Isabelle’s Eagle Scout Project & Dean's Story
When Isabelle, a member of Scouts BSA Troop 1211, was looking for ideas for her Eagle Scout project, she chose Avondale House as the beneficiary organization. In scouting, a boy or girl pursuing the rank of Eagle Scout (normally age 15-17) needs to organize and manage a worthwhile service project for a community organization. Each project is unique, but Eagle projects always involve coordination with the beneficiary organization to understand their desires, followed by weeks of planning and preparation, culminating in a big workday (or two) with volunteer workers.
Part of Isabelle's project involved building a new picnic table for Avondale’s newest residence. That is when a scouting friend asked Kurt Neubek if he would be willing to help. Since he is both an avid woodworker and has assisted at least a dozen Eagle Scout candidates (including his two sons) with their projects, he was delighted to be invited.
Kurt’s first introduction to scouting was when his oldest son, Dean, had just started at The Westview School for children on the autism spectrum. Dean was interested in joining scouting at his school, but there was no adult to lead the program that year. Kurt remembers explaining this to little Dean, who looked up with puppy dog eyes and said, “Daddy, maybe you can do that!” This began more than 15 years of wonderful experiences and adventures with his sons. Along the way Kurt also learned about many of the needs of people on the spectrum, with three years as Cubmaster at The Westview School, and several years of working with the wonderful people at RDIconnect, where Dean also interned.
Sadly, in late 2020, after graduating from college with a degree in Psychology, Dean passed away. However, he left a legacy of love and kindness that continues today. In early 2021, after Kurt had agreed to help Isabelle with her Eagle project, a friend asked him, “Let me get this straight: Dean was on the autism spectrum, and he got you involved in scouting. And after he passed, you agreed to help a scout with her Eagle project—which turned out to be helping people with autism and you don’t think that’s a coincidence?” Kurt replied, “Of course it’s not a coincidence!” She then suggested that he find a way to ‘leave Dean’s mark’ on the project.
Dean liked to draw a particular smiley face, and it became a signature drawing of his. It occurred to Kurt that making a branding iron of this icon and putting it on the table would be a wonderful way of including Dean. So when you see the smiley faces on the picnic table, know that’s Dean, a young man on the spectrum, sharing his smile with you!