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LDS brothers' Eagle projects take them to Ghana

Published: Wednesday, May 21 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

“It’s made an impact on me,” Craig said. “My theory was, we know people here, and you know what you’re doing is going to good use. You’re not giving it to some organization and hoping something good happens. I encouraged my sons to get their Eagle Scout projects done early because it gets harder and harder as they get older. If they did it, we’d make it a special experience.”

Craig and Melissa hoped to teach their children some important lessons about gratitude and humility along the way.

“There’s a two-fold message,” Craig explained. “At 13, it’s all about them: 'When do I get this or that?' Then they come out here and they realize, ‘You know, I’m incredibly blessed.’ They also learn to appreciate the value of hard work and see the fruits of their labor. When they see the joy in the kids’ eyes, they get to see the service rendered and the value that it adds. At least you hope they get it. That’s the theory.”

Years after his Eagle project, Truman received a full-time mission call to Ghana, and he will finish up his service soon. “He was bouncing off the walls when he got his call,” Craig said.

As with most Eagle projects, there was plenty of planning, hard work and long hours. These four projects began with three suitcases of school supplies that Truman gathered and delivered in 2007.

“We did it with Truman, and it was such a positive experience. Then Bowen wanted to do it,” Craig said. “With Stanford, I told him we could go to Peru or other places. He said, ‘No, I want to go to Ghana.’ Brigham, like his brothers, got all teary-eyed when he said goodbye to the Ghanaian children upon delivering his project. None of my boys wanted to leave. They wanted to stay for another week. It’s a unique experience. They see that these Ghanaian children have hardly anything yet they have smiles on their faces. That Xbox game suddenly doesn’t mean very much when you see how grateful these children are for books.”

Bowen took his turn in 2009, and he took 300 pounds of school supplies in suitcases that included books, posters, and classroom sets of math and reading supplies that were mostly donated by businesses.

By the time Brigham, who went to Ghana in 2011, and Stanford worked on their projects, the Ballards had the process figured out.

“We got smarter the more we did it,” Craig said. “We started low-key with our first son. After that, we had the organizations, like the Forever Young Foundation, and they established needs at the different schools. People are generous. We got bins and bins of school supplies. All donations.”

They dropped off large donation boxes at various elementary schools at the end of May, two weeks before the end of the school year.

Teachers responded by donating reading books, flashcards, posters, math books, reading and math flashcards, music sets, soccer balls, science books, dictionaries, calculators and educational-related media, including VHS tapes, DVDs and CDs.

The Ballards picked up the donations a week after school ended. Then they spent nearly two months organizing troop members, friends and family to sort and pack the supplies in bins — a generous donor purchased Rubbermaid bins from Wal-Mart — in the Ballards’ garage and family room. That took several hours a day.

“It’s more time than your average Eagle Scout project,” Craig said.

The Ballards wanted the children in Ghana to know that a 13-year-old had worked hard to provide these supplies to them, so they created labels for each item, letting the recipient know that they were “donated by friends in North Salt Lake, Utah, USA for the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Project of Stanford Ballard, age 13.”

Richard Koomson, the main director of Empower School, appreciates the efforts of the Ballards and the Forever Young Foundation.

“They bring us books and help us in many ways,” he said.

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