Two years ago, local Boy Scout Daniel Winters helped his troop collect school supplies for the first ever collection drive for The Matthew Freeman Project: Pens and Paper for Peace.
Now, he’s doing it again.
Winters, a 16-year-old Life Scout from Troop 400, intends to collect 30 bins — or nearly 1,500 pounds — of school supplies for the Freeman Project, which will deliver them to needy children in war-torn countries. By doing so, he will complete his Eagle Scout service project and achieve the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts.
“Matthew Freeman, he was a Marine Corps pilot — he did what I want to do,” said Winters, who is in the JROTC program at Richmond Hill High School. “So when I had to come up with an idea for my service project, I thought, ‘Why not build it around something that connects with me and help fulfill his dream?’”
Capt. Matthew Freeman, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2009, also attended Richmond Hill High and completed an Eagle Scout service project. After high school, he attended the United States Navel Academy — which is where Winters hopes to enroll, as well.
Winters began collecting supplies in July and has since filled two bins. He said he hopes to collect more items in August, when parents and students do most of their back-to-school shopping.
“Even if it’s just one little thing like pencils or a pack of paper, any donation will be greatly appreciated,” he said. “Without the community, the project goes nowhere. They are the heart and soul of it.”
When he started his service project, Winters said he sought to help others — to improve education for children affected by war, and to help fulfill the dream of his hometown hero. What he’s learned, however, is that he’s also helping himself.
“I’m learning how to lead others in efficient ways, to overcome struggles, break things down and achieve goals,” he said. “I know this will help me later in life, and I just want to show people that I can do it.”
Bonnie Proctor, the executive director of the Freeman Project, remembers when Winters approached the organization five months ago with his proposal.
“He had really done his homework. Everything was methodically mapped out and ready to go,” she said. “That Eagle Scout project is quite a feat, and we were all very impressed with his preparation.”
Proctor said the organization is grateful for Winters’ efforts, and that it fully supports his project.
“Daniel, like Matt, is one of the sweetest and kindest young men I’ve known. Being an Eagle Scout is special, and we want to do whatever we can to help Daniel achieve his goal. We’re standing behind him, encouraging him, doing whatever we can to help him.”
Donations can be made at any of the drop-off locations in Richmond Hill. To find out more, call Daniel Winters at 432-1183 or visit www.freemanproject.org.