MURPHYSBORO — To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, scouts plant a project, finish it with the help of their troop and volunteers, and it is over. That is not true for Ryan White’s 1992 Eagle Scout project.
“It’s been going on 25 years. Most Eagle Scout projects don’t last that long,” Judy White, assistant scoutmaster and Ryan’s mother, said.
In 1992, Ryan was advancing toward the Eagle Scout rank, which planning, organizing and completing a service project with the help of his troop and other scouts. Eagle project cannot benefit Boy Scouts of America or the troop’s chartering organization, but can include schools, churches, local parks and the community.
Father Federico [Higuera] was an assistant priest in Murphysboro in 1992. At the time, a local mall collected toys for groups to distribute. One year they did not collect enough toys for all the groups that had requested them, Judy White said. In 1991, she helped Father Federico gather toys for children in migrant families whose parents decided to stay in the region.
Ryan decided to do a Christmas toy drive for children whose Christmas would be less joyous than his own, the children in migrant worker families. In that first year of the project, Ryan and nine other scouts from Troop 4 collected new and used toys, repaired them if necessary and wrapped them for delivery to the migrant camps around Cobden. His original project, approved by the troop’s sponsoring organizations, Knights of Columbus 988 and St. Andrew’s Church, involved more than 100 hours to plan and complete.
Each year since 1992, Boy Scouts of Troop 4 in Murphysboro set aside their meeting plans on the first Monday in December to continue the toy drive project by gathering and wrapping Christmas toys for children less fortunate than themselves.
Ryan continued to coordinate the project for many years after receiving his Eagle Scout rank. Now, Judy, an assistant scoutmaster with Troop 4, continues to coordinate the project with the troop. She has been a Boy Scout volunteer for 27 years.
“It’s always been special to me to help children. I’m a retired teacher and this is my way of giving back,” Judy White said.
The number of children served by the Troop 4 project has increased over the years. Presently, the troop, along with their families, friends and parishioners, provide toys for 200 children.
“I have a lot of people who donate toys to me and I store them year-round,” Judy White said. ”The scouts alone could not come up with that many toys.”
The scouts wrapped this season’s toys on Dec. 5. The gifts, along with individually assembled bags of candy, will be delivered to children in two weeks.
“We take them to Cobden and they are distributed to children all over Southern Illinois,” Judy White said.
Now the large box that sits empty in the troop room will slowly begin to fill with toys as the process of providing Christmas for less fortunate children starts over for another year.