It is a warm September afternoon. A group of a dozen teenage boys are playing a pick-up baseball game after school, showing of their mad skills to a group of giggling girls sitting in the bleachers.
As the ball is shot like a rocket off of Matt’s bat into the gap between the second baseman and the shortstop, Brian picks up his pace in an effort to score from second base. It’s going to be close. He closes his eyes and slides toward home plate.
Brian barrels into the catcher, Steve, waiting to tag him out at the plate. He is safe, but there is a problem. Brian can’t move his arm. The sharp point of the broken bone, is sticking out of the skin near his elbow; a puddle of blood begins to pool.
The girls scream. Matt runs to his bag and grabs his cell phone. He calls 9-l-l. The dispatcher asks where he is. He doesn’t know, only that he is at the baseball field. He doesn’t know the address or the name of the field.
Then he notices the sign on the fence: Zabbo Little League Field, 251 Parker St.
Paramedics arrive quickly. Brian will be back on the diamond, good as new, in the spring.
The tale of Brian and his busted arm is fiction, but the informational signs recently posted at 53 city parks are very real; the work of 14-year-old Justin St. Louis.
“I thought it was an awesome idea and decided to make it happen,” said Justin, who took on the task as his Eagle Scout project. “In times of crisis, a visual is important.”
The aim of the project is to reduce emergency response times by giving dispatchers an exact address to which to send police, firefighters and ambulances in case of emergency. But, it also provides sports leagues that use the fields an exact address and field name to provide to teams coming from out of town, ss well as family members and friends coming to watch games.
While most Lowellians know where the 50-acre Shedd Park is, do they know where Page Softball Field is? Well, it’s at Shedd Park, as is Gallagher Little League Field, Gresco Senior League Baseball Field and Farrel-Cahill-Perrin Little League Field.
In March, Justin started the gears turning. He engaged city officials in discussions of how to make this happen. Working with Parks Commissioner Tom Bellegarde, he compiled a list of the city’s parks and fields used by families and sports leagues. In the process, he discovered the addresses assigned to some were incorrect and had them changed.
For instance, the city had Gage Field in Centralville listed with a Bridge Street address; it is on Beacon Street.
Justin met with staff in the City Engineer’s office and had his project signed off on and endorsed by City Manager Bernie Lynch.
On June 13, he held a pasta supper at St. Rita’s parish hall, raising $1,800 for the materials required to make the project a reality; the supper drew 200 people including City Councilor Rita Mercier and City Engineer Lisa DeMeo.
On two days on September, Justin and his band of three dozen volunteers met at the Shedd Park Field House where he deployed them to every corner of the city: from Cawley Stadium to Father Maguire Park, from St. Louis Park to Callery Park.
Like Napoleon, Justin realized an Army marches on its stomach. He was sure to keep his Army in pizza and cookies. Morale was kept high by keeping the atmosphere light and the task in perspective – instructions #12 and #13 of the 14 item check list for installing signs were “admire your work” and “smile.”
When all was said and done, the group had completed 309 hours of community service and the signs were installed without a hitch.
“I was impressed with Justin from the first time I met him; I could see that he had great self-discipline and he wanted to give back to the community,” said Lynch. “The project fills an important public safety need in the city.
“I was even more impressed at the way he got it done so quickly without any obvious hurdles along the way,” added Lynch. “This is a great project that could serve as a model for other communities.”
The city certainly hasn’t seen the last of Justin St. Louis. At 14-years-old he is quite young to be completing his Eagle Scout Project; he decided at the age of 12 he wanted to achieve Eagle at 14, so he took out his calendar and plotted out all of the milestones he had to hit and by when he had to hit them to achieve his goal. He did it.
Justin, who joined the Boy Scouts when he was 7-years-old and holds a leadership position on the Order of the Arrow (the National Honors Society of Scouting), intends to stay very involved in scouting.
A freshman at Lowell High School, he also serves in a leadership position in the U.S. Air Force Jr. ROTC and on the crew team.
“I learned all of my leadership skills through scouting, and have learned how to deal with people of all ages,” said Justin, adding he plans on building upon those skills and taking them to a much higher level.
“I want to be President or a pilot,” he says matter-of-factly.
Future President Justin St. Louis will address the City Council on Tuesday November 13.