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Dad inspires Scout’s Eagle project

Seventeen-year-old Alex Hawley remembers spending time talking and meditating with his dad, retired Navy Cmdr. Neil Hawley, in the Japanese-style garden at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Alex recalls the fountain, smooth-stone walking path and Japanese plants creating a peaceful atmosphere that served as a refuge for him and his family as his father battled cancer.

“It was a really great time to be with him, even though he had cancer,” Alex said.

He was in third grade when his dad was diagnosed with the colon cancer that would ultimately claim his life in 2010.

It was memories of the comfort that the garden provided that were the inspiration for Alex’s Eagle Scout project to make a garden for the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center.

In January, Alex, a Spotsylvania resident and a junior at Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries, began the process of planning the project. Over the past year, he figured out the logistics of building the garden, raised funds to finance the supplies, and led fellow Boy Scouts in building the garden boxes and planting flowers.

“One of the big things about an Eagle project is it’s something that’s not a one-time project,” said Rick Caporali, Alex’s former Scoutmaster. “It has to have something that has meaning for the Scout and has meaning for the community it’s a way of demonstrating leadership in the community.”

With the help of 28 volunteers, including his two younger brothers and fellow Boy Scouts, Garrett, 15, and Hunter, 11, Alex set up the newly constructed garden boxes on a small plot of land between parking lots behind the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center. They filled some of the planters with flowers that Alex picked for their bright and lively colors and left some of the planters free in the hopes that community members will contribute their own plants.

The garden was officially dedicated on Friday, but that doesn’t mean that it is finished.

Although Alex has done his part by starting the effort, his brother Garrett intends to continue it by adding trees and benches as part of his own Eagle Scout project when he’s older. Hunter may also add to the legacy later.

Alex is happy to serve as a role model for his younger brothers and hopes that his experience working on this project will allow him to help them with theirs in the future.

“[My dad] was really proud and supportive of my Scouting career,” Alex said. “So I think this would be something that he’d be really proud of.”

Bridget Balch: 540/374-5417