NEW CASTLE — The Wrona twins thought they had lots of time to work on their Eagle Scout award.
It was 2010 and Brandon and Chris, members of Boy Scout Troop 721 in the Mohawk area, had all the requirements done except for the major one — their service projects. Projects are the culmination of a Scout’s training and involve a major effort, as well as benefit the community and demonstrate leadership.
Mothers and fathers of Eagle Scouts receive special pins and the twins’ mother, Ann Wrona, recalls she would point to her lapels and say “Pin! Pin!” to try and give them a little push.
In 2012, the boys went on a 13-day backpacking trip at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M. When they got home, they knew something was wrong with their father, Brian.
“He was losing weight,” Brandon recalled.
Doctors thought he had diabetes, Ann said. But three months later came a more devastating diagnosis — pancreatic cancer.
Brian began treatments and the boys realized two things. They didn’t have all the time in the world to earn their Eagle awards. And they wanted their Dad to see it. The push began to choose a project and get ready to do it.
Last April Chris began work on his project, a sprucing up of the Bessemer Pumphouse Park on East Poland Avenue in Bessemer. Chris and a group of volunteers raked up old mulch and replaced it with new. And they gave a fresh coat of paint to the equipment there including, basketball poles, benches, a swing set, the sliding board and the railing on the building.
When the project began, Brian was still well enough to help. “He encouraged us to work as hard as we could,” said Chris. “He would help me, give me suggestions on how to paint.” But by August, as the project neared completion, Brian’s condition had deteriorated to the point where he was on a feeding tube. The boy’s maternal grandfather, George Ellenberger of Edinburg, pitched in to help and the project was finished after 216 volunteer hours of work.
A little later, Brandon started his project, painting the exterior of the Pulaski Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 1 in Pulaski and a storage shed. After 120 hours of effort, he was done. By this time Brian was undergoing surgery and radiation treatments and was unable to help.