He wanted to help those who have disabilities, like himself, so, when Mason Coffey planned a project for his Eagle Scout rank in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), he was instantly drawn to SENSES, Shelbyville’s indoor sensory playground gym.
“I have a disability called autism,” said Coffey, a senior at Shelbyville High School. “This is the reason I did this project. My favorite part of the project is knowing I am leaving a lasting project for those with disabilities.”
The BSA Scout Oath starts with “On my honor I will do my best”, then several words later continues with, “to help other people at all times.” It applies to scouts, no matter what their age or ability. “I want to show the world that my disability doesn’t slow me down. I want to show others that those with disabilities can do great things.”
Coffey, a member of Troop 250 of the First United Methodist Church in Shelbyville, along with nearly 20 youth members and adults, built and installed a storage locker system at Senses, located inside the Shelbyville Central Schools Corporation’s Golden Bear Preschool and administration office at 1121 E. State Road 44.
The lockers provide parents, therapists, and caregivers a secure location for their personal belongings such as purses, and car keys, he said, to allow them to better focus on the children they have brought to the gym and not be concerned about keeping an eye on the belongings they brought into the gym.
“I wanted this to be very practical,” said Coffey.
Coat hooks have also been installed at two levels in between the three units, which are five lockers high. There are 15 lockers with each compartment measuring 16-inches by 16-inches, according to Jeff Coffey, Mason’s father. The oak doors are seconds from Schrock Cabinets in Illinois, a distributor of Shelbyville’s Builders Lumber and Hardware, he said. “Brian Baker, owner of Builders Lumber reached out to them and they donated the doors.”
Seventeen-year-old Coffey found that building the units was the difficult part of the project.
“It’s like a Lego set that you didn’t get the instructions to,” he said.
The honor of Eagle Scout is the highest rank achievable by youth in the BSA program. The award is a performance-based achievement that every scout does not achieve, according to the BSA website. In fact, only 6.49 percent of eligible scouts earned Eagle in 2018.
Since 1912 when the rank was introduced, more than 2.25 million young men have earned Eagle, according to BSA, which is defined as one of the largest youth organizations in the United States. Current statistics show 52,160 scouts, representing all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, earned the Eagle Scout rank in 2018 alone.
Indiana was listed 20th among the states having Eagle Scouts, recording 914 scouts, according to a study conducted in 2018 by Bryan On Scouting, a blog for the BSA’s adult leaders.
In the quest to attain Eagle Scout, scouts must move through five ranks of advancement – Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life – each requiring the scout to be proficient in a number of specific skills before moving forward. Skills are acquired through a step-by-step organized approach that involves merit badge work designed so scouts can explore new interests and learn life skills.
Like all of those before him, Coffey earned the 21 merit badges required to approach the Eagle ranking. He earned an additional 12 of his choice for a total of 33.
In the area of Leadership, he served as Troop Librarian, Assistant Patrol Leader, and Junior Scout Master.
A service project to benefit the scout’s community is also included in the Eagle requirements so the scout can demonstrate, learn and develop leadership skills, according to the Scout Handbook. The scout seeking the rank assumes the role of project manager, which includes securing ways to fund the project.
“I am surprised by the amount of people that are coming up to me and telling me they are proud of me for all my hard work,” he said. “I didn’t expect people to want to help me. I’m surprised about all of those who decided to make donations to Senses because of hearing about my project.”
Coffey joined scouting in the second grade because he thought it looked like fun, and he said he has never considered quitting.
“I was taught by my parents (Jeff and Karla Coffey) to never give up. Because of this, I never felt like giving up,” he said. “I felt that in scouting I learned skills that will help me in the future.”
That future includes graduation in May from Shelbyville High School, then enrolling at Ivy Tech Community College to study visual communications.
“It seemed perfect for me because of my interest in animation,” he said.
“Scouting has taught me to always be prepared for what life puts in front of me,” said Coffey. “I can rely on myself to overcome obstacles.”