Chase Kirby’s Eagle Project Benefits HOOVES Veterans

Waterville Boy Scout Troop 101 member Chase Kirby, pictured with HOOVES founder Amanda Held, installed a firepit and four benches at the Wilkins Road retreat center for veterans as part of his Eagle Scout project. Chase recently enlisted in the U.S. Marines. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Congregating around a fire is a ritual as old as humankind.

For veterans who are working to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sitting around a fire with other men and women who have experienced the same challenges can be therapeutic, said Amanda Held, an Air Force veteran and founder of HOOVES (Healing of Our Veterans Equine Service).

Until last month, bonfire gatherings at the Wilkins Road retreat center meant soccer chairs around a small fire ring. Now, thanks to Boy Scout Troop 101 member Chase Kirby, HOOVES has a large, solid firepit with a gravel surround and four large, sturdy benches. It’s perfect for the veterans, who have been spending more time outside due to COVID-19, Held said.

“I had a lot of help from my friends and family,” Chase said, noting that he received funding from Glass City Federal Credit Union, materials from Sandman and labor from Vance Property Management. His fellow Scouts helped him complete the project just in time for cold weather and had an opportunity to camp overnight during the first weekend of December. 

Chase, an Anthony Wayne High School senior, hadn’t heard of HOOVES until he was introduced to the organization by Scout leader Nolan Baker. He took a tour and immediately saw a connection between Scouts, veterans and a desire to be outdoors. 

“HOOVES helps veterans overcome obstacles, regain control and find a purpose in life, just as Chase has done in his Scouting journey,” Baker said. “It also gave him the chance to thank those who have served our great nation before Chase himself begins that next journey in his life as a Marine.”

Chase decided to enlist with the Marines after meeting a recruiter. He has begun working out weekly with Marines and other enlistees. Once Chase receives his Eagle Scout ranking, he will get a promotion upon entering boot camp in July. 

For Chase, Scouting has been a way to seek adventure and make friends.

“It also taught me leadership skills,” he said.

Some of his favorite memories include a two-week backcountry hiking trip in Philmont, N.M. Carrying a 70-pound backpack over 100 miles and summitting two mountains can challenge every part of the mind and body, said Baker. Sea Base Adventure, in which a crew of Scouts live on a deserted island off the Florida Keys for four days, is another one of Chase’s favorite adventures. Scouts eat fresh fish, sleep in hammocks and have no access to a cell phone or power during that time. 

As a freshman and sophomore at AWHS, Chase was a member of the crew team, switching to rugby his junior year. He hopes to be able to finish out his senior year playing rugby as well.

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