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The Project Everyone Turned Down

Eagle Scout Patrick Stelmack took on the 600-hour construction of an accessible ramp for the La Grange Area Historical Society.

The La Grange Area Historical Society needed an accessible ramp—some board members and people attending events couldn't walk up the front steps of its headquarters, at 444 S. LaGrange Rd., a house dating to 1874.

It was the perfect project for an Eagle Scout candidate.

Yet all who were offered it declined.

Until Patrick Stelmack got the chance.

"I figured, my family and I are determined people. When we set out to do something, we do it. I looked at it as a new challenge," he said.

He knew he could count on his family and friends to assist in the 600 hours of labor that began in January, which made the unveiling of the ramp all the more special. In fact, Stelmack's grandfather took the first walk up the ramp on June 24, and many have followed since then. 

"Board members who couldn't make it back into the building came in for the first time in three years," said Karen Lynch, president of the La Grange Area Historical Society Board.

The accessible ramp connects the rear parking lot to the back entrance; it was designed by architect Dennis Kajmowicz. It passed the Village of La Grange's inspection.

The Kiwanis Club of La Grange donated money to the Historical Society, which used the funds for Stelmack's project. Kiwanis officials said their members would benefit from the ramp, too, because the club sometimes meets at the society's building.

"We value the mission [of the Society] and what they do. We wanted everyone to be able to experience that," said Melissa Budak, president of the Kiwanis Club of La Grange.

Stelmack feels a sense of accomplishment when he drives by the society's building and sees the ramp, but there was a time the project intimidated him.

"It was scary when the semi first dropped off the wood," he said. "I said to my friend, 'This is a lot of wood.' My friend said, 'So?'"

Stelmack cites the support of family and friends, particularly his mother and father, as key elements in finishing the project before his 18th birthday, which is a requirement to achieve Eagle Scout, the highest rank for a Boy Scout.

"Every mom should get a shirt that says, 'I survived my son's Eagle project,'" said Tina Stelmack, his mother, in good humor. "It was a true meaning of seeing him grow up and an eye-opener to see that I did pretty good."

On July 1, Stelmack submitted the ramp project to a Boy Scouts of America board of review; he has since received his Eagle Scout certificate from the Boy Scouts of America National Council.

Stelmack, a Boy Scout for more than seven years in the graduated from Lyons Township High School in 2010. He said he plans to attend College of DuPage for general studies, then continue at Indiana State University where he'll be eligible for an Eagle Scout scholarship.

Tina Stelmack provided a list of people and organizations that donated money or material or building time to Patrick Stelmack's Eagle Scout project: Dennis Kajmowicz, La Grange Highlands Womens Club, Neal Fischer, Monica Parrilli, Stacey Aranda, Jody Malmfeldt, Melody Larson, Toni Gerencir, Kiwanis Club, Lions Club, Jeannine McLaughlin, K&L Medical Billing, LaGrange Material, Crana Concrete, Donegal Excavating, Home Depot, Dave Walker, Nancy Walker, Ryan Thompson, Anthony Gonzales, Chris Posta,  Alex Chlapik, Ken Chlapik, John Rymza, DJ Aranda, Jeff Walker, Pat Stelmack, Tina Stelmack, Jake Rymza, Alex Lynch, Nathan Meade, Nico Cipriani, Steven Delabar, Joe Reed, Kyle Kudia, Kyle Hopp, Matt Danbury, Zach Gonzales.

Margie August 03, 2010 at 01:29 AM
What an encouraging article! nice to read some good news.
Rick Nagel August 03, 2010 at 12:55 PM
I agree! This is a great idea for a column, and Beth just nails it. I remember reading advice in Ken Blanchard's book, the One Minute Manager, something like "Catch someone doing something right." That's exactly what Beth is doing here--catching someone doing good in LaGrange. Beth: You're also a terrific writer. Keep up the great work!
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) August 03, 2010 at 03:26 PM
Nice story, Beth! And great idea.

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