SUBMITTED BY NAVAL FACILITIES ENGINEERING COMMAND, HAWAII PUBLIC AFFAIRS – Tripler’s Fisher House residents received a new elevated vegetable garden on June 19 from Boy Scout Troop 180, led by Eric D’Andrea, with assistance from Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303, American Legion Post 32, Hawaii Armed Forces of America Motorcycle Club, and Hawaii Navy League.

“I hope my troop and I have made a difference in the lives of the many service members and their families that stay at Fisher House located next to Tripler Army Medical Center while undergoing various medical treatments,” said D’Andrea. “The residents now have a way to enjoy the outdoors and good weather in Hawaii by having a dedicated location to grow their own fresh herbs and vegetables,” he added.

The garden project was planned and managed by the 12 year-old scout and soon to be eighth grader of Holy Family Catholic Academy. He also supervised the work of a dozen Boy Scouts from Troop 180, Kamehameha District for the Aloha Council as well as parents and volunteers.

In early 2010, D’Andrea began searching for an Eagle Scout service project. He immediately thought of the Fisher House at Tripler, which serves as a home away from home for military families as they support their loved ones who are being treated or hospitalized.

“Being a Navy kid my whole life, I wanted to do a project that helped military families. The doctors at Tripler helped my mom get better when she got back from Afghanistan last year, and this was my way of paying it forward,” said D’Andrea.

When Theresa Johnson, manager of the Tripler Fisher House, first proposed the vegetable garden idea, D’Andrea jumped at the opportunity and eagerly accepted the assignment.

He began his Eagle Scout project by researching for efficient garden designs on the internet, and once he and Johnson agreed on a U-shaped garden with a gate, D’Andrea built a scaled model out of bass wood which helped him visualize how exactly to construct the garden. The model also made it easier to work out the material cost estimate, which totaled around $900. D’Andrea then sent out several letters to various organizations requesting donations.

“My mom drove me to American Legion Post 32 where I was able to show them my wood model, explain the project, and ask for a donation in person,” said D’Andrea. “The Post was super generous and gave me a check on the spot for $550 and I also received additional funds from the Hawaii Armed Forces of America Motorcycle Club and the Hawaii Navy League.”

His next step after gathering sufficient donations was to coordinate a date and time to get family, Scouts and friends over to help with the actual construction of the garden. D’Andrea needed volunteers with carpentry experience, so he asked his Scoutmaster and the Navy Seabees from Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 for their help.

“The Monday before Eric’s project was to begin, four Navy Seabees came to our Troop meeting and held a workshop to teach the Scouts practical math for measurements and the proper use of hand tools which helped them earn the Carpentry merit badge in the process,” said Mike Ulm, Scoutmaster for Troop 180. “This merit badge, incidentally, is only offered this calendar year to help celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.”

On June 19, D’Andrea and his band of volunteers started and finished the project. After completion, the manager of Fisher House, Theresa Johnson, presented everyone with a commemorative coin, thanking them for providing residents with a place to heal through gardening.

“This particular Eagle leadership project was especially rewarding for Troop 180 because three of the youths housed at the Fisher house also pitched in and helped us construct the herb garden,” said Ulm.  “Congratulations to Eric for his well planned and executed project.”

D’Andrea has been involved with Boy Scouts of America since joining as a Cub Scouts in the fourth grade, and plans to earn his Eagle rank later this year. To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, he will need to earn 21 merit badges, serve in a leadership position, and help plan a noteworthy service project that demonstrates leadership, commitment and service to the community.

“My son’s dedication to this project has been simply impressive,” said Lt. Cmdr. Eileen D’Andrea, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Hawaii Historic Preservation Officer and Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 180. “He has learned valuable leadership skills at a young age that will help him the rest of his life which is one of the many reasons why I love the Boy Scouts.”

“It was a challenging project and an experience that I will never forget,” said D’Andrea. “I want to thank my family, Troop 180, the Seabees, Fisher House, and everyone that donated funds to this project, because without their help none of this would have happened. I learned that good planning is the key to a successful project and I will be a better Scout and leader thanks to this experience.”

The Fisher House Foundation was started by Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher in 1990 and is committed to improving the quality of life for active duty military members, veterans, and their families. There is at least one Fisher House at every major military medical center across the country to assist families in need and to ensure that they are provided with the comforts of home in a supportive environment.

Authored by Public Affairs Officers with Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Hawaii. For more information on the Fisher House program, go to www.fisherhouse.org Additional updates and information about NAVFAC can be found on social media sites Facebook and Twitter. Become a Fan at www.facebook.com/navfac and follow us at www.twitter.com/navfac

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