Harrington Eagle Scout flying high


Mary Jane and Bill Willis flank Eagle Scout Ryan Patrick, of Boy Scout Troop 534 in Harrington Thursday night at the Del-Mar-Va Council Boy Scouts of America’s 33rd annual Kent Distinguished Citizen Award Dinner at Dover Downs Conference Center Thursday night. Ryan is a senior at Polytech High School. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

DOVER — Harrington Eagle Scout Ryan Patrick’s personal mantra of trying new things and always giving the maximum effort was put to the test Thursday night.

The 17-year-old was told mere days before that he’d been selected to speak at the Del-Mar-Va Council Boy Scouts of America’s 33rd annual Kent Distinguished Citizen Award Dinner at Dover Downs Conference Center. He was surprised, but knew right away that he’d go for it and give it his all.

“It’s an incredible honor,” said Ryan. “I’m happy to have the opportunity to talk to everyone about what Scouting has done for me, and how it’s influenced my life in a positive direction. Plus, now I get to tell all my friends that I’m a ‘distinguished citizen.’”

The Del-Mar-Va Council holds numerous events across the peninsula throughout the year. The group’s executive director Bill Garrett said that they’re always sure to include a Scout speaker at each. Ahead of the events, Scout leaders are told to recommend a member for the honor — Troop 534 picked Ryan.

Bill Garrett, Scout Executive Del-Mar-Va Council BSA, makes remarks at the Boy Scouts of America 2017 Kent Distinguished Citizen Award Dinner at Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center on Thursday. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

“He’s a great Scout. He’s a member of the National Honor Society, Odyssey of the Mind and he’s really into baseball, lacrosse and weightlifting,” said Mr. Garrett. “Every time we have an Eagle Scout speaker, it’s always enjoyable to hear these young people get up in front of a crowd of over 150 people and tell everyone about their experiences. I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I always learn something from these Scouts.”

So, what has Scouting done for Ryan? According to him, more than formal education has.

“It’s not really about the tangible things it does for you. I’ve learned so much more from Scouting than I will in school and any other extracurricular activity,” he said.

“I’ve been taught about leadership, patience and just the plain fact that you have to be willing to work incredibly hard in life to get what you want. From the outside looking in, you wouldn’t think that Boy Scouts is going to be the place for the coolest, most popular kids at school, but I’ve grown up with these guys over the past seven years, and they are some of the coolest individuals I’ve ever met.”

Ryan was apprehensive about joining the Scouts when his father suggested it. He was worried he wouldn’t like it, but he was persuaded to join because his friend had. After being exposed to all the outdoor activities, charity work and leadership training the Scouts offered, Ryan couldn’t get enough. When he started, Troop 534 only had about 10 or 11 scouts — only about five of those original members remain. However, the troop has grown to about 25 — most of whom are younger, new members.

“We’re still a smaller troop, but we work hard,” he said. “I’ve also become an assistant Scoutmaster, so I’m able to help teach the younger scouts.”

Ryan said the Scouts have taught him about working well in a group, but they’ve also taught him a lot about individuality and strength of character. On his road to becoming an Eagle Scout, he was even dropped off in the wilderness to survive on his own.

“There’s one challenge where you have to spent the night out in the middle of nowhere — just sort of duking it out,” said Ryan. “We were out in the woods and there were bugs everywhere, but it really wasn’t that bad. I had Spam that I cooked over a fire — it was fun.”

What he’d become under the tutelage of the organization was meaningfully driven home for him when he had to give his “Eagle speech.”

“It’s a 10-minute speech you have the option to give when you’re awarded your Eagle patch,” said Ryan. “When I got up to give my speech, I knew it wasn’t anything that hadn’t been done before, but just by standing there and talking about everything that had led up to me becoming an Eagle gave me an amazing sense of accomplishment. I felt like, ‘Wow, I did something that took me seven years, and I learned things and helped people along the way’.”

Scouts recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the Boy Scouts of America 2017 Kent Distinguished Citizen Award Dinner at Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center on Thursday, September 21, 2017.

As a senior at Polytech High School, Ryan is nearing the end of his stint in the Scouts. At 18, he’ll have to step down. To some extent though, Scouts will always be a part of his life. He plans on remaining an assistant Scoutmaster for as long as he’s able to, and to join the backpacking extension of BSA called Venture Patrol.

He’s excited for the next chapter of his life to start. It seems the only drawback to having the drive of an Eagle Scout is there’s too many things you’re capable of.

“Right now, I’m looking at Columbia University, University of Delaware and Villanova University,” Ryan said. “I’m really torn though because I have a lot of interests. I want to be an engineer, but I’m also really into physics and physical therapy. I’m really undecided, but it’s exciting to think about.”

Deborah Wicks honored

While Ryan was being honored Thursday night at the start of his promising career, former Smyrna School District Superintendent Deborah Wicks was selected for the 2017 Kent Distinguished Citizen Award.

The 71-year-old Ms. Wicks, who had a 40-year career with the district, represents the fourth generation of her family living in Smyrna. She was a district student herself long before becoming its primary overseer. Her husband, George, was actually her high school sweetheart. With Mr. Wicks, she built a family of three children and nine grandchildren — many of whom stayed local and represent the fifth and sixth generations of her family.

Mr. Garrett said Ms. Wicks was chosen for her outstanding service to the community, specifically to the county’s

Retired Smyrna School District Superintendent Deborah Wicks, a 40-year-employee of the district, was honored with the Kent Distinguished Citizen Award Thursday night.

young people.

“It’s good for the Boy Scouts to have partners that are looking to improve the lives of young people, and we’re real happy about the support we’ve received from schools that allow us to recruit kids in the area,” he said.

Ms. Wicks, a Girl Scout herself once and a “den mother” when her son was a Boy Scout, said receiving the honor was a wonderful surprise.

“It’s such an honor to be here,” she said Thursday night. “The Boy Scouts are a wonderful organization. We’ve always made sure to make the district buildings available to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts when they need them.”

Bucking the trend

The awards dinner is a big fundraiser for Del-Mar-Va Council BSA. Mr. Garrett said it put an estimated $34,000 into the coffers this year.

“We’re sort of bucking the trend right now,” said Mr. Garrett.

“We’re one of the eight BSA councils (United States has approximately 270) that have had membership growth for five years in a row now. Funds from this event help us expand our programs. One focus we have right now is trying harder to get kids that might be seen as at risk or disadvantaged into our programs. We want to make sure that Scouting is available to all kids, regardless of their socio-economic situation.”

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