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Giving Back(packs)

Eagle Scout candidate helps give kids a head start

When Eric Biegalski decided to collect school supplies for underprivileged children as his Eagle Scout project, he never thought he would get the response he did.

He knocked on doors, pitched in front of the Walmart in Montgomery, and asked for help from family and friends.

Eventually, he said, there were two Ping Pong tables’ worth of supplies spread out in his basement.

“The amount of donations just exploded,” Biegalski said. “It was great to see.”

On Tuesday, Biegalski packaged the donations into backpacks and personally delivered them to numerous classes of kids, including one at Two Rivers Head Start in Morris.

Biegalski, an Eagle Scout badge candidate in Bristol Troop 34, said he came up with the idea when his troop collected supplies for those in need around the holidays.

“I liked helping out,” he said. “It was a good feeling.”

So, when it came time to put together his final project as a Boy Scout, Biegalski decided he’d once again try to do something for children in need.

He wrote letters to family and friends, seeking donations. He put flyers on the doors of his neighbors. He had a community drop-off day at the local Scout hall.

There, he said, a man donated 93 boxes of crayons.

“The community responded beautifully,” said AnnMarie Antonini, Biegalski’s aunt.

“I couldn’t have done this without the community,” Biegalski added.

The Two Rivers Head Start Program provides free half-day preschool for income-eligible children across Kane, Kendall, DeKalb, Grundy and Boone counties in Illinois.

At the Morris location, the kids were excited about their new backpacks.

According to Center Supervisor Sue Hauser, the kids were already excited about going to kindergarten next year. That they’d have new backpacks and supplies only added to that.

“They were quite excited,” Hauser said. “It was like Santa Claus came.”

For Biegalski’s mother, Louise, seeing the faces of the children was one of the highlights.

“It was a success,” she said. “I’m very proud of [Eric’s] idea, his hard work and his determination.”

A service project is one of the steps to becoming an Eagle Scout, a process that also requires earning 21 merit badges, taking part in a Scout conference, and taking on extra leadership responsibilities as a troop member.

Biegalski’s project didn’t just excite the kids. Hauser said the staff at the center was equally thrilled.

Two Rivers Head Start gets 20 percent of its operating budget from donations, and accepts donations of clothing and supplies — as well as volunteers. Donations can be delivered to 1661 Landmark Road in Aurora. For more information, call (630) 264-1444.

“We appreciate Eric so much,” Hauser said. “For a young man to think of these kids and work so hard to help him, it really means a lot to us.”

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