Andrew Ballinger and Michael Zahradnick, Jr.’s celebration was held on June 10.
Seneca High School students and members of Troop 47, Andrew Ballinger and Michael Zahradnick, Jr., have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank a Scout can receive.
Ballinger and Zahradnick both started as Cub Scouts, making their way through the ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and now Eagle. Each rank progresses in difficulty, and an Eagle Scout is required to earn 21 merit badges and complete a service project that benefits the community or another organization.
Zahradnick’s service project was to create two wheelchair accessible picnic tables. He started by researching designs, followed by contacting lumber companies, and DuBell Lumber Co. in Medford donated all the lumber needed for the project.
With the help of other Scouts and adult leaders, the planning began, and the project was completed about two months ago. The picnic tables were made wheelchair accessible by extending the ends of the tables and raising them slightly to allow more room and easier accessibility for a person in a wheelchair.
The picnic tables are now in use at Flora Lee Horse Farm, located at 21 Branin Road in Medford, where Zahradnick has previously volunteered.
Ballinger took his efforts to the Dingletown Baseball and Softball Fields, part of the Indian Mills Athletic Association, where he upgraded the wooden wall used as a pitching backstop and for games such as wall ball.
According to Ballinger, the wall had become a safety hazard since it hadn’t been upgraded in more than a decade. The wood had started to chip and splinter, exposing nails and making it unfit for children to use.
Planning started late last spring, and, once all the paperwork was completed and funds received through GoFundMe, plans were put into action. The existing plywood was torn down and new wood was installed. The new wall was then painted. Sod was placed in front of the wall, creating a better space for activities. The project was completed this fall, and the community has since been welcomed to enjoy the wall.
Ballinger also volunteers through the National Honor Society and AFJROTC at Seneca, as well as with the Kitty Hawk Air Society.
The two held a dual Court of Honor on June 10 at the Battleship New Jersey, where there was a ceremony and celebration for their achievements, and they received an Eagle pin, patch and neckerchief presented by Scoutmaster Mark Uscinowicz. They have also received awards they have earned.
They were both given the opportunity to present a pin to those who have helped them get to this point, including parents, friends, mentors and Scoutmasters.
Zahradnick looked back on the knowledge he’s gained through his experience.
“I’ve learned so many things, outdoor skills, survival skills and overall life skills,” Zahradnick said. “Now that I’m an Eagle Scout, I can help the younger Scouts, who aren’t as high as an Eagle Scout, get there.”
Ballinger also hopes to give back to his troop and other Scouting organizations to pass on the knowledge he’s gained so they can achieve what he has. For him, the most important lesson was “the process of being a leader and being able to lead others through a task that may seem difficult at the time, but getting through that and getting through it safely.”