It was a project two years in the making and one Gregory Francisco knew he had to complete before his junior year of high school. What Gregory envisioned -- a playground for underprivileged children -- had to be scaled back, but the outcome was worth the effort.
Gregory, in the Boy Scout program since he was in the first grade, achieved the Eagle Scout rank with the completion of a playground at the Salvation Army shelter in Augusta. His father serves as clinical director for the Salvation Army, and Gregory would go there with his dad.
"I like kids, in general," said Gregory, a 15-year-old sophomore at Greenbrier High School. "I felt like when I saw those kids, playing in the streets, that I wanted to do something for them."
The children played in an enclosed area, but Gregory said their playground equipment was minimal. After making several phone calls, Gregory was able to get a 25-percent discount on items purchased at Academy Sports. With the help of friends, family and church members, he raised more than $1,000 to make the play area more inviting and enjoyable for the children.
"I put in a tether ball set for them because I remember playing that in elementary school," said Gregory, the son of Dr. Gregory and Lauren Francisco of Evans. "I also picked up what seemed like a thousand cigarette butts."
In addition to the new playground equipment, which included a new basketball goal, Gregory updated the landscaping in the play area and around the building.
"It was two years in the making," he said of the project. "It went from a $15,000 project to a $1,000 project."
Was Gregory disappointed that he couldn't give the kids everything he envisioned?
"I was kind of disappointed that I couldn't do what I wanted to do, but even what I wanted to do wouldn't fit in the area," said Gregory, now a junior assistant scout master with Troop 2.
Aside from developing a new playground, Gregory taught the men who will keep up the newly landscaped area how to care for the grounds.
"It makes me feel really good," he said.
The Francisco family has a long history in scouting: his dad serves as chairman of the Boy Scout Council's Eagle Board and holds the Eagle rank, his mom is committee chairman for Cub Scout Pack 2 and works with Venturing Crew 165, and his younger brother has just bridged over to Boy Scouts.
"I've been in scouts for so long, I felt like I just couldn't stop now," Gregory said.
Now that his Eagle project is complete, Gregory is preparing to tour England, France and Italy this summer with the People-to-People Student Ambassador Program.
"I've been to England before," said Gregory. "It's a whole lot different story than what you see in a textbook."
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