PLATTSBURGH — Fifteen-year-old Rafael Rivera wasn’t always Eagle Scout material.
“I was more of a ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’ kind of kid,” the Saranac Central School freshman told attendees of the recent Friends of Scouting Plattsburgh Breakfast, held at American Legion Post 20 in Plattsburgh.
But through participation in Boy Scouts, “I turned into a person who loves donating my time and efforts to others,” said Rivera, now an Eagle Scout of Troop 8049 in Peru.
“My payment in return is watching people be happy.”
The annual breakfast and fundraiser honors local businesses, organizations and individuals who sponsor the Adirondack District scouts, making it possible for local boys to participate in the program.
“Boy Scouts is a great organization that turns boys into leaders and men,” Rivera said. “I strongly believe every boy should have the chance to be a Boy Scout.”
This year’s keynote speaker was Development Corporation President and CEO Paul Grasso, who told the crowd it surprised him that more parents and their sons aren’t choosing to participate in scouts.
“I don’t understand that while we recognize that the ideals people learn from watching TV reality shows and playing video games are shallow ... we fail to see the substantial value the scout learns by being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent,” he said.
“What parent wouldn’t want those adjectives used to describe their son?”
And, Grasso continued, “I don’t understand why we run special programs to instill the concept of community service in young people and yet we don’t recognize the high value that scouting places on community service and the countless hours of volunteer community services that scouts donate every week.”
For example, in order to become an Eagle Scout, Rivera was required to complete a service project. He chose to install two chain-link fences at the Lyon Mountain Pee Wee Baseball Field with the help of other members of his troop.
“These fences were put in place in front of the dugouts to protect the boys from baseballs,” Rivera said.
Adirondack District Executive Ryan Lee told the crowd how Pack 39 in Plattsburgh recently put on a Pinewood Derby at Meadowbrook Healthcare, a Plattsburgh nursing home.
The Cub Scouts raced their hand-made cars on wooden and steel tracks there.
“You should have seen the impact that that simple task had on those senior citizens. ... it made their month.
“The power of scouting is everywhere in our community,” Lee said.
Grasso also noted that scouting teaches the value of strong family bonds, responsibility, personal value and virtue and “is the antithesis of a sedentary life.”
He wasn’t able to taking part in scouting much as a kid, he said, but he believes he understands the essence of the organization.
“Its purpose is pretty simple: to build character and integrity in America’s youth and to prepare them to become responsible adults.
“And there really isn’t much difficult to understand about that,” he said.
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