An Eagle Scout project that was ultimately dedicated to Carnegie Hero Robert W. Eicher was featured recently at a national Boy Scouts of America gala.
Completed in August 2016, Boy Scout Benjamin Ryan Motta orchestrated the building of three structures located on the banks of the Rappahannock River near Falmouth, Va., and Fredericksburg, Va. That section of the river, which is flat and shallow in many places and situated between two parks, attracts swimmers, bathers, and anglers, but has also been the location of dozens of drownings since 1972.
“I was reading an article about the Rappahannock River. A lot of people have drowned,” said Benjamin, now 16, in a video produced by the scouting organization’s National Capital Area Council for the gala. “And I said, ‘Has anybody done anything about this?’”
On either side of the river, Benjamin built two stands that each hold a life ring buoy, a throw rope, and instructions on completing a water rescue. A third stand holds about 40 life jackets available at no cost for river visitors.
“Hopefully it will never have to be used, but if it does, it’s there,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin raised $2,000, solicited donated materials and at-cost building supplies, and organized three build days to complete the project.
“For me and all of the volunteers, it was 440 man-hours to build the entire project,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin had previously read a booklet written in 1939 about the early recipients of Boy Scouts honor awards, including Eicher of Jeannette, Pa., and another boy, Edward S. Goodnow, 16, of Springfield, Mass. Both boys were posthumously awarded the Boy Scouts first Gold Award for heroism in 1917 after drowning while attempting to save others.
Eicher was also awarded the Carnegie Medal for the same act. On Aug. 11, 2017, a 15-year-old girl became distressed in Loyalhanna Creek in Long Bridge, Pa., and Robert, 15, who was fully clothed, waded from the bank and swam toward her. Robert sank within three feet of the girl, resurfaced, drifted several feet, sank again, and drowned.
“I thought it fitting that the stands be dedicated in their honor and to honor the tradition of trained water safety rescue that has become a hallmark of the Boy Scouts ever since,” Benjamin said in a personal video he made about the project.
The Robert W. Eicher Memorial Life Ring Buoy Stand is located on the north side of the Rappahannock River, while a brass plaque on the south bank’s life ring buoy stand bears Edward’s name.
Benjamin said he is very proud of his project and his scouting career.
“Scouting means to me being a good person, being a good citizen, being a good member of the community. Doing what’s right even when no one’s looking,” he said.
–Jewels Phraner, outreach coordinator