Sammamish boy 12th in his family to become Eagle Scout
March 12, 2013
By Lillian O'Rorke
When Sammamish’s Matthew Kennedy stood up in front of everyone Feb. 10 at the Pine Lake Community Club to accept his Eagle Scout award, he was the 12th person in his family to have earned the honor. But that wasn’t what made his father proud.
“It’s a great body of work that it takes to earn the rank of Eagle and he has just done that with a lot of grace and maturity all the way,” said the 17-year-old’s father, William Kennedy.
“I want to make sure this is his moment in the sun,” he added. “I don’t have any doubt that he has earned every bit of respect and honor that comes with Eagle Scout, and I just could not be prouder of him.”
Young boys can start on the path to Eagle-hood as soon as they hit first grade and are eligible to join the Tiger Cubs. From there, they can join the Cub Scouts through fifth grade. Once they celebrate their 11th birthday, they can become a Boy Scout. Aside from key components like camping, hiking and volunteering, explained William, the scouts also focus on advancement by giving boys the chance to earn different ranks by mastering different skills and earning merit badges. Much like high school graduation requirements, with its core and elective classes, Eagle Scouts must earn 11 specific merit badges – like citizenship and emergency preparedness. They must also earn an additional 10 merit badges in areas of their choosing. On top of that, Eagle Scouts must also complete leadership service in their troop and solicit, plan and execute a community service project.
After working to restore trails and facilities at a state park where he grew up in Alabama, William Kennedy earned his Eagle rank in 1982. But Matthew Kennedy’s Eagle Scout heritage extends much further back than that.
Since it’s beginning in 1911, more than 2 million young men have earned scouting’s highest rank, including Matthew’s great-grandfather Frank Withers, Jr. He was awarded his Eagle badge in 1922 after riding his bicycle from Columbia, S.C. to Washington D.C. Matthew’s other great-grandfather earned his in 1939, while a great uncle was awarded his in 1956 and another great uncle became an Eagle Scout in 1959. His grandfather got his in 1960 and cousin Louis Sherfesee III got his in 1961. Matthew’s three uncles earned their Eagle Scout awards in 1981, 1987 and 1996. Last year, the family’s 11th Eagle Scout was named when Matthew’s cousin David Esau was awarded his badge.
Matthew’s grandparents and mother, Angela Kennedy, put together a large display of the family’s heritage for Matthews Feb. 10 Court of Honor.
“People loved it,” Angela said, describing the different artifacts she included in the display like an old scout diary detailing good deeds. “I think it was neat for people to have a glimpse of the history going all the way back.”
William recalled that even before he met Angela’s father Keith Wood, who earned his Eagle rank in 1960, Angela told him that her father already liked him simply because he, too, was an Eagle Scout.
“It holds sway in both sides of the family,” William explained.
Not surprisingly, William and Angela put their two sons, Matthew and his younger brother Weston, in the scouts when they were in first grade. The boys ended up liking it and stuck with it.
“There is fire and knives,” added Angela. “What more do boys want?”
Matthew is now a junior and only has a few more months until he turns 18 and can no longer be a scout. Looking back, he laughed when he said that he knows how to do a lot of things that most guys his age don’t – like building things from sticks and rope.
To earn his Eagle badge, Matthew completed 25 merit badges and served as a den chief, patrol leader, troop guide and senior patrol leader of Troop 677, which meets at the Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church. For his Eagle project, he designed a gazebo, sandboxes and raised gardens for the playground at Bellevue Discovery Preschool. He chose the school for his project, he said, because he knows that the students there didn’t have a playground to use during recess. He added he hopes the gazebo will not only serve as a place to run and play, but also a dry spot for outdoor lessons.
Matthew estimates that he spent around 45 hours planning and designing the project. Once that was done, he gathered a group of 25 volunteers that spanned from other scouts, to friends at school, to parents. Over the course of two consecutive Saturdays, Matthew and the volunteers spent nearly 200 hours completing the playground.
“I learned a lot of good leadership skills,” he said. “I’ve led smaller things before, but this was the first thing that I got to lead form start to finish…instead of having some task given to you, I got to come up with the task, figure out how to do it and see it through to completion.”
When Matthew finally received his Eagle Scout award, two of his uncles and both sets of grandparents were among those in the crowd. His uncle Justin Wood, who earned the honor in 1996, presented Matthew with his grandfather’s badge, which had been mounted over two decades ago to serve as the family’s heritage plaque.
“Now Matthew has that to present to some future Eagle Scout,” William said, adding “maybe even his little brother someday.”