Connor Mortus is joining a select group as he enters the final furlong of work on his Eagle Scout project: a sorely needed shed to store sports equipment at the popular RAYS, or Ruskin Area Youth Sports, program at First Baptist Church in Ruskin.
“I know they had been needing [a shed] for a while since I played soccer for them,” said Connor, 15, who attends Ruskin Christian School. He raised $1,900 in seven months for the project. Connor has been involved in Scouting for nine years. His brother, Cameron, 19, earned Eagle status in 2013.
While a mere 5 percent of Scouts ever earn the coveted Eagle rank, the culmination of a life in Scouting, Connor is in good company in Troop 661. The tight-knit scouting troop turns out Eagle Scouts as few other troops do.
The small troop has turned out more than 40 Eagles since it was founded in 1980. Of its current group of 14 Scouts, half are on their way to becoming Eagles.
“I am very proud,” said Wendy Mortus, whose husband, David, is the scoutmaster for Troop 661. “I think the Scouts teaches the boys a lot of skills we don’t necessarily teach in school anymore. We really appreciate the support of the community for all of the Eagle projects, such as Steve Simmons Concrete and Coreyco for donating the concrete for Connor’s project,” she added.
The path to Scouting’s ultimate honor is a daunting one. Eagle aspirants must earn a total of 21 merit badges, and it’s about much more than learning how to light a fire. Required badges include first aid, cooking, personal fitness and personal management. In addition to several other requirements, a Scout must complete an Eagle Scout board of review and complete a community service project.
Despite the rigorous requirements, Troop 661 has turned out 47 Eagle Scouts since it was founded in 1980. In addition to Connor, who will be the group’s 48th Eagle, the troop is currently grooming several more young men to become Eagles, with potentially four more earning the honor this year.
Support from troop parents, each of whom brings a different skill set to the table, from banking to farming, and letting the boys run the troop help the troop continue to be a nest for young Eagles, said Scoutmaster Mortus.
“We actually have parents whose kids have ‘Eagled out’ and no longer have kids in the troop, who keep coming back; and we have a very broad range of talents with our adults who work with the boys and help them,” said Mortus, who has been involved with the troop for eight years.
Boy Scout Troop 661 was founded in 1980 by the South Shore Rotary Club (the troop’s charter organization) to serve the Ruskin, Apollo Beach (now South Shore) Florida area. They meet at the Calvary Lutheran Church on U.S. 41.
The beneficiary of Connor’s project, the Ruskin Area Youth Sports program at First Baptist, provides a healthy sports environment for children and young adults in the South Shore area. The program allows all to participate regardless of ability, knowledge of the sport or skill level. Its “everyone plays” policy guarantees that each player will play at least half of each game.
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