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William Cooper is named an Eagle Scout after building an outdoor recreation area for the Dawn Center.
By LOGAN NEILL
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 18, 2001
For as long as William Cooper has been a Boy Scout, he has sworn to uphold the organization's creed of honesty, leadership, integrity and compassion for humanity. To him, those principles are not merely lofty ideals. Rather, they are guideposts that exemplify what it takes to be a successful citizen.
So, when it came time for William to decide on a project to fulfill the requirements needed to earn his promotion to Eagle Scout, he wanted to do something special that would help people he thought needed it most.
In the fall, the 17-year-old Hernando High senior organized an effort to build an outdoor recreation area for the Dawn Center, a shelter for battered women and children. A once bare concrete patio now brims with activity as mothers sit on comfortable wooden benches to watch their children play basketball and other sports.
"It was a beautiful gesture," said Dawn Center executive director Lori Hoban of William's work. "A lot of the teenage kids at the center spend all day with nothing to do outdoors. William saw that and went to work to make it happen. It made a lot of people very happy."
William, a Life Scout with Brooksville Troop No. 796, took on the project shortly after he completed his written test for Eagle ranking. But to earn the promotion, he had to organize and complete a community service project.
After contacting the Dawn Center with his proposal, the teen went about the tough task of raising money and materials.
"A lot of the businesses I contacted said they had already committed to other things and weren't able to donate anything," William said. "But I just kept trying."
The teen impressed stores such as Sears, Home Depot, Lowes Home Improvement Warehouse, and all contributed wood and other materials used to build the benches. Tropical Sportswear International kicked in $500 to help with the purchase of some portable basketball hoops. Others, such as Play It Again Sports and Kmart, donated basketballs and other sporting equipment.
William then organized a crew of friends and family members, plus fellow Scouts and church members to help construct the benches. Working evenings and weekends, the project was completed in about four weeks.
In all, William and his helpers put about 150 hours of labor into the project. While William is understandably proud of his accomplishment, it isn't just because the endeavor helped earn him a Scouting promotion.
"I felt sorry for the kids who live at the Dawn Center because they have no place else to go," William said. "I thought it was important to do because they need to get out and have fun. I'm just glad it all came together like it did."
The experience is sure to have a lasting effect on the teen, who hopes to one day go into medicine. In fact, William, who is also a member of the Hernando Sheriff's Explorers, has consistently earned praise for his community involvement as a lifeguard and though his work as a camp counselor with handicapped children.
"It teaches you a lot about yourself," William said. "To me, being able to do something that improves peoples lives gives your own life a lot more meaning."
SCHOOL: Hernando High
PARENTS: Rodney and Susan Cooper
FAVORITE SUBJECT: math
HOBBIES: sports and outdoor activities