BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Outdoor adventure, leadership and learning new skills were among the reasons Caroline (Cari) Varner decided to join the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) as soon as it opened its program to females in February 2019.
On January 19, the Waterville teen became the first female in the Erie Shores Council of the BSA to earn the rank of Eagle Scout – the program’s highest rank. Only about 6 percent of Scouts achieve this rank, said Ed Caldwell, Erie Shores Council Scout executive/CEO.
“I knew I wanted to earn the rank of Eagle from the moment I learned that girls could join Scouts BSA. The Eagle track provided many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise,” said Cari, who is a member of the all-female Troop 219 based out of First United Methodist Church of Perrysburg. “I turn 18 in May, and I knew that I had to meet all of my requirements by February 8 in order to be part of the inaugural class.”
Eagle Scout requirements include earning a minimum of 21 merit badges in a broad range of topics; taking on leadership roles in the troop and community; and completing a community project.
Cari’s project involved transforming an old gazebo at Sunshine Communities into a wheelchair-accessible rabbit haven, so residents can enter and interact with the rabbits. By replacing benches, making a box for rabbits and installing a new floor and shelving, Cari created a comfortable, accessible space for residents to benefit from the therapy animals.
“The rabbit haven enclosure provides a safe, natural and accessible environment for the rabbits and all of Sunshine residents to enjoy them,” said volunteer manager Lori Richard. “We are so grateful to Caroline for her hard work, attention to detail and for choosing to complete her Eagle Scout project at Sunshine Communities.”
The process of sanding, cutting, hammering and building isn’t new to Cari, as she began using power tools after taking a class in eighth grade.
“I also helped my brother and his troop, so I had some experience. I like building things,” she said.
Cari’s brother, Jake, earned his Eagle Scout ranking with Troop 101 last year. It was seeing Jake’s involvement starting in Cub Scouts that sparked her interest in Scouting early on.
“He kept going to campouts and I thought, ‘That’s really cool. I want to do that,’” she said.
Since Scouts BSA wasn’t yet available to girls, she joined a Venture Crew, a coed program offering high adventure for ages 14-20.
The Erie Shores Council serves 5,000 youths in five counties with Cub Scouts for grades K-5, Scouts BSA for grades 6-12 and co-ed programs for ages 14-20, including Exploring (for investigating career fields) and Venturing (for those who want to participate in high adventure activities).
“I recommend Scouts to everyone. There’s a little something for everybody,” Cari said.
Cari has gained plenty of outdoor experiences while getting to know youths from throughout the area. Last year, she headed to Philmont, N.M., for wilderness backpacking. This year, she’ll attend Sea Base High Adventure Camp in the Florida Keys. While these activities are fun, earning the rank of Eagle Scout is an adventure – and an achievement – of its own.
“The rank of Eagle Scout takes hard work and perseverance,” Caldwell said. “Along the journey to Eagle Scout, young people gain new skills, learn to overcome obstacles and demonstrate leadership among their peers and in their communities.”
In addition to Scouting, Cari is a junior at Anthony Wayne High School, where she is involved in cross country and track, Link Crew, Interact, book club and ski club. She is the daughter of Krista and Craig, who plan to hold a Court of Honor for her Eagle Scout accomplishment next year after the pandemic is over.