Oscar Speakes joined Boy Scouts of America in 2015. It seemed like a great way to connect with both communities and new friends as he moved a lot during his childhood. His father is in the Air Force and has been stationed in Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Colorado before landing in O'Fallon, IL. Oscar is now in 11th grade at O'Fallon Township High School.
When the Speakes family moved to Illinois, Oscar and his sister became active in their church youth group. They took part in numerous summer service projects at Hoyleton Youth and Family Services. "During one of our youth group service projects, we visited Hoyleton's Children's Home campus, where a quaint white chapel sits," says Oscar. "During a visit, a storm came through the area and damaged the access ramp to the chapel."
The chapel is a gathering place for various meetings among Hoyleton's youth, employees and partners. Each Christmas, it is decorated by the youth. It also serves as an emergency shelter in the case of a power outage in Hoyleton's cottages, as it has generator capabilities and an operational kitchen.
Ramping up an Eagle Project
When Oscar joined the Scouts, his goal was to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable in Boy Scouts. "To achieve this rank, a Scout must earn 21 merit badges along with other requirements, including the completion of an Eagle Project," he says. "The project must benefit a group, organization, or person outside of scouting."
Oscar was trying to determine the right project to tackle that he would be excited to undertake. "My sister had recently been back at the Hoyleton campus and told me that the ramp at the chapel had not yet been repaired," he says. It was at that moment Oscar's project began to take form.
Maneuvering around COVID
Initially, the project was going to take two weekends, with the help of 10 to 15 fellow Scouts taking part. "Because of COVID-19, we had to delay the project due to safety reasons," he explains. Months later, Oscar was given the green light to begin the project, but due to restrictions by the Boy Scouts and Hoyleton, the work had to be done primarily by Oscar's family.
They were finally able to start work in July. After long and laborious days, the Speakes family and friends, behind Oscar's leadership, was able to complete the project in September as initially proposed back in March.
"Oscar's dedication to Hoyleton and the project was amazing," says Meghan Murphy, Hoyleton Volunteer and Event Coordinator. "He worked through several obstacles with COVID and the restrictions from the pandemic, but he did not let him stop him from completing the project that he set out to do."
Oscar's project has made the Hoyleton campus more accessible for youth with any ability, and the residential care team is grateful for his efforts. His work will also pay off after a board of review at the BSA council level on Nov. 19, when Oscar officially earns his rank of Eagle Scout.
"It feels good when a youth chooses another youth agency such as Hoyleton Youth and Family Services to donate his time and resources to improve the quality of lives of others," states Alice Drobisch, Hoyleton Director of Philanthropy.
If you are interested in helping further Hoyleton’s mission, please visit: hoyleton.org/ways-to-donate/.