For scores of kids who live in the Maple Avenue apartment buildings, the most direct route to Takoma Park Middle School is a path through a woods and over a marsh that turns nasty when it rains.
Sixteen-year-old Ben Abor, the son of a single mother who emigrated from Ghana, knows it well from his years of tromping through the mud. He hated what it did to his Air Jordan Stealth Fives, bought with money he earned from raking, mowing, and shovelling snow.
When Ben was asked by Boy Scout Troop 33 Scoutmaster Dave Lanar what he wanted to do for his Eagle Scout project, he didn’t hesitate — he would build a bridge over the marsh.
“I didn’t have to do all the work myself,” said Ben. “The whole troop helped out. It was my job to supervise the other scouts.” They pulled weeds, cut down trees, laid the 160-foot wooden foundation and the steps that now form a foot-bridge.
In his mind, scouting has lived up to its hype, and then some.
“Before I started, I was just hanging around near the bus stop after school,” he said. “But in Troop 33, I met different people with a new way of thinking.”
Dave Lanar also became an important role model. “When I moved here, my dad stayed behind in Ghana,” Ben explained. “I was clueless until I got to elementary school when everyone seemed to have a father figure. Then I joined Troop 33. Dave is like the dad I never had.”