Aspiring Eagle Scout Soars to the Top by Building Ramps for Veterans

By Shelby Butler

ben and his dad work on his first rampWhen Ben Lyford started planning for his Eagle Scout badge, the highest honor in Boy Scouts, he decided to build ramps for veterans. Lyford’s grandfather is a Vietnam veteran and the motivation behind his choice.

“My grandpa tells stories of the war and I think whatever we can do to honor veterans helps with their healing,” said Ben.

Ben and his mom, Laura, heard about the Southwest Center for Independent Living (SCIL) Renovations And Modifications ProjectS (RAMPS) program and its waiting list for wheelchair ramps while volunteering at our annual Day at the Range and Outdoor Adventure Fair (DATR) event. Ben and Laura, along with Ben’s father and two siblings, have been volunteering at DATR for several years and have proven that volunteers remain an integral part of the successful event.

“The Lyford family’s dedication and understanding of disability issues and compassion for the everyday person is outstanding,” said DATR coordinator and SCIL staff Patty Hayne.  She explained to Ben and Laura that many people with disabilities were waiting for ramps to be built at their homes and that having access to get in and out of their home is important for them to be independent.

The Lyford’s decided they wanted to make a difference for people with disabilities while helping Ben become an Eagle Scout. Together the Lyford family raised money for the materials and recently completed three wheelchair ramps, two of those for veterans.

“The ramp gives me access to the outside that I didn’t have before,” said Paul, veteran and SCIL consumer, about a ramp the Lyford family built. “They worked really hard and did a great job. I have a real respect for that young man and for his family too.”

Ben, who is 14, originally set a goal to raise $1,200 and put in around 400 hours of fundraising. So far he and his family have raised close to $2,300. The Lyford’s say the most challenging part was raising the money, but then when they got to the building stage it was different.

ben completes his third rampAfter the first ramp Ben said his crew was pumped. “On the first project it was a joint effort with my dad, but on the second ramp I was more of a foreman.”

When asked what his grandpa thought of his project, Ben replied, “My grandpa saw pictures and really liked what I did!”

A Boy Scout has to earn 21 merit badges before they can work toward their Eagle Scout. “I want Ben to grow up to be self-sufficient and Boy Scouts in general is a good way to find out what someone really likes,” said Laura.

Building ramps is a great way to volunteer and help people with disabilities retain or regain independence. SCIL needs volunteers who have the desire to build ramps individually or as a group. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact SCIL at 417-886-1188.