Becoming Eagle Scouts
Achieving top rank took teamwork, built leadership skills
The News-Times/Susan Tuz
These five Ridgefield Boy
Scouts attained the level of Eagle Scout together. In the back
row are James Toman, Drew Tewksbury, Jeffrey Ward. In the front
row are Matthew Jessup and Jesse Kearns.
They've been fellow scouts since they were 8,
joining the Cub Scouts at the same time.
Now five young men age 18, they achieved the level of Eagle Scout
Sunday in a ceremony at Jesse Lee Memorial Church.
Joined by parents and friends, Matt Jessup, Jesse Kearns, Drew
Tewksbury, James Toman and Jeff Ward attained a rank in the scouting
roster that only 2 percent of all Boy Scouts reach.
"It took a lot to get here," Kearns, 18, said. "It's all the
stuff that's come before our Eagle Scout projects that brought us
here: getting the badges, preparing to be leaders in our adult
"I almost consider us like brothers," Tewksbury added. "We're so
close and we've been through so much together."
Side by side, these young men tore apart a rotted bridge,
standing in the swamp it crossed, at Woodcock Nature Center. It was
replaced with a new one, reclaiming the trail there. That was
Toman's Eagle project.
Working in the heat of summer, they hauled a portable generator
far into Sturges Park to run machinery for the building of a
campsite lean-to — Ward's Eagle project.
All five of the scouts' projects involved making outdoor camping
and hiking areas in Ridgefield more accessible or more protected
Jessup built an 80-foot oak fence at the top of the hill at
Sturges Park, protecting the field there from vehicular traffic. The
fence was completed with 25 feet of stone wall.
On completion of their tasks, these young men's parents paid for
a camping and hiking trip in Grand Teton National Park out west:
their last big trip together before leaving for their respective
"We've hiked so many times together, we're pretty efficient
hikers at this point," Jessup said of the trip which was made
without chaperones — the way their parents told them they had
reached maturity in their parents' eyes.
Eagle Scout projects require some 100 man-hours of work, with a
crew of helpers organized and managed by the respective scout. All
materials must either be acquired through donations or with money
raised through fund-raisers. Approval for the project has to be
received from the town, Parks & Recreation when applicable and the
state, if wetlands are crossed.
Kearns built a dock at Lake Woodwing, across from Ridgebury
"I run out there often and have seen people fishing off of the
dock and boats docked at it," Kearns noted, "so it's getting good
Tewksbury refurbished and marked hiking trails at Sturges Park.
His project made it possible for the town park to book specific
campsites at the park, since they are now clearly marked and
"You have to show that you have leadership skills," Kearns noted
of the Eagle projects.
"At the beginning of our years in scouts, we learned from
leaders. Now, at the end, we have become leaders ourselves," Jessup
added. "Through our projects, we showed others what to do. It was
like a final exam, and we passed it."
That is what the last 10 years in the scouts have been for these
young men: a series of tests they met and passed with each other's
"We pushed each other to go for it," Tewksbury noted. "We wanted
to stay in the loop, stay part of the group and that kept us going.
There's a lot of pride and closure now that we've come this far."
These five Eagles Scout projects could not have been accomplished
without the generous donations of Sturges Brothers Construction,
Ridgefield Hardware, Parks and Recreation, and local contractor
Julius Pepin, who supplied the tools used on all five projects.