Embracing a community to become an Eagle

It’s the highest ranking a Boy Scout can receive. Soaring higher than any other badge, an Eagle Scout is the combination of hard work and dedication to the community that Scouts look to achieve.

Teddy Woods of Wilton, a member of Troop 125, is the latest to receive the Eagle Scout honor, first conceived in 1911 as the Wolf Scout. Teddy was recognized at a ceremony last month.

To reach Eagle, a Scout must earn 21 merit badges, including 12 from a required list that includes camping, citizenship in the community, communications, first aid, and personal fitness.

“I had a weird way of getting them,” he said. “I had earned 20 before I earned Star Rank. I had most of the merit badges, but not the right ones.”

Scout ranks move from tenderfoot to second class, before becoming first class, and proceeding through star and life. The star rank is achieved when an active Scout is in a position of responsibility for at least four months, with six hours of community service and six merit badges.

Teddy has been very active in the community, and has performed numerous hours of community service, including participating in the Relay for Life, sales at Wilton Library, and more.

He joined the Boy Scouts in 2007, and since then has been working with his scoutmaster, Steven Gorenbergh, who has assisted him in working to get the badges and rankings.

The biggest piece of the Eagle Scout achievement is the community work, which in Teddy’s case took him to Bridgeport. The Wilton High School senior chose to build a vegetable garden at St. John’s Church.

“You have to create your own community service project that can’t benefit scouting,” Teddy said.

Established in 1738, St. John’s Episcopal Church is the oldest Christian congregation in Bridgeport. The church has been at the corner of Park and Fairfield avenues since 1883.

Teddy attends church with his family at St. Matthew’s in Wilton, and learned of St. John’s through them.

“St. Matthew’s does different outreach and fellowship with them,” he said. “I learned about them because my friend is on the board there. I had tried other churches and struck out. The planning didn’t come together. My friend put me in touch with Father Geoff, and we came up with a plan.”

Father Geoff, more formally known as the Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Hahneman, supported Teddy’s plan, which began in February.

“Feb. 2, to be exact,” Teddy said.

The idea, he said, was to support the church’s family dinners and its soup kitchen. While it wasn’t always easy to get his fellow Scouts to take the drive to Bridgeport, simply because of the distance, they got the job done, completing it by late August. His initial reaction was one of thirst.

“My first reaction was, ‘Wow, it’s hot out here and I need a drink,’” he said. “A few days later, it finally hit me. My euphoria was brought to a crashing halt. Because my parents told me it meant nothing until I submitted the application.”

With the project completed, Teddy set out to write what he called “the longest paper I’ve ever written.”

“Just to give you an idea, I think tax forms are smaller,” he said, with deadpan delivery.

He said that as a result of his hard work with the Scouts that includes proposing the project, soliciting donations and building the garden, he won’t have to do a senior internship.

“It’s an extensive process,” he said in reference to the Eagle Scout procedure.

Filled with nerves that he said were gnawing at him, it all paid off with the revelation that he had, indeed, become an Eagle Scout.

“It was a massive sense of accomplishment,” he said. “Just pride.”

Father Geoff had another reason to support the project, which he revealed to Teddy: he, too, is an Eagle Scout.

“That was great to have that kind of support,” he said.

Teddy’s not complaining about not doing the senior internship, though. A good student, he said he will enjoy the relative quiet of the end of the school year when most of his classmates are off interning.

“I’ll sit in a three-person class and enjoy the material,” he said.

He added that the hallways will be empty, and that’s also enjoyable.

The future holds college, but he’s not sure which one yet. He has applied to four but a fifth is also in play. A few have already replied with acceptances, and he’s leaning toward one of them. He said he will major in history or science.

Looking back on the experience, Teddy said he would change a few things. He said he would have made a note of every time it rained or snowed during his campouts, a reference to a variety of bad weather he dealt with.

He was serious but still humorous as he offered that he would have gotten his projects done even sooner than he did. He got so many done, but also had a lag at one point.

“If I had done these things sooner, we would have had this conversation three years ago, he said.