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Published: Saturday, 3/12/2005

Son reaches goal; Dad benefits, too

Ian Bova Ian Bova

He once embedded an ax in his boot. He thought that was pretty cool. The fact that his foot was still in the boot was only of passing concern.

He almost had hypothermia. He didn't think that was cool, in the popular sense, but in a physical sense he was really, really cold.

He wished me a happy Father's Day from the top of a mountain in New Mexico. That was the coolest of all, for him and for me.

Meet my son Ian, one of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan's newest Eagle Scouts. There'll be a ceremony tomorrow where he'll get his Eagle medal. Scoutmasters past and present will say the obligatory nice things about him, but there are some things that might go unsaid. You see, at any Eagle ceremony, the focus is on the scout. An Eagle is about much more.

In our case:

It's about the disabled people at a care home in west Toledo. Snug up against the rear of their house they have a spacious deck where they can roll out on their wheelchairs to feel the sun on their face or hear the rustle of leaves from a clutch of trees.

It's about young people from two different groups - our scout troop and our church - who over the course of two months built that deck.

It's about the parents - moms and dads alike - who contributed their brains and brawn not only to that deck, but to myriad other scout projects and activities.

It's about adults - some who have sons in scouts, some who don't - who use their vacation time to supervise the scouts at summer camp.

It's about numbers. Think about all the youngsters who play scholastic sports and about how few of them actually make the professional leagues. If scouting were sports, then Eagles would be all-stars. Of every 100 boys who enter scouting, only 2 of them make it all the way to Eagle. Locally, in the Erie Shores Council, that number is higher. Statistically speaking, 3.3 boys out of every 100 make Eagle. Our troop, 198, puts a premium on scouting commitment. Of the 24 boys who entered scouting with Ian, 14 of them received their Eagle.

It's about memories. Like the hatchet in the boot. He took a cut at a piece of wood that would be a contribution for a campfire, missed, and thanks to a weak swing and a thick sock, became part of troop lore. Like the brush with hypothermia. On one of his first campouts, at Maumee Bay State Park, a rainstorm washed ashore overnight and he awoke in a pool of standing water in his tent. Like the call from New Mexico. He was at the Philmont Scout ranch, the Mecca of scouting.

It's about work. On the path to being an Eagle, a scout has to do the work associated with merit badges. In addition, a scout has to do a public service project. Ian's was the care-home deck.

It's about fun. Earning those badges brings a certain joy. The Eagle project incorporates a strong element of camaraderie. Of the 29 merit badges Ian has, the ones that were the most fun for him were small-craft sailing and - hatchet in the boot notwithstanding - wilderness survival.

Finally, and I say this reluctantly, it's about me. Never was a camper, let alone a scout. The image of scouting - knives and knots and neckerchiefs - didn't appeal to me as a youth. But to support Ian, I went on a few camping trips. I grew to enjoy the smell of a campfire and the sight of morning frost on my tent. Better still, to be in the company of good people doing good things. Thanks to Ian's journey toward the Eagle, I've grown as a person.

Contact Dennis Bova at: bova@theblade.com or 419-724-6164

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