At SS. Philip and James Parish, 10 make Eagle scout

By Lou Baldwin
Special to the CS&T

EXTON – Kevin Betz installed park benches along a trail. David Piskai coordinated children’s activities at a festival. Kevin Costello restored the front entrance of a shelter. Johnathon Forgione refurbished and repaired kneelers in a chapel. Kevin Tatorowic installed a putting green at a nursing home. Alexander Kasznel repaired and replaced a chapel walkway. Richard Bowers repaired and repainted a church vestibule. Thomas McNamee landscaped and beautified a putting green and installed benches. Paul Burns repaired a chapel entrance. Ed Welsh cut down trees and installed lighting for an outdoor campus cross.

Their community service has one thing in common – they all attained Eagle Scout ranking in the Boy Scouts of America and their projects, which they conceived, planned and carried out, helped fulfill the requirements to attain Boy Scout’s ultimate rank. {{more}}

What is really unusual is that all achieved their Eagle rank as members of Troop 105 in Exton, based at SS. Philip and James Parish, and most were together since they were little guys in Cub Scouts.

When one considers that roughly five percent of the boys who enter Cub Scouts make it all the way to Eagle, it is really rare that a troop that boasts only about 55 members can recognize 10 new Eagle Scouts at its annual court of honor.

Most of the scouts are also active members of SS. Philip and James, where scout master Will Tamney estimates three-quarters of the boys are altar servers.

“A lot of the Eagle projects were to help the parish,” he said. “Every Christmas our scouts decorate the church; the Christmas crèche was one of the Eagle projects. They participate in the spring and fall clothing drives and the annual turkey drive, they serve as ushers, and it was the Eagles and their dads who participated in the foot washing on Holy Thursday.”

Scouts who attain Eagle rank generally do so shortly before they age out of Boy Scouts at 18, and this class is no exception; most are now in college.

“I was in scouts since first grade when I was a Tiger Cub,” said Forgione, who refurbished the kneelers in St. Mary’s Chapel at SS. Philip and James. “I followed it through to 12th grade, and I made truly great friends. I learned quite a bit about myself and I learned leadership skills. It is truly a well-rounded program.”

After graduating from SS. Philip and James, he continued on to Bishop Shanahan High School and is now entering his sophomore year at Penn State, pursuing studies in engineering science.

Ed Welsh got with the program a bit later – while he was in sixth grade at SS. Philip and James. He went on to Devon Prep, and it was there he cleared away the trees at the outdoor shrine and installed lighting.

Like all the Eagles, he didn’t do his project solo; after planning the project he recruited about 20 volunteers, mostly scouts and parents, who helped with the work, and that’s where the leadership training came into play.

Now he’s starting college at Virginia Tech where he is majoring in electrical and computer engineering.

Alexander Kasznel, whose project was the St. Mary Chapel walkway, was a scout for 11 years and also after the parish school went on to Shanahan.

He also found the leadership skills especially useful for his project as he directed his army of volunteers.

“I had adults who normally would be giving me direction asking me what the next step was,” he said. Kasznel, who is going to Dickinson College to study chemical engineering, considers finishing the Eagle project “the best thing I have done in my life.”

But scouting is by no means all work. All the Eagles stressed the joy of the friendship and the adventure of such programs as backpacking. And yes, all would certainly recommend it to their sons, and maybe serve as scout masters themselves.