Liam Arney decided to become a Cub Scout after hearing about it at Garza Elementary School in McAllen.
Five years later, he crossed over from Cub Scout to Boy Scout. Now a senior at McAllen High School, Liam looks back on the past 12 years and how they have prepared him for Scouting’s pinnacle, the rank of Eagle Scout.
“I’ve been in Scouts since I was 6,” Liam said. “I want to finish what I started.”
Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout involves much more than putting in the time. On the Eagle Scout Rank application, Scouts must name individuals who can attest that they live the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
Aspiring Eagle Scouts must earn their way up the rank ladder. Starting out as a Scout, and then up to a Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle. Each rank has a set of requirements. For Eagle rank, Scouts must earn a total of 21 merit badges and have held a position of leadership. The next step is to plan, fully develop and implement a service project.
“Art is his thing,” said Deborah Arney, Liam’s mom. “He was planning a painting event, but COVID hit, and he couldn’t put everyone together in a room.”
Liam turned to Oscar Garza, the assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 76, Liam’s troop, and the Winter Camp director at Camp Perry in Rio Hondo. Garza is one of Liam’s mentors and suggested Liam organize a blood drive with Vitalant.
“We love when Scouts choose a blood drive for their Eagle Scout project,” Garza said.
Since the start of COVID, he explained, blood drives have not been allowed in schools, which is the number one source of blood donations.
“COVID really did catch us off guard,” said Kassie Lopez, a donor recruitment representative at Vitalant. “People became more hesitant to come in, but it has always been safe to donate blood. We are vigilant about sanitizing all surfaces and equipment.”
Two of Garza’s sons organized blood drives. It gave him firsthand knowledge of the impact such efforts have on a community.
“Liam’s idea to do this is timely, and there is a real need,” he said. “This is a true life-giving project.”
Serving A Need
The need for Liam’s project is especially true in the Valley. Lopez pointed out that there is always a great need in the region for blood donations.
“And every pint of blood we collect stays in the Valley,” she said.
Liam’s blood drive is set for Nov. 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Holy Spirit Catholic Church Parish Hall on North 23rd and Lark Avenue in McAllen.
“Holy Spirit is my church, my community,” said Liam, a former altar server at the church.
“It was always the plan to do something at our church,” Deborah said.
Liam still found a way to use his artistic talent, creating Billy Blood Drop.
“My grandma, (Deborah’s mom, Claire Dennison, who lives in Michigan), told me, ‘You need to make a little mascot. Because you’re in Texas, you need to put boots on him and give him a hat.’
“She also gave me the tag line, ‘Round Up Your Friends,’’’ he said. “Then I created the lasso.”
Vitalant has produced a QR code to put on event fliers. Those planning to donate blood can scan the code to schedule their donations. The more people who schedule in advance, the better, as Vitalant can then bring the correct number of staff members. Walk-ins are also welcome.
“Be sure to bring an ID,” Lopez said, “and masks are required.”
Reaching A Goal
Upon completion of the blood drive, Liam must complete a project reflection.
Then he will go before the Eagle Board of Review. He will participate in an interview about his Eagle Scout project, along with Scouting experiences, adherence to the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and plans for the future.
Board approval means achieving the long-sought-after goal, a feat only roughly eight percent of all Boy Scouts share. As Liam reflects on his years in Scouts, outings at Camp Perry rank the highest on his list of memorable experiences. Through Scouting, he learned to cook for other Scouts, hike for over eight hours in one day and live as a leader.
Liam also thinks about his mom, who went on Scout camping trips and hikes with him for several years (more often than not, the only female). Deborah earned Scouting’s Wood Badge, an advanced leadership program that trains adult leaders to deliver the highest quality Scouting program.
There will be plenty of time for more reflection, but right now, Liam’s focus is on completing a successful blood drive.
“I would really appreciate it if all of you come out for the event,” Liam said. “You will not just be supporting me. You will also be supporting the community.”
On Nov. 7, Liam will be one step closer to earning the title Eagle Scout. Twelve years in Scouting have prepared him to soar high.