By Phil Ellingsworth Jr.
BOYERTOWN — Do a good turn daily. That is the Boy Scouts slogan, and it is one that 12-year-old Thomas G. Burghardt has taken to heart, carrying it through fully with his latest endeavor to help U.S. troops and their families.
Thomas, a member of Shepherd of the Hills United Church of Christ Troop 291, Sassamansville, held a book fundraiser at Rita's Water Ice of Boyertown Thursday, raising money for the Fisher House, a national organization that houses families of soldiers receiving medical treatment at the nation's VA hospitals, serving as a temporary home away from home.
Initially, the project was to help Thomas obtain his six hours of community service, so he could move onto the rank of first class scout, but the mission quickly became more than just earning basic requirements.
With more than 20 hours invested in the project, it is something that those in the troop have not seen done in the past.
Shannon E. Burghardt, 38, Thomas' mother and troop merit badge counselor, explained that she has not seen a young scout take on such a large venture, as they are typically reserved for Eagle Scout projects.
"This kind of just escalated," said Shannon. "It's one of the wonderful things of our Boy Scouts."
Earlier this summer, Thomas put a call out to the community for books, so they could be donated to the Fisher House in St. Louis, Mo.
The house, located in St. Louis, where Thomas' grandmother volunteers, was looking for books for its library. They were also looking for other items, such as a DVD player, laundry detergent and more, which helps those living in the home feel comfortable during their stay, explained Shannon.
Well, the call for books did not go unanswered.
From the beginning of the summer until the present, Thomas has collected more than 600 books.
The intention was to collect and send the books to the Fisher House, but since there are so many books, they decided to hold the fundraiser and raise money, sending the proceeds so those at the house can buy whatever is needed.
Shannon said the sale brought in approximately $300 to send to the organization.
And there is a larger lesson for the scouts to take away from the community projects.
By having the scouts undertake projects like these, it allows them to step out of their world for a moment and be a part of someone else's, helping them with their struggles and whatever they may need assistance with, explained Shannon.
"It's been really satisfying," he said.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski