Scout sets sights on assisting kids, vets

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  • PORT CLINTON — In his nearly 35 years as a scout leader, Merle Moritz has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of boys and young men come through the ranks, but only 50 have advanced to earn the prestigious Eagle Scout Award, scouting’s highest rank.


    The honor does not come easily, and for Jeff Wilson, an Eagle scout candidate from Lake High School, it has been an especially arduous road.

    “There have been a number of problems and delays with his project, and he is almost a year behind through no fault of his own, but he has never given up,” Moritz said. “He has put his mind to it, kept his cool, and kept working. He’s really been committed to this.”

    Wilson’s service project is complex and involved, and because it will take place at the Camp Perry training facility near here, there were a lot of bureaucratic hoops to clear just to gain permission to use the base.

    On March 1, Wilson plans to hold a free shooting day on the indoor range at Camp Perry to introduce children ages 8-18 to the Civilian Marksmanship Program and the sport of competitive shooting, while also teaching them important lessons in firearms safety.

    The participants will shoot air pellet rifles, not firearms, and Wilson has also made the event open to veterans. The children’s session will start at 8 a.m. with the veterans shooting at noon. Wilson plans to provide doughnuts in the morning and lunch in the afternoon. Disabled children and vets are also encouraged to take part in the event as long as they have upper body control.

    The 17-year-old has volunteered with the USA Shooting Team in the past and been involved with the Wounded Warrior Project. He melded the two interests together and came up with this creative, yet challenging Eagle Scout project.

    “I’ve certainly seen projects that were easier and simpler, but he thought he wanted to do something like this, bring the kids in and teach them safety, and do something for the vets at the same time, so that’s what he did,” Mortiz said. “He found a way to tie the two together, and I’m very proud of him for that. He’s doing a very good job.”

    Wilson said that after the recent tragedies around the country involving firearms, he was motivated to make the lessons in gun safety a priority of his project.

    “The curiosity aspect is dangerous when kids are around firearms, so my goal was to offer children a chance to learn to know and respect firearms,” he said. “If they are more familiar with firearms, I think they will know how to handle themselves around them.”

    Wilson, who is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 160 in Millbury, said he thinks that introducing children to competitive shooting will reinforce the safety and respect aspect.

    “Hopefully, I can reach out to a lot of kids and have them learn some very important things,” he said. “And if some of them get interested in competitive shooting and take up the sport, then that will be a bonus.”

    Bringing the vets into the event is Wilson’s way to salute them and honor his grandfather and his uncle, both veterans who served in the U.S. Army.

    “This is as much a social event as anything else for these veterans. I think it is important for them to know we care about them, and we appreciate their service to the country,” he said. “Anytime we can give back to the vets, that’s a good thing.”

    To register for the free range day, or get more information, contact Wilson at the jwilson806@lakeflyers.org email address.

    “You know, every boy who comes in to scouts has the same chance to make Eagle, but only about 4 percent end up accomplishing that,” Moritz said. “Jeff has stuck it out, really worked at this, and he’s put together a very worthwhile project. And in the end, this will make him a better scout and a better man.”

    BASSMASTER DAY: Jann’s Netcraft on Briarfield Boulevard in Maumee is hosting its second annual Bassmaster Classic Day on Saturday, with the doors opening at 9 a.m. in the showroom. There will be a number of special in-store promotional deals, new baits available from Berkley, Yamamoto, and Strike King, and manufacturer reps from Pure Fishing, Eagle Claw and Lew’s on hand. Netcraft will also be selling the new 2014 Ohio fishing licenses, which anglers are required to have by March 1.

    Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.