JACKSON – A thunderstorm may have pushed back Gavin Kohute’s Eagle Scout project by a day but his First Responders 5 Kilometer Run ran its course the following morning without a hitch.
A few days prior to the event the 15-year-old remarked that his project, a 5-kilometer run/walk and one-mile fun run held in Johnson Park was “coming along well, so far I have 150 runners and I hope to raise $10,000.”
Two days prior to the event the local Scout had already raised $9,687 towards his goal. The funds will benefit Jackson Mills Volunteer Fire Company Station 54.
“I came up with this idea from running cross country for Jackson Memorial High School. I feel particularly close with the Jackson Mills Vol. Fire Co. Station 54 because they are the chartered organization for the troop and support us in many ways,” Gavin said. For example, that’s where Troop 204 holds their meetings.
“We personally know many firemen and first responders in Jackson and want to give back to the community,” Gavin added.
It’s a family affair. While his father, Brian Kohute, was not a scout growing up, he became involved in scouting leadership when Gavin joined scouts.
“He now serves as an assistant Scout Master for Troop 204. My brother, Liam who is 9 years old, is in Cub Scout Pack 204,” Gavin said.
The teen has taken part in numerous activities during his time in scouting and he noted those that have left their mark and that he will draw experience from in the future.
“Activities that have helped me develop as a person would have to be volunteering at a summer camp, providing community service such as assisting at the Jackson Food Pantry and doing road clean ups, as well as being accepted into the honor society of scouts (the Order of the Arrow) and the Business Academy at Jackson Memorial High School,” he said.
“I feel like scouting has taught me strong leadership skills, teamwork, as well as planning and time management. I had about 25 volunteers at my race,” the Scout added.
An Eagle Scout project emphasizes leadership skills in not only developing a community service project but also coordinating it, gathering volunteers and directing all aspects of the project. That included interacting with individuals to obtain the necessary clearance to make the project a reality.
Gavin said he spoke to the head of Jackson Township Recreation Department for permission to use the park for the race, “as well as coordinating with the Jackson Police Department to close the roads and provide traffic control for the race.”
Now that his long-planned project has been completed, “it feels really great to be done, but I still have more work to do. I have to write a formal report and go in front of a board of review.”
Gavin said that among the top runners were Heather Tracey and Dana Lakner. “Gavin Kohute’s event was a great success. I was extremely impressed on how well put together it was. It was conducted safely and efficiently, raising funds for a good cause,” Lakner said.
“I am an avid runner – I have run many 5Ks – six marathons and multiple halfs. This was one of the most well ran 5Ks I have taken part in,” Tracey said. She traveled from Collegeville Pennsylvania to take part in the event.
She added, “this was such a fun run to take part in especially with COVID – it was nice to have a bit of ‘normal’ back in my life.”
The scout added that “there will be a court of honor where I will my receive my Eagle rank. This will most likely be live in around March.”
Station 54 firemen Ralph Aponte and Brian Ruditsky “helped tremendously in the race and ran in it as well,” Gavin said. He added the final total from the event was $10,500 before the cost of setup.
Aponte who is also a scout leader with Troop 204 said, “he’s a good kid. It was for his Eagle project and it helps us, the fire company and the community. I believe his funds are going for a scholarship in our name.”
The fire company has also worked with the Jackson Kiwanis Club which Aponte is also a member of. The two organizations organized a food drive and brought out fire trucks to gather up donations. He noted another drive would be held in another section of town in a few weeks.
Aponte noted that he and Ruditsky assisted with the event and that the station had “our fire police out to help and we had a lot of guys running in it too. It was a nice joint thing between us and the Boy Scouts.”
“We were proud to see another great project come out of the scouts. I’m glad he (Gavin) chose to keep it internally within our town. Even though he helped us with the fire company he could have chosen someone else to help,” Aponte added.
Aponte also noted that while Troop 204 has male scouts it also hosts Troop 402 which is made up of female scouts. “I think we were one of the first girl troops in the state.”
Gavin added that the pandemic did not slow down the fundraiser. “We just had to follow New Jersey guidelines and have separate heats.”