The 25 Year Project: An Eagle Scout’s Endless Quest

The 25 Year Project- An Eagle Scout's Endless Quest

To rise to the rank of Eagle, Boy Scouts must design, lead and complete a community-based project with their troop. Most of these projects take place over the course of weeks, or months. Concise projects followed by graduation to Eagle are the status quo for most Boy Scouts, however, one particular project headed by Ryan White is about to celebrate it 25th year of unbroken continuity.

Ryan’s quest began in winter of 1991. His mother discovered that a local mall which ran a toy collection each holiday season had not gathered nearly enough toys to meet the requests of local underprivileged migrant families. With the help of Father Federico, an assistant priest in Ryan’s hometown of Murphysboro, Illinois, Ryan and his mother held a drive to collect additional toys and provide local children a Christmas to remember.

Ryan caught the Christmas bug in winter ‘91. Ever since the success of that first quest, Ryan was inspired to make Christmas Day as special and memorable for others as his childhood holidays were for him.

Ryan didn’t have to look far to find a worthy cause to undertake for his Eagle project the following year. Accompanied by Judy White, Ryan’s mother and assistant scoutmaster, and nine friends from Troop 4, Ryan collected new toys and even repaired a few that were used and broken. The toys were then wrapped and delivered to local migrant camps to spark smiles and help create great Christmas memories. Sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and St. Andrews, a local church, Ryan’s project required over 100 hours of hard work to complete.

To Ryan, Judy and Troop 4, that time was more than well spent. Thanks to their efforts, a few more children were able to experience the heart-pounding joy of rushing downstairs Christmas morning to see gifts under their tree. Their toy drive was met with such success that every year since, Troop 4 has come together on the first Monday of December to collect toys and distribute them among the less fortunate. Over the years, the number of children who unwrap Troop 4’s toys on Christmas has swelled from a handful of locals to over 200 across Southern Illinois.

As we approach the holidays, those always blissful but often hectic days which mark the passing of another year, it’s the small acts of kindness like Troop 4’s toy drive which seem even more beautiful in contrast to the unrest and violence we hear about about all too often.