LE ROY — Sam Zerillo knew from his grandmother one of the more-frustrating parts of staying in a nursing facility.
She couldn’t garden — an activity she had long enjoyed but wasn’t able to pursue when she stayed at the Le Roy Village Green.
That realization, along with the experiences of two other grandparents, influenced Zerillo’s decision for his Eagle Scout project. He led a team which gathered the supplies and constructed three wooden flower boxes now installed at the facility.
“Every spring, the residents, if they choose, could go out and plant flowers, and have that little slice of life they haven’t had so long in the nursing home,” he said, Saturday at Our Lady of Mercy parish hall. “ ... The residents really loved it. The loved it seeing us out there working. They loved seeing that there were people who were still looking out for them and caring about what they wanted.”
Zerillo, 19, officially gained his Eagle Scout rank during an afternoon ceremony. It was attended by family, friends and fellow troop members, along with officials including Congressman Chris Jacobs, State Sen. Ed Rath, and Assemblyman Steve Hawley, along with family, friends and fellow troop members.
Zerillo talked abut the friendships and skills he had built over the years. He was initially nervous when he joined the Scouts, finding all the other members were older.
He wound up making friendships he wouldn’t have expected at all, in what turned out to be a very welcoming environment. And by earning the Eagle rank, he has achieved an rare honor, which he’ll carry with him through his life.
Zerillo’s parents Phil and Heather were naturally present at the ceremony — as a matter of fact, Phil is the Troop 6021 scoutmaster.
“It was a long journey,” Heather said. “It’s just a very proud moment of a lot of hard work, both on our part and obviously Sam’s. I just think it’s an incredible accomplishment for any young man, and it really speaks to their character. We couldn’t be prouder at this moment than we are for him.”
Phil Zerillo likewise noted Sam’s commitment. Although scoutmaster, he hadn’t been in the Scouts himself when younger.
“It’s amazing because I got to see how many years it took him to do this, from Tiger Cub all the way to Eagle,” Phil said. “For someone with all the competing stuff in the world — even with sports and everything — he always stayed with it and I always admired that commitment that you usually don’t see in young adults, in staying committed to it, all the way to the end.”
Sam’s a 2020 Le Roy High School graduate. He’s currently studying history and political science in college, and plans on a government career — he’ll be an intern in Jacobs’ office this summer.
Besides the Eagle ceremony, Cub Scouts Owen Flynn and Noah Hurley were recognized Saturday for advancing to the Scouts. Zerillo presented Heidi Austin with the Mentorship Award for her help over the years.
People sometimes ask Zerillo exactly why he stayed in Boy Scouts all these years.
It’s a question he often heard in high school.
“I heard it a lot, like, ‘Why do you keep going to Scouts? That’s lame — what is the point of going to Scouts?” Zerillo said Saturday. “I think there’s so much more to Scouts than a lot of people realize ... it teaches you leadership, it teaches you how to be part of a community. It teaches you to be something greater than your self, and it teaches you there’s a whole world out to explore, and to better yourself in a lot of different things.” As a matter of fact, he thinks a lot of people are missing out.