They have been Scouting together for a decade, so it was only fitting that Grayson Phillips, Alex VanWie and Mitchell Frye would earn their Eagle rank together as the latest members of Troop 450’s highest honor.
Based out of St. John the Evangelist parish and school in Severna Park, Phillips and VanWie received the coveted rank on Saturday, January 4, while Frye’s Court of Honor was held November 30.
For his Eagle Scout project, Frye constructed a St. Francis prayer garden on the southern end of the St. John the Evangelist property in a quiet area under a blanket of trees where wildlife can be regularly seen.
“I wanted to create a peaceful place where people could come to meditate or pray, as well as a place where the annual Blessing of the Animals could take place,” Frye explained.
The Blessing of the Animals is a Catholic tradition in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures. It is held annually on or around October 4, which is the Feast Day of St. Francis.
Frye is a senior at Archbishop Curley High School, the only Franciscan-run high school for boys in Maryland. Frye said, “The friars have had a huge influence on my life and ideals, and I want to share that with others.”
The garden includes an arbor, a paved walkway, a sitting area and a St. Francis statue. The entire area is appropriately surrounded by statues of animals.
“All around our campus, we have other small shrines and prayer gardens set aside to help people meet the Lord,” said the Rev. Erik Arnold, pastor at St. John the Evangelist Church. “Mitchell’s work to construct the new St. Francis prayer garden is a beautiful addition to this and shows how rich and deep Catholic spirituality is.”
Phillips also focused on the St. John the Evangelist campus for his Eagle project. The Severna Park High School senior added an elegant metal fence around the Mary Garden that serves both form and function.
“The Good Shepherd Room, where child care is held during Mass, opens up to the Mary Garden,” Phillips explained. “The fence not only looks good, but it is intended to keep the children safe and secure when the weather allows them to be outside.”
At least 10 scouts were needed to dig fence post holes and construct the fence. Because the fencing and supplies were costly, Phillips also had to plan and schedule a fundraising dinner, which was held at Brian Boru Restaurant and Pub in Severna Park.
“The Eagle project process was very mental and included a lot of detail-oriented steps,” Phillips said. “As the leader of the project, I needed to make sure that everyone knew what they were tasked to do, stayed on task, and that no one stood idle.”
Al Jones, director of operations at St. John the Evangelist, said the design and specifications of the fence took time and effort to research and develop.
“Grayson handled this very well and when, at the last minute, we added the second gate, he raised the additional funds and got it done,” Jones said. “It is a beautiful addition that adds to our campus and solves a problem all at the same time.”
As a peer mentor in St. John’s Summer Madness volunteer program, VanWie had the opportunity to lead middle school students at various volunteer activities throughout Anne Arundel County. After spending the day working at HOPE For All, a Glen Burnie-based organization assisting people with basic living essentials, VanWie was moved to contact the HOPE For All operations manager, Jeanne Huber, to determine if he could do more beyond volunteering.
“HOPE For All takes in a lot of donations, but they don’t have a lot of storage,” VanWie said. “With the help of four other scouts, we were able to build two storage shelving units and a rug box.”
VanWie explained that a rug box was needed to hold the rolled area rugs in an upright position so that they were less cumbersome.
“While managing my Eagle Scout project, I learned it’s harder to lead a group than to be a part of one,” he said. “I learned to delegate and trust my scouts, and hopefully not be a micromanager.”
He added that he and the scouts had barely finished the project when HOPE For All volunteers started to fill the shelves of their new, much-needed storage.
“We are truly blessed to have people that want to help us with our mission to serve others,” Huber said. “Some may see the project as simply building storage shelves for a warehouse. We see it as an opportunity to better serve our families, because we can be more organized and have everything at our fingertips so that it can be distributed quickly.”
Frye said, “Scouting, and specifically completing my Eagle Scout project, has taught me how to work well with others and to be a leader. Not in an overbearing way, but to be a true servant leader.”
Phillips looks back at his scouting career and truly appreciates the skills he learned along the way, especially those experiences on trips and excursions.
“I really enjoyed learning the skills needed for my merit badges and achievements,” he added. “Everything I’ve learned helped me to get ready to complete my Eagle project because, as the leader, I had to be organized and have every detail planned but still be flexible when something needed to be adjusted throughout.”
VanWie will take the 12 points of Scout’s Law with him into adulthood: A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
“I think we can get overwhelmed when looking at a problem and think that maybe we can’t make a difference,” VanWie said. “But when we put all of our efforts together, we really can do great things.”
Frye is the son of Craig and Yvette Frye of Glen Burnie; Phillips is the son of Michael and Diana Phillips of Arnold; and VanWie is the son of John and Renee VanWie of Stevensville. In addition to being leaders in their community, both Frye and Phillips are leaders in their church as sacristans at St. John the Evangelist. This is a senior leadership role where the young men are responsible for the care of the sacristy, including the sacred vessels, vestments, altar, etc., and are mentors to the younger altar servers.