Giving Back

Soaring Like Eagles

Members of Mahopac Falls Troop 271 at last week’s 50th anniversary celebration. Credits: Bob Dumas
Troop 271 Scoutmaster Roy Fields, left, and Distinquished Eagle Scout David Walsh Credits: Bob Dumas
Former Troop 271 scoutmaster of 29 years Tom Robinson, left, and former assistant Scoutmaster Robert Dwyer Credits: Bob Dumas
On display at the anniversary party were the three Best of Scout Spirit (BOSS) awards the troop has won three times in five years. Credits: Bob Dumas

MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Roy Fields, the scoutmaster for Mahopac Falls Boy Scout Troop 271, looked around the room at the Secor Sports Club on Agor Lane Saturday night and couldn’t help beaming.

“In this room tonight, I have boys who are lawyers, teachers, video editors, firemen, businessmen,” he said. “They are young men who left scouting, went off to college, and came out as tremendous young men.”

Troop 271 was celebrating its 50th anniversary—an impressive milestone in and of itself—but was also holding a reunion for its Eagle Scouts. Eagle is the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve and nationally between 2 and 4 percent of all Scouts make it there. Troop 271 has exceeded that.

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“These boys learn to lead by doing, not by following,” Fields said. “When they join the Scouts, they are followers, but when they leave, they are leaders.”

Fields has been the troop’s scoutmaster since 2010. His son, RJ, is one of the many Troop 271 Scouts who obtained the Eagle designation. Fields said there are many reasons the troop has produced so many Eagles over the years—an estimated 60—but at the center of it is community/parental support combined with strong, dedicated leadership.

“We have had very stable leadership; we have been lucky enough that many of the parents who come in become leaders and help mentor the boys and keep the troop strong,” he said. “That’s been the main factor in our success.

“We just have a very strong community,” he added. “The boys start young in Cub Scouts and crossover into Boy Scouts, yet with their full schedule of sports and academics, they still have time to earn Eagle and that’s because they have a lot [of support] behind them. If you have a good parent at home that gets them headed in the right direction, we will do everything we can to get those boys to Eagle.”

Fields said the biggest motivator behind Troop 271’s Eagle Scout success has been David Walsh, who served as the troop’s advancement chairman from 2004 to 2015.

“We were able to excel with Eagle Scouts under his mentoring,” Fields said. “During the period when he was advancement chairman, we would have about four to eight boys earning Eagle Scout every year.”

Walsh is CEO of Amalgamated Life in White Plains and the Mahopac resident is one of the rare few who has obtained the rank of Distinguished Eagle Scout, the highest rank for an adult in Boys Scouts.

“Very few men earn that,” Fields said. “Less than 1 percent of all Eagle Scouts ever earn that. He has tremendous knowledge of scouting.”

Walsh began his career in scouting in Lancaster, Wisc. in 1955 and been a part of it ever since.

“I came from a family that was not at all outdoors-orientated. My mother used to say, ‘outdoors begins with ow,’” he said with a laugh. “But I fell in love with the program and fell in love with the outdoors and became an Eagle Scout. I was always involved. It has been one of the defining things in my life. I have a 38-year-old daughter who is still mad she couldn’t become a Boy Scout and I have two sons in their 20s who are both Eagle Scouts. One is a marine lieutenant and the other is as a professional Boy Scout. He works for the Boys Scouts in Rhode Island.”

Walsh said Troop 271 made all the difference in the world to his sons’ lives and defined who they became as adults.

“Our son Jack was adopted,” he explained. “We adopted him from China right before he was 10. Other than family, this troop helped bring him home. It helped him become an American. It gave him friends; it gave him a social life and goals he could work for. They took this little Chinese kid who could not speak a word of English under their wing and it was just inspiring to watch.”

Walsh said the reason many Boy Scout troops fall by the wayside while 271 has preserved is because of the dedicated Mahopac families that stand behind it.

“The dads and moms you see here want the best for their kids and will work to give them every opportunity, and scouting is one of those opportunities,” he said. “This is a troop where the adults are always there for the kids. It was inspiring to be part of it.”

As for obtaining his Distinguished Eagle Scout rank, Walsh said it was a defining moment in his life.

“About 210 million have come through scouting and about 2.2 million have made Eagle Scout over the past 105 years,” he said. “Of that number, about 2,100 have become a Distinguished Eagle Scout. That includes people like the astronaut Jim Lovell; Robert Gates, the former secretary of defense; and Rex Tillerson, the current secretary of state. In my wildest dreams, I never even considered it. The fact that they thought enough of what I did to even nominate me is a lifetime achievement.”

And while Walsh certainly has been at the core of Troop 271’s success, Fields said there are many more who have made significant contributions.

“It’s not just [Walsh],” he said. “We have had so many dedicated leaders that have been with the troop for years and years and years.”

One of those, is Tom Robinson, who served as scoutmaster from 1979 to 2010.

Robinson began his career in scouting as Cub a Scout—his mom was a den mother—and worked his way through the ranks.

When asked why he thought so many members of 271 earned Eagle Scout and went on to have prestigious careers, he said, “We give them leadership that encourages and promotes it. I think it takes a smart young man to stay with scouting. The ones we keep seem to do very well.”

Former Mahopac resident Ken Strickland, who now lives in Rochester, N.Y., decided to adjust his business schedule so he could attend the Eagle Scout reunion.

“I started as a Cub Scout at Mahopac Falls Elementary School and I got my Eagle Scout in 1973,” he said. “I do business all over the Northeast and come down to this area once a month for a few days. My sister told me they were having this reunion and told me I should go. So, I moved some things around and here I am.”

Strickland said that though he didn’t know any of the young Eagle Scouts at Saturday’s event, he was excited to meet them.

“It is fun to meet these young people,” he said. “It’s nice to see [the troop is] still here and that they still have great leaders. It’s something in Mahopac that is a shining star. I have been out of it for a while, but even back when I was involved, there was a lot of interest [in scouting]. It stays with you. I am still proud to say I am an Eagle Scout.

“When I found out this [anniversary event] was happening, I thought, I have to at least stop in,” he added. “I know don’t anybody here, but I am meeting these people and it’s been great.”

Fields said that at the core of the Eagle Scout requirements are the projects the boys must complete. He notes that they can be found all around Mahopac these days.

“I can’t say enough about the projects they have done,” he said. “We have a scout who built the dugouts at Crane Road fields. He spent over 3,000 work hours on that project. It’s the biggest [Eagle Scout project that I’ve ever seen.”

Fields said the list of Eagle Scout projects is not only long, but varied.

“We have had boys who have done playgrounds, tennis courts, flagpoles and different signs throughout Mahopac,” he said. “We had one scout who did the LED lighting for the Red Mills Park gazebo. You see it at night and it’s absolutely gorgeous. I am so proud of that boy. Anytime I drive past that, I just light up seeing how well a job that boy did.”

Fields is also particularly proud what Mahopac Eagle Scouts have become once they leave school and enter adulthood.

“Most of the boys, when they join the troop, we recommend that they go over to the volunteer fire department,” he said. “In this room tonight, we have three members of the fire department who are either EMTs or firemen. We have two boys who are head of the diving team for Mahopac Falls. They are sons of former assistant Scoutmaster Robert Dwyer. They got into that because they are Boy Scouts.”

Between 2005 and 2008, two Mahopac Eagle Scouts became medical doctors: Shuman Dar is a doctor a Columbia Presbyterian and Josh Knapp is in his residency at another New York City hospital.

“Two [scouts] in last 10 years were valedictorian at Mahopac High,” Fields noted. “So, these are not just Boy Scouts; they are well-rounded young men.”

One of those Eagle Scouts who has found great post-college success is Greg Tock. He passed his bar exam last July and has been a Bronx assistant district attorney in the narcotics bureau for thepast six months.

“I am loving it,” he said.

Tock said scouting definitely played a role in the direction he took in life.

“It fosters such good relationships and friendships, as well as team-building skills, leadership—all things you are going to need later in life no matter what field you go into,” he said. “Leadership is the No. 1 thing. Having an opportunity so young, when you are 16 or 17, to be in charge of the programming and the events teach you how to plan.”

Tock looked around the room at his fellow Eagle Scouts and marveled.

“We’ve had a great group of guys,” he said.

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