WEDDINGTON – Brian Gaye’s Eagle Scout project just might have saved a life.
The 18-year-old, who recently graduated from Weddington High School, devoted his Eagle project to his church, Spirit of Joy Lutheran, by constructing two brick entrance signs bearing the church’s name. Little did he know when he began the project in August what would transpire a few months later.
Following in his dad’s footsteps, Brian joined Boy Scouts in the third grade and stuck with the program because he enjoyed the activities it offered, especially canoeing and kayaking trips.
“I stuck with it mainly because as you get older, you get to do more adventurous trips and stuff, so it keeps it interesting,” he said.
Brian earned his Life rank in 2010 and didn’t think about pursuing the Eagle rank until about a year before his 18th birthday – the deadline for Boy Scouts to submit their final Eagle requirements. He reached out to Rev. Ed Thomas, senior pastor of Spirit of Joy Lutheran, to see how he could use his Eagle project to benefit the church.
“I asked him what needed to be done, and he suggested the church signs,” Brian said.
Church leaders wanted new signs placed at each of the church’s two entrances. Brian needed to have his design approved by both the church and the town of Weddington before submitting more detailed plans to a Scout council. After his design was approved, Brian began gathering project materials. He hosted a Krispy Kreme fundraiser to raise money for the materials. Several businesses contributed materials at a discounted price.
Brian organized about 15 workdays over the course of nearly six months, beginning in August and wrapping up in January. A number of volunteers including family members and Scouts from Troop 46 – Brian’s troop, which meets at Siler Presbyterian Church – contributed about 400 combined hours of volunteer work.
Physical labor included digging the footing, pouring concrete for the foundation, laying brick and placing the text and stained glass design. The project also included electrical work for lighting that illuminates the sign at night. The electrical work was probably the most difficult part of the project, Brian said, but was made a little easier thanks to a family friend who was an experienced electrician.
The weather also was a challenge.
“I was on a really tight schedule, so even if it was 4 degrees outside, I was going out (to work on the project) anyway,” Brian said. “There were a couple of those days when I didn’t really have a choice.”
Brian’s project was nearly complete in early January when an accident occurred that nearly destroyed his hard work. A motorist speeding through the nearby roundabout lost control of his vehicle and crashed into one of the signs, toppling it over. Church leaders say because of Brian’s project, the man’s life could very well have been spared.
“In fact, our property committee chairperson says it’s the first Eagle Scout project that he knows that actually saved a life,” Rev. Ed Thomas said in a news release. “If Brian hadn’t (cleared) a few trees (to install the sign), the truck would have flipped upside down into those immovable objects. As it was, (the driver) flipped into the sign, which gave and tipped and probably saved the young driver’s life.”
Thankfully, the sign remained fully intact, with the exception of some minor cosmetic damage. Brian and some church members were able to return the sign to its upright position, where it has stood for nearly six months.
Brian plans to study mechanical engineering at North Carolina State University in the fall. Though he’s finished with Boy Scouts, Brian said he’ll remember the valuable lessons the program taught him and apply them to his future career – especially the most important thing he learned from his Eagle project.
“Plan ahead. Don’t wait ‘til the last minute.”