Thanks to his love for the Boy Scouts, 16-year-old Ridgeite Joseph D’Onofrio is making a positive difference in his neighborhood.
D’Onofrio, who is entering his junior year at Xaverian High School, is a member of St. Anselm’s Boy Scout Troop 13 and is quickly on his way to achieving his main goal, becoming an Eagle Scout.
“I was 11 years old when I started,” he said. “All my friends continued with me and I still love it.”
There are many reasons that D’Onofrio’s love for the Scouts keeps growing. One of them is his passion for learning and teamwork. “I love the sense of camaraderie, skills and things you learn about,” he said. “It’s not just about values and life lessons. You learn skills like cooking and how to sail boats and kayak, and how to swim properly and save someone if they’re drowning. You learn so many different things that are useful. That’s why I continue to stay.”
With all the lessons to be learned, some of the most vital ones to the Bay Ridge resident involve healing people. “I enjoy learning first aid because one of the main things in Boy Scouts is safety first,” D’Onofrio said. “They teach you to do CPR and obtain badges that involve first aid, like what to do if you get a certain bug bite or snake bite. It’s really useful.”
There have been many highlights within his time with the Scouts, but D’Onofrio’s favorite moment was completing his Eagle Project, which involved improving the 68th Precinct Youth Council Baseball Field at Shore Road and 83rd Street. “I had a huge group of volunteers and we painted all of the picnic benches and tables where they eat,” he said. “There are about four tables and we painted all of them. We also painted three of their sheds that needed repairs.”
The teens also built shelving in one of the bigger sheds because at the time there wasn’t a lot of storage space. “It’s shared between the soccer and the baseball league. Now they have a better system of storing everything and keeping everything separate from the different sports,” he eagerly recalled. “It was my proudest moment. I’ve been to so many of the older Scouts’ projects and it was something I always aspired to do. I said to myself that I’d be there one day and when it happened it felt surreal. It was almost like I was in shock.”
D’Onofrio could’ve chosen any Eagle Project. However, the field holds a special meaning for him, having played baseball there and watching his younger family members use the facilities. “I played with the league for many years. I was there every weekend,” he explained. “I figured they needed it done and I knew I could help.”
Although he encountered difficult times while completing his project, watching others become Eagle Scouts was an inspiration for D’Onofrio. “Ever since I was a first year Scout, I had gone to some of the Eagle Scout projects and I thought it was a really great thing to do and I just always wanted to give back to community,” he said. He is just four merit badges and a couple of other tasks away from becoming an Eagle Scout.
D’Onofrio encourages others to engage in the community and keep trying within the Scouts programs. “It might be hard, but in the end, it pays off. It’s good to help the community and a high honor to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.”