After the passing of Matthew Colden’s grandfather, Branko Jakominich, nearly three years ago, his grandson immediately knew what he wanted his Eagle Scout project to be.
Jakominich – who battled lung cancer at the end of his life – was rushed to Virtua Voorhees Hospital in late 2019, but his dying wish, according to Colden, was to not die there. The 77-year-old was quickly transported to the nearby Samaritan Center at Voorhees and died peacefully at the hospice.
Although his grandfather was only at Samaritan for a short period, Colden appreciated how the staff accommodated Jakominich during his final few hours. So after reaching the rank of Life Scout in early 2020, Colden started preparing for an Eagle Scout project that would be a symbolic “thank you” to the hospice.
But the process took much longer than initially anticipated.
“I started talking with my parents immediately after I got to Life Scout about completing my Eagle Scout project, and that was just a few months after my grandpa had already passed away at Samaritan,” Colden recalled. “I had already kind of set it in my mind that I would want whatever the project was to be at Samaritan, because of how great they were to us and my grandfather.
“I ultimately selected a meditation garden as the project,” he added,”because my grandfather was a really hands-on person … and it’s something that took me about two-and-a-half years to finally get it done because of COVID and everything that goes into it.”
Colden and his family were able to celebrate the conclusion of his Scout project in late September, when, with the help of Scouts BSA Troop 2026, he completed the one-day installation of a 525-square-foot garden area that has two weather-resistant benches and a bird bath.
The garden – which includes 91 plants – was a personal and important one for the Bishop Eustace High School student to finish, nearly three years after his grandfather’s passing.
“He was a really important figure for me,” Colden noted. “Again, I knew pretty quickly after he passed that this was what I wanted to do for my project. It was just a matter of time in getting the approvals and whatnot to get it done.
“I wanted to be able to give back to the place that really opened up in his final time of need and allowed him to have a place where he could live out his last wish.”