Matthew Gallagher originally didn’t plan on becoming an Eagle Scout.
The south Charlotte 18-year-old, who graduated from Providence High School in 2013, joined Boy Scouts as a Tiger Cub in second grade. He enjoyed the camping and hiking trips, outdoor activities and life lessons he learned from Scouting. But Matthew admitted working on his Eagle rank wasn’t always a priority.
“At first, I did not want to get my Eagle because it is a lot of work,” he said. “… During my senior year, my parents were bugging me about it … and by December of 2012, I got tired of my parents bugging me and said, ‘Alright, I will do it.’”
All prospective Eagle Scouts must complete their project and submit their final paperwork to a council of Scout leaders by their 18th birthday, so Matthew had a limited window of time to work with, as his 18th birthday – Aug. 18, 2013 – was rapidly approaching.
Matthew wanted his project to benefit his church, St. Gabriel Catholic, so he spoke with the facilities coordinator to see what the church’s needs were. He and church leaders settled on a paved walkway from the church’s parking lot to the gate of its playground. The only thing leading from the parking lot to the playground previously was a muddy path.
“I took some pictures of the area as it was and started sketching out ideas, so I ended up making about a 30- to 35-foot walkway from the parking lot to the gate of the playground and built two sitting areas on either side of the walk path.” The two sitting areas are raised, paved, framed with landscaping timbers and include a bench and some flowers.
The toughest part of the project, Matthew said, was recruiting volunteers. Matthew had recently changed troops and was part of Troop 24, a relatively new troop that meets at the British American School of Charlotte. Most of the Scouts in the troop were much younger than Matthew, and the troop had never chartered an Eagle Scout.
“Your Eagle Scout is a leadership project. I couldn’t do the whole thing myself because I had to be leading people,” Matthew said.
After admittedly bribing some of the Scouts with Pizza Hut and Subway, Matthew recruited the volunteers he needed – a group that included Scouts from his own troop, some Scouts from other troops and a handful of his friends. The project consisted of about 15 workdays, with four to five hours of labor each day.
Matthew finished the paperwork the weekend of his 18th birthday and submitted it before shipping out to Missouri for basic training for the United States Army National Guard on Aug. 26. He was officially given the rank of Eagle earlier this year.
“It was like 10,000 pounds was lifted off my chest,” Matthew said.
Matthew and his family were then tasked with the challenge and honor of planning Troop 24’s first Eagle Scout Court of Honor, which took place last month. He admits being a trailblazer was a lot of pressure, but also said it was a huge honor.
“After the ceremony, a lot of boys came up and said they were going to get their Eagle Scout,” Matthew said. “… What I would like to see is all the boys I know that deserve it, I’d like to see them get it.”
Matthew’s dad also made a contribution to Troop 24 in the form of a wooden candelabra. The candelabra has a space for three candles on top, representing the three points of the Scout oath, and six candles on each side, representing the 12 points of the Scout law. “Troop 24” also is burned onto the candelabra, and the troop will be able to use the gift in any future Scout Court of Honor ceremonies.
Matthew plans to study landscape architecture or mechanical engineering in college and said he wants to continue serving as a Scout leader in the years ahead, as he wants others to receive the positive influence Boy Scouts gave him.
“I want to spend my life in Scouting; it is that important to me,” he said.