Ben Rawald is passionate about the environment – and his service and leadership in support of conservation have garnered national attention. Ben, a Catholic Scout from Texas, completed five conservation-based community service projects involving hundreds of volunteers – all while he was still in high school. He led drives to recycle plastic bags and printer toner cartridges, refurbish a local wetland, identify and remove invasive species from a local creek – and plant thousands of milkweed plants to help save migrating monarch butterflies. These impressive environmental service projects helped him earn BSA’s prestigious Silver Hornaday Award, Scouting’s highest conservation recognition. Ben’s milkweed planting project also earned him the 2020 Texas Environmental Excellence Award.
“I reached out to every school, daycare, and even nursing home from Del Rio to Uvalde, Texas. It wasn’t done in a weekend. It was done over three full years. Different groups did different tasks, but everybody helped,” said Ben. “I think my proudest moment was watching the maturation of the milkweed plants and seeing the project succeed. The monarch’s population is improving as they return to west Texas just because we planted thousands of milkweed seeds.”
Growing up, Ben volunteered more than 6000 hours over six years leading and participating in community service projects. Ben served the Church as a parish Youth Group Leader, altar server, Vacation Bible School teacher, and lead usher. In Scouting, Ben not only achieved the rank of Eagle but was the first Scout to earn the Summit Award in his Venture Crew. In 2019, he was recognized by Scouting and Boy’s Life Magazines for receiving every earnable rank, merit badge, award, and medal in both the Scouting and Venture Programs. He was the 2020 Texas VFW Scout of the Year and the 2019 Operation Homefront Air Force Military Child of the Year – recognized for his service, leadership, academic excellence and extracurricular involvement – all while facing the challenges of military family life.
For his Eagle Scout Project completed when he was 13, Ben researched, created, and developed a one-hour DVD documentary for the Laughlin Heritage Museum in Del Rio to preserve local military history. To complete the 1,906-hour project, he raised $5,000 and trained 15 retired military adults to help finish the project. Ben has also assisted thirty-two other Scouts with their Eagle Scout projects.
“Don’t just wait for someone to give you something to do, go looking for things that you like to do. Find a pet shelter, tutor other kids at school, help sort food at the food bank. Encourage others in your family and troop to help you. I didn’t get here by myself; my mom and my sibling Riley were right there with me,” said Ben who credits a Texas Scouting alum, the late John Keyes Finegan, for helping him explore all Scouting has to offer, despite financial challenges his family faced. “One of the most important things I learned in Scouting was the applicability of service in preparation for real life. Doing beyond what is normal and what is expected, sometimes provides the path you may have never taken.”
The National Catholic Committee on Scouting awarded Ben a $5,000 college scholarship in 2020 through the Emmett J. Doerr Memorial Scout Scholarship Fund for his service to Scouting, his parish, his community and the Church. Ben is now a junior at the University of Washington, Bothell School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) studying electrical engineering. and he says “spare time is a luxury” given the rigorous courseload. Still, Ben says “I never miss an opportunity to support military Veteran causes.” He has also served as a tutor to fellow students and as an IT tech.
“If you can volunteer for it, sign me up! Why do I do all these things? Because my head and my heart tell me to do so,” said Ben. “A Scout pledges an oath to serve his God, His country, other people, and himself. I am just following my version of the Scout Oath and I know that I am doing the right thing.”