In the spring of 2011, a group of young boys from Forsyth County walked across the bridge at Pooles Mill and transitioned from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, never knowing the path of hard work and adventure that lay before them.
Now more than seven years later, those young men have once again crossed a bridge, each a decorated Eagle Scout at the end of a journey years in the making.
“All of these boys, sitting in my living room, made a promise to me that they were going to make eagle, and every one of them kept that promise,” said Marie de Armas, a former den leader of Pack 211, the Cub Scout pack the seven boys transitioned into Boy Scouts from.
She said that when the Scouts transitioned from Pack 211, they split into Troop 211 and Troop 39, based on their specific scouting interests. She said that several boys from Pack 211 that enjoyed the adventurous hiking, camping and outdoor part of Scouting transitioned into Troop 211. Others who wanted the support and organization of a larger troop went into Troop 39.
“I wanted these boys to see what was available to them,” de Armas said, “because they were so diversified in what their wants, and what they enjoyed was so different.”
But even though they went in separate directions, with different interests and projects, the boys said that they didn’t lose contact or forget their promise.
“Even though we kind of went to separate troops and went separate ways we have always stayed in contact with each other ... we all ended up in the same place at the end,” said Manuel de Armas, one of the scouts that transitioned in 2011, and Marie de Armas’ son.
“It’s a brotherhood, definitely,” said Ray Pekrul, another of the scouts.
But before the boys could cross the Poole’s Mill Bridge for the second time, each had to complete a project in the community, called an eagle project, that demonstrates skill and leadership.
According to Marie de Armas, not only did the boys help out the community with their project, but they relied on the community and their personal network of friends, family and other scouts to make the project a reality.
“The people of Forsyth County have been giving to these boys in all aspects ... that says a lot about the county itself,” she said.
She explained that each of the scouts did a project which was vastly different from the other, creating small additions and modifications to the buildings of local organizations, coordinating supply and food drives with the community and giving help to those in need.
Manuel de Armas did his project for a local charity group, The Place, creating a new private meeting room and office space at the organization. He demolished an existing breakroom, removed cabinet counter tops, repaired and painted walls, laid carpeting and installed a hand-made barn style door.
"My favorite part of the eagle project was just knowing that you are going to be impacting someone’s life,” Manuel de Armas said, “even if it might not be right then, but later on down the road.”
And this idea of putting a project out in the world to help countless people in the future seemed to be echoed by each of the other Scouts’ projects.
Trevor Binning collected more than 100 backpacks and school supplies to go in the backpacks for the Forsyth Bags of Love program. Matthew McFadden built benches and an obstacle course for dogs at the Humane Society of Forsyth. Ray Pekrul organized an effort to make more than 200 fleece blankets for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Sterling Cole collected supplies and donations for charity Open Arms. Seth Snyder built two portable podiums for Mountain Lake Church. Hunter McCauley made 87 pillows and 325 greeting cards for patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Pekrul recently got a reminder about his project’s impact when he received a private message on Facebook from a stranger. Her son was at an Urgent Care on Peachtree Parkway and got one of the blankets Pekrul made. She simply wanted to say thank you.
That was the best part,” Pekrul said.