When 16-year-old Noah Pillion-Gardner began thinking of projects he might attempt to qualify for Eagle Scout status, he decided he wanted to do something for veterans.
At first, the Mt. Lebanon High School student thought of cleaning the gravestones of veterans in Mt. Lebanon Cemetery. But he found that cemetery records on veterans were incomplete, so he abandoned the idea. Then his summer job doing yard work for Sara Cannon, a family friend from Mt. Lebanon, gave him another idea.
Ms. Cannon is a member of Operation Troop Appreciation, an organization that maintains and builds the morale of deployed troops by sending them packages and letters. She had two sons stationed in Iraq and as part of the program, she makes water ties -- called Cool Ties --for soldiers. One day she gave a tie to Noah and, after he tied it around his neck, he discovered it helped keep him cool.
Hence grew Noah's idea for an Eagle Scout project. The ties are made with cotton twill in the olive color approved by the U.S. Armed Forces and filled with circular granular pellets used in gardening, called Watersorb.
When the pellets are soaked in water they expand and hold the water for up to three days. If placed around the neck, the ties and pellets work on the principle of evaporative cooling. Once used, the ties can be resoaked and recycled many times over.
To get the project off the ground, Noah first researched the subject and learned how to make the ties with help from Mrs. Cannon. He then went to his troop leader, explained the project and got his initial approval.
To get credit for the project as part of his Eagle requirement, he also prepared a written report to the Eagle Scout chairperson for the Pittsburgh Boy Scouts.
He got word back that his project had been approved on Veterans Day.
Soon Noah and 15 other scouts in Troop 22 in Mt. Lebanon met at the Gardner house to make ties.
The cotton material for the ties was donated by the Komar Co., a sleepwear manufacturer. To pay for the requisite Watersorb pellets, thread and pins, Noah sent letters to friends and family asking for a $10 donation and got back $250 in contributions.
To make the project go a bit easier, the Scouts had the use of four sewing machines and operated them under the watchful eye of Noah's two grandmothers. Each Scout learned his part on the assembly line the first day of the project, and, for their efforts, they will be credited with public service hours which can be applied to their own Eagle Scout aspirations.
To keep the finished product from absorbing moisture from the air, each water tie was placed in a separate "zipper" plastic bag and boxed. The ties will be transported to the Hunt Armory in Pittsburgh, then shipped to Afghanistan through Operation Troop Appreciation in time for next spring's rise in temperature.
When the project is finally completed, Noah, son of Rob Gardner and Anne Pillion, will write another report documenting it and go before the Eagle Scout Review Board to talk about it.
Dave Zuchowski freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org .