Preston Vaughan, a 16-year-old junior from Hillcrest Christian School, set a goal for his Eagle Scout project, then exceeded it by 300 percent – with the help of students from the University of Mississippi School of Nursing.
When he first presented his idea for an Eagle Scout project, Vaughan planned to deliver 16 wooden “lily pads” to Batson Children’s Hospital for patients who had to pull an I.V. pole with them wherever they went.
Lily pads are wooden discs that sit on the base of an I.V. pole and allow children who don’t feel up to walking on their own to use the pole as a mode of transportation. Although it’s not clear who first came up with the idea, it was made popular by a young man from Washington named Nick Konkler, who died in February 2015 after a long battle with cancer. Since his “Lily Pad Project” hit the news, making and distributing the brightly hand-painted boards has become a favorite scouting project across the nation.
Becoming an Eagle Scout is one of the highest accomplishments a young man can achieve. Vaughan has been working toward that goal since he was 6. He and his father started the scouting adventure together.
“I told my wife that I would really like to get him involved in scouting,” said Preston Vaughan’s father, Michael, an instructional technologist in the School of Nursing. “As soon as I got that out of my mouth, he came home with a flyer in his backpack inviting us to a scouting event at his school.
Preston Vaughan is now with Troop 88 out of Clinton.
Gerald R. Ford, the only U.S. president to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, once said that the principles “which scouting encourages – self-discipline, teamwork and moral and patriotic values – are the building blocks of character.”
To reach the milestone of Eagle Scout takes years of hard work and discipline, culminating in a final project to hone leadership and organizational skills while fostering a habit of community service. Because the idea is to promote the scout’s leadership abilities, Eagle candidates are allowed to recruit volunteers to help them complete the projects.
Preston’s Vaughan’s mother, Lisa, is director of budget finance for the School of Nursing. She said they initially thought to have friends and family help out with the project.
“Once we started working on it, one of the faculty members, Marlie Lawrence, saw the boards and wanted to paint one,” Lisa Vaughan said. “I think she ended up painting five.”
When the nursing students saw Lawrence painting her boards, they wanted to take part in the project as well.
“It’s been like a domino effect with the nursing students getting involved,” Lisa Vaughan said.
When more than 30 nursing students signed on to help with the project, Michael Vaughan coordinated with Farrah Banks, director of student affairs for the School of Nursing, to arrange for students to receive service learning credit for the project.
Nursing students are required to perform four service learning hours per semester. The School of Nursing and the Boy Scouts share the principal that community service plays a vital role in the development of leadership skills, making the collaboration for Preston Vaughan’s project a natural fit.
Ashlee Weaver, a third-year nursing student who hopes to go into pediatrics, volunteers in the NICU. She said she was inspired to take part in the project by the daughter of a friend.
“She is like a niece to me,” Weaver said of the little girl. “She was born at 26 weeks and had heart surgery at Batson Children’s Hospital.”
Weaver wanted to give back to the hospital that took care of the girl, who will soon turn 3. Weaver’s lily pad is decorated with characters from children’s television shows.
Preston Vaughan said he was amazed by the growth of the project once the nursing students started taking part.
“Once they started getting interested, it was just the snowball effect as more and more people wanted to help,” he said. “Next thing you know, we were at 300 percent capacity. It just led to this amazing outcome where we passed our goal multiple, multiple times.
“It just shows how much people really want to help and put forth the effort.”
He said the enthusiasm about the project gave him the confidence to ask more people for help.
Olivia Herrington, a third-year nursing student, said her love of children led her to volunteer to paint a board.
“I babysat my whole life, and I want to work in pediatrics or the NICU,” she said. “I also took art lessons. It was nice to get service project hours for doing something artsy.”
Herrington wanted to paint her board as something that is naturally round, so she picked a donut pattern, pink with sprinkles.
Lisa Vaughan said she was impressed by the artistic talent of the nursing students.
“You know that there are people out there who are artistic, but I just had no idea how many of these students were so skilled,” she said. “A lot of them would like to do it again, so I can see this as being an ongoing project for them.”
Preston Vaughn said he hopes to continue being involved in scouting after he receives his rank of Eagle Scout.
“Recently in our troop, we’ve been losing a lot of older kids,” he said. We’re going through a rebuilding phase and don’t have a lot of leadership.
” I want to help out and continue to serve in that area.”
His Mother and father said they are very proud of the work their scout has accomplished. Preston Vaughan and his parents delivered 46 lily pads to Batson Children’s Hospital on Dec. 2. Two more lily pads are soon to be completed, which will bring the project total to 48.
“We are so proud of him for that,” Lisa Vaughan said. “It’s just awesome. Especially because scouting is all about developing him as a person and about giving to the community and to others.
“So it’s awesome to see him develop into the person he’s become.”