ThinkFun’s founders, and the help of Mrs. Junkin and Mrs. Sugermeyer, my parents, siblings, and fellow scouts.