‘I wanted to give back’

Eagle Scout creates GaGa Ball pit at his former Berlin school

GaGa Ball is a variation on dodgeball where a ball must touch the ground two times to be in play. The game is believed to have originated in Israel in the 1950s.

A 14-year-old Eastern Regional High freshman and alumus of the Berlin Community School district has left a lasting impact on his former middle school by building a GaGa Ball pit as part of his Eagle Scout project.

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Nathan Friebel got help with the March 3 build from fellow Scouts in Troop 3048 of Berlin – Zach Hansen, Brad Finley, Charles Agnew and Robin Schanno – and their adult leader, Paul Pascu.

Local businesses and community members also contributed to the project. Certified mulch was donated by Dambly’s Garden Center in Berlin, and some materials for contruction came from the township’s Home Depot.

The pit will be used to play GaGa Ball, a variation on dodgeball in which a ball must touch the ground two times to be in play. The game is believed to have originated in Israel in the 1950s, according to gagagames.com.

Friebel chose the pit as his Eagle Scout project to provide a new recreational option at his old school.

“I’m a really big fan of the game, and we play it a lot all over Scout games,” he explained. “A lot of kids at the school wanted to try it … I wanted to give back after I graduated.”

After coordination with the school, the teen and his troop helpers were broken into groups to efficiently move materials and assemble the pit.

“I wrote up my project proposal and got it approved and received funding,” Friebel recalled. “Berlin Community School funded it and the (school) home and school association provided money, which was left over from a couple of classes that raised funds from different events. It only took about a week to be approved and funded.

“When we got there,” he added of the pit site, “we broke into two groups. Some people moved materials and some to assemble and we all worked together to (buildin) it piece by piece.”

But there were challenges during construction, Friebel explained.

“So, one challenge in the beginning the instructions were unclear and we ended up using some of the wrong screws and corrected it with the correct ones,” he acknowledged. “I thought we had to get it approved by a certified playground constructor, and we didn’t.

“It took us a couple of weeks to find out and we had to wait for the next school board meeting to hear back,” Friebel added. “And trying to catch the principal to get the funds was a bit of a challenge. We were trying to obtain the mulch from Dambly’s Garden Center, but it was hard to catch up with the donor.

“Nothing can be purchased on our own, and we had to get everything donated since it was a service project.”

To ensure safety, Friebel and his team used non-pressure-treated wood and recessed screws to avoid protrusions and covered the area with mulch to keep it clean.

Asked about benefits of the project, Friebel described learning valuable leadership skills as he navigated challenges and delegated responsibilities, experiences he believes will help him in future endeavors.

Reaction to the GaGa Ball Pit has been positive, its creator said, with videos showing kids in the new play area. Friebel sees it as a way for students to socialize, make friends and be physically active during and after school hours.

Friebel has been invited by Berlin Community Middle School Principal Therese Bonmati to address a board of education meeting about his project, and he wants the work to be an example of how individual efforts can positively impact the community.

As for advice to fellow Scouts planning their Eagle rank projects, Friebel emphasized resilience, patience and hard work.

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