Never Give Up 7

Eagle Scout Candidate Honors Local Boy With Little Free Library Project

The Eagle Scout is the highest rank that a Scout can achieve in the Boy Scouts of America. The award has been earned by more than two million young men since its inception in 1912. From politicians to physicians, astronauts to entertainers, the list of Eagle Scouts includes some of the most visionary leaders of the day: Neil Armstrong, Gerald Ford, Michael Bloomberg, Steven Spielberg and Nick Branson.

Nick Branson? While you may not be aware of the name right now, the odds are great that you will someday. Branson is a Life Scout in Troup 940 that operates out of St. John’s Parish in West Chester. He will be a freshman this fall at Lakota East and hopes to participate in football and basketball. An excellent communicator with a distinctive vision for the future, Branson dreams of one day pursuing service in the Navy or National Guard.

The Scouting program has already played a significant role in this young man’s life, involving the whole family. Branson’s stepfather, Tim Hutcheson serves as an assistant Scout Master, while his mom Marlene volunteers as a chaperone and runs the troop’s website and Facebook page. Whether helping him acclimate to new friends after a move, or to overcome a fear of heights by repelling over a waterfall, Scouting challenges Branson to make a difference—in his own life, and the lives of others.

Branson is currently finishing his work to become an Eagle Scout. Requirements for the award include earning at least 21 merit badges, demonstrating the Scout spirit of leadership and service, and launching and completing an Eagle Scout Service Project. As he began to consider possible projects, he started talking with Jeanne Hayden, who attends St. John’s church. Hayden is actively involved in the Jeffrey Thomas Hayden Foundation, a non-profit organization honoring her grandson who passed away in 2004, before his thirteenth birthday. The young child fought courageously for eight months before succumbing to brain cancer.

Because of Jeffrey Thomas’ love for reading, books play an important role in the Foundation’s ministry. Each year it sponsors a book drive to provide books for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Through her travels, Hayden learned of an organization called the Little Free Library. The goal of the group is to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as they share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations. There are more than 36,000 Little Free Library book exchanges around the world.

As Branson and Hayden continued to talk, he found himself relating to the legacy of Jeffrey Thomas, whose motto was, “Never give up.”

Branson says, “I truly felt a connection to Mrs. Hayden and her grandson. I wanted to help her bring the Little Free Libraries to the West Chester, Liberty Township area.”

Because there is so much hard work and planning that goes into a project of this magnitude, Branson soon began adopting Jeffrey’s motto as his own.

Branson has strong dreams for the reading project.

“My hope is that other people will see the library boxes and get excited about reading,” he says. “I hope my project can inspire others to place the Little Free Library boxes in their own parks and neighborhoods.”

Working alongside the Lakota Sport Organization’s executive administrator, Bruce Rhodes, Branson is working on two boxes to place at the Walter J. Long Sports Complex. One box will have a baseball theme; the other will represent soccer. He hopes to have the libraries in place and ready for use by the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.

“I chose the location based on Jeffrey’s love for playing sports and reading books,” Branson says. “In a way, the project will be honoring him and his memory.”

Never give up—in projects or in life. One quickly becomes convinced that Eagle Scout candidate Nick Branson never will.