06/09/06 — Scout honors classmate with outdoor classroom project

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Scout honors classmate with outdoor classroom project

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 9, 2006 1:48 PM

Tommy Stephenson has thought about his friend, Carson Thomas, many times since the eighth-grader was hit by a car last November.

Tommy, 15, who is a rising sophomore at Eastern Wayne High School, joined his fellow Scouts in Troop 299 as well as students at Greenwood Middle School, who have worried about Carson and his family and monitored the eighth-grader's progress.

So, when it came time to choose his Eagle Scout service project, Tommy knew just what to do.

He decided to honor his friend by creating an outdoor classroom at the school both had attended.

On Thursday, the usually shy Tommy was happy to tell those assembled at the dedication ceremony to christen the new classroom not only what went into the project, but what it meant to him. In the audience were Carson and his family.

He said he has known Carson through his participation in Troop 299, which is headquartered on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

"Carson was in our troop. I thought it would be nice because he was a good friend of mine," Tommy said of the project. "It took a lot of work but I think it was worth it."

Once the project was approved, donations poured in for five picnic tables and a trash can enclosure to be set up adjacent to the school grounds.

Tommy thanked those who helped him with the project, especially his family and troop members. Then he turned the focus to the reason behind his efforts.

"In November of 2005 in front of Greenwood Middle School, (Carson) was hit by a car while walking to school. Since that time, Carson has been an inspiration to all his fellow Scouts, not only by showing us how fast our lives can change, but in his strength and courage to fight for his life," he said.

Carson's mother, Heather Thomas, unveiled a dedication plaque that contained the message, "Do a good deed daily. This outdoor classroom is dedicated to Carson Thomas, our friend and scout."

"I would like to dedicate this to Carson Thomas. He is, and he will always be, our friend and fellow Scout," Tommy said.

Fighting back tears, Mrs. Thomas said she knew what it took for Tommy to stand before the gathering to make such a presentation. She had once served on a scouting board where Tommy had to speak publicly before earning a badge.

"This just shows what growth and maturity he has," she said.

Tom Stephenson Sr. is Tommy's father as well as troop leader. He said he is proud of his son.

"I know his heart is heavy because of what happened to his friend and fellow Scout Carson Thomas, and I am so very happy he wanted to dedicate this classroom to him," Stephenson said. "Not only because it is a reminder to everyone of Carson's determination to overcome the obstacles he faces, but it will also serve as a place for every student at Greenwood to enjoy time learning in an outdoor setting. I am very happy he chose to give back to his community in this way."

Greenwood principal Larry Dean also commended Tommy for a project that will be useful for years to come.

"I can't think of a better way to honor Carson than through the dedication of this project, a classroom among the pines in Greenwood's freedom forest," he said. "This is a class project and Tommy presented it in a class way."