When Troop 76 Boy Scout Alex Fish of Ridgefield was deciding what to do for his Eagle Scout service project earlier this year, he found the perfect opportunity when he saw the run-down condition of the outdoor basketball court at Laurel Gardens, an affordable housing complex in Danbury.
Alex planned and coordinated the project, designed the court, and then formed a team of volunteers — friends, scouts and Laurel Garden residents — to help restore the court.
After working on the project for close to six months and investing more than 300 hours, Alex’s vision became reality on Sept. 29.
Local officials including Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, volunteers and donors gathered for an opening ceremony.
Mayor Boughton praised Alex’s efforts and said, “This is an incredible gift you have given to our community. This is the most far-reaching, the most compassionate and the most visionary project I’ve seen ever completed for an Eagle Scout project.”
Alex credits the success of his undertaking to the volunteers who helped clean, prepare and install the court surface and landscape the area surrounding the court.
“Many of the boys who live at Laurel Gardens came out and offered to help every time I was working,” he said. “They became my partners in completing this project. They also thanked me so many times along the way, it was incredible to have their support and appreciation.”
Alex said Carolyn Sistrunk and Mike Dapolite of the Housing Authority of the City of Danbury provided inspiration and guidance throughout the project and helped him secure necessary approvals from the Housing Authority’s Board of Directors and local officials. He also said Ruth Hoggard, the tenant representative at Laurel Gardens, was a constant and invaluable connection with the Laurel Gardens community.
Ms. Sistrunk described Alex as “unfailingly kind and driven” and said, “It’s been refreshing to know of a young person in these days and times who can move adults and youngsters to positive, impactful action.” It was Ms. Sistrunk, Alex said, who gave him the confidence to tackle the project.
A critical part of refurbishing the basketball court was raising $10,000 in donations for a new court surface, poles, backboards and hoops. Alex said it never would have been possible without the very generous contributions of 35 donors, including many local families. His fund-raising efforts involved soliciting individuals, businesses and more than 20 NBA player foundations.
“The fund raising alone was incredibly challenging and I was rejected over and over again,” he said, “but I also learned a lot about persistence.”
Alex wore a Brooklyn Nets T-shirt at the opening ceremony to recognize Nets player Deron Williams and his Point of Hope Foundation for their donation of 10 Nike basketballs.
Alex began his work last April with Julie Schmitter at Danbury Youth Services, who helped him research and review potential sites for the project. He then turned to Ian Marucci of Southern Connecticut Sport Court to review the court design and mount the poles, backboards and hoops. Mr. Marucci donated his time and labor to help volunteers assemble the 1,372 geometric grid tiles that snapped together to form the court surface.
After completing his work by installing a bench outside the basketball court, Alex received an award of appreciation from the Board of Commissioners of the Danbury Housing Authority.
He was also presented with an official citation from the State of Connecticut General Assembly, in recognition of his project and for “fostering a sense of community and teamwork.”