ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – When Erik Andersen first suggested installing six fitness stations on the walking fitness trail at a park in South Elgin as his Eagle Scout service project, his then-scoutmaster at Geneva Boy Scout Troop 60 was a little apprehensive.
The stations will include a sit-up board and dual pull-up bars. The structures provide a place for people to improve their fitness by working major muscle groups and to exercise at their own pace, according to Andersen’s written proposal.
“When he brought it to me, my impression was, it was a big project and it was going to be very significant compared to other Eagle Scout projects,” Jeff Schertz said.
Eagle Scout is the highest rank in Boy Scouting and involves earning 21 merit badges and doing a service project.
“It was going to take a great deal of fundraising and coordination to get it done. It was going to require construction and laying concrete,” Schertz said. “Quite honestly, I told him it’s a big problem. It’s going to be very complicated compared to other projects. My concern for him – was he able to bring it off?”
But Andersen, who will be a senior this fall at St. Charles North High School, was insistent. He wanted to do something significant with lasting impact.
“I didn’t tell him to pick something less complicated,” Schertz said, who is now an assistant scoutmaster with Troop 60. “This is a boy’s decision and the boy needs to manage that. … He heard my concerns and knew what he was getting into. He defended the project and gave multiple reasons why he thought he could get it done. Based on that, I signed off on it.”
To 'go out with a bang'
Over the last 18 months of his project, Andersen managed to raise $7,500, close to the $10,000 he estimated he would need.
He received a delivery donation of the fitness station pieces from Berlin, Ohio, via a South Elgin moving and storage company.
The village of South Elgin is contributing the work of land surveying and the pouring of six concrete pads for the fitness stations.
Once the concrete pads are completed, Andersen will have volunteers from his troop to assemble and install the fitness stations.
So far, Andersen is pleased with how things turned out.
“It’s going really good,” Andersen said. “I really wanted to go out with a larger scale project – go out with a bang.”
He started fundraising in January, so COVID-19 had not really come into full effect until mid-March, Andersen said.
“Small businesses were being more frugal with their money and less generous because they did not have the income they usually do,” Andersen said.
But the virus did not deter Andersen from seeking support from businesses. He made phone calls and sent emails instead of in-person contacts.
A donation, a summer job
Tom Berna, owner of Berna Moving and Storage in South Elgin, was so impressed with Andersen, he had one of his trucks pick up the fitness station equipment.
“In reality, we were able to combine it with a truck coming back from North Carolina,” Berna said. “We went 200 miles out of our way to get it.”
He estimated the value of the donation at $800 to $1,000.
“We do quite a bit of charity work. I put a price on our time and we’ll donate it,” Berna said. “Erik returned all my phone calls and gave me information and I was able to bang it out.”
They met when the equipment was delivered.
Berna learned that Andersen was looking for a summer job – and hired him.
“He seemed like a decent kid,” Berna said. “I can always use people I trust and who have integrity.”
'A great option for the village'
Similar to Schertz’s reaction, South Elgin Parks Department Director Kim Wascher said her first response to Andersen’s Eagle Scout project was concern.
“It was a very large endeavor and very costly for the purchase of equipment,” Wascher said.
But she accepted his project proposal.
“I thought it was a great option for the village. We already have a fitness station similar to what he is installing at Stowell Peddy Park,” Wascher said. “What we are going to do is minuscule. The survey work is about $1,000 and the concrete work about $3,000 to $4,000. We install the concrete so the pieces are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible.”
Schertz said he is especially pleased with how the project is working out, especially since he has watched Andersen and two other boys – including his own son – come up in Boy Scouts since they were 11.
The other two already earned their Eagle Scout ranks and Andersen will be the third, he said.
“Erik is a great kid,” Schertz said. “A leader with a great personality."