Matthews – Mint Hill Weekly
Mint Hill troop member earns Eagle Scout rank
MINT HILL – Jill Reed said her son, Thomas, enjoyed playing outdoors and chasing lizards and frogs when growing up.
“He has always been fascinated with animals and nature,” Reed said.
Thomas’s love of nature led him to join Boy Scouts in first grade, and he remained a member of Mint Hill Boy Scout Troop No. 198 until he aged out this March and became an Eagle Scout by creating a human sundial at Blair Mill Park in Stallings.
The human sundial is a hopscotch-shaped concrete slab labeled with the months of the year, where participants stand on the corresponding month and trace their shadow to determine the hour and minutes identified on inlaid tiles on concrete slabs displayed left to right in a semi-circle above the months. The sundial is set into the ground and spans about 20 feet in diameter.
“My Eagle Scout project brings together my love of nature and science,” said Thomas, an 18-year-old senior at Porter Ridge High School.
Thomas decided to make the human sundial his Eagle Scout project two to three years before starting the project, but the actual project took only a couple of months to complete. The sundial project cost $450, and Stallings paid for 50 percent of the total cost. Thomas also received donations of supplies, sundial plans and free instructional signs from Aaron’s Quality Signs in Matthews.
Thomas applied to join the Stallings Parks and Recreation Committee as its first youth board member prior to the sundial project. He served on the board for two terms in 2013-14 and again in 2014-15, finishing in March.
Dena Sabinske, Stallings Parks and Recreation director, said Thomas was the perfect fit for the town’s Parks and Recreation committee.
“He gave us insight on what our youth were looking for in events and programming,” Sabinske said. “It also was great having a young person on the board; they give off an amazing energy and are willing to try new things and pass along new ideas.”
Thomas’s dedication to the committee led him to pursue working with the town on his Eagle Scout project.
“Mr. Reed did an outstanding job on the sundial, from concept to completion; we are very proud of him,” Sabinske said.
Beyond his Eagle Scout experience, Thomas said his favorite part of Boy Scouts was camping. He recalled camping regularly at Belk Scout Camp and hiking, biking and camping along the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail.
Thomas believes Boy Scouts taught him many valuable life lessons and leadership skills, such as nature conservancy, problem-solving skills and how to be a leader. These ideals compelled him to become an earth lover and animal caretaker.
Jill Reed said her son started begging for a pet snake in sixth grade, and she caved in to his persistence a year later while working on letting go of her own personal fears.
“We’ve all learned to appreciate, at least respect, reptiles, because of Thomas teaching us how to interact with and understand these animals,” she said.
Thomas currently has a collection of pythons, which he breeds and sells, as well as tortoises and lizards he loans out as exhibitions to zoos. He also has volunteered and worked at Coldblooded Encounters – a reptile zoo now located in Troutman – for the last four years. His position is lead keeper, stand-in manager and acting zoo director. He plans to spend all summer working full time at the zoo, building new exhibits, giving tours and taking care of the animals.
Thomas plans to attend North Carolina State University in the fall and study zoology or herpetology, with a concentration in research and conservation. He received six scholarships – the Union County Educational Foundation Scholarship, Independence Goodfellows Scholarship, Monroe Rotary Scholarship, Carson Scholars Scholarship, Monroe Union Breakfast Rotary and State Employees’ Credit Union “People Helping People” Scholarship – to help pay for his studies.
Thomas doesn’t know where his interests will take him, but he’s excited to dig in and discover more about the world around him.