In August 2008, Cannon Ciota, 18, of East Peoria, joined the prestigious group of dedicated Scouts to earn the highest possible ranking of Eagle Scout. In 2008 only about 5 percent of all Scouts earned the ranking of Eagle Scout.

In August 2008, Cannon Ciota, 18, of East Peoria, joined the prestigious group of dedicated Scouts to earn the highest possible ranking of Eagle Scout. In 2008 only about 5 percent of all Scouts earned the ranking of Eagle Scout.

But Boy Scout Troop 147 in East Peoria, a small troop with a large number becoming Eagle Scouts, has far exceeded the national average.

Ciota attributes his troop’s high number of Eagle Scouts to their small size and the leadership of their troop leader, Gary Anderson.

“Our troop is actually much smaller than most troops, and I think that’s why so many of us achieve Eagle Scout ranking. We see the others doing it and we all encourage each other,” Ciota said.

While encouragement and support from family and friends are key factors to completing the rigorous requirements to earning Eagle Scout rank, Ciota said it is something everyone must decide to do for themselves.

“It is such a huge time and work commitment. No one can force you to do it. It is something you have to choose to do yourself,” Ciota said.

Ciota joined Tiger Cubs when he was 5 years old and then went on to Cub Scouts. He officially joined East Peoria Boy Scout Troop 147 in 2002.

In order to attain Eagle Scout ranking, Scouts must complete a number of requirements, including earning 21 merit badges, passing through six ranks, serving six months in a troop leadership position and completing a community service project.

The community service project must benefit the Scout’s community in some way. The Scout must plan, develop and lead the project.   

“I decided I wanted to do something to improve Camp Wokanda for my service project. I had camped there a lot as a Scout and it is a great campground,” Ciota said.

After consulting with Ranger JD Russell of the Peoria Park District, it was decided that Ciota would make the camp’s South Cabin more habitable and easier to maintain by installing a gravel pathway leading from the trail to the cabin entrance and by building a retaining wall around the front of the cabin where the ground eroded.

“The camp told me they had a problem with the South Cabin because of erosion and mud between the main path and the cabin. They explained the issues and I came up with the plan to fix them,” Ciota said.

Before implementing his plans, Ciota presented a 14-page report on the current condition of the South Cabin and detailed plans of the work he and 10 volunteers would complete. This report contained a list of all materials needed and where they would come from, tools needed, estimated cost of the project, work methods, to-scale diagrams of the planned work and a detailed schedule for the day, including a couple of 15-minute breaks.

The plans were approved and the work was scheduled for Aug. 9, 2008.

The estimated cost of the project was $650. While Camp Wokanda donated most of the materials, Ciota’s father, Nathaniel Ciota, pitched in with landscaping spikes, some needed tools and food and drinks for the volunteers.

Ciota and his group used wood boards and stakes to build a border for the 90-foot-long and 7-foot-wide path from the main path to the cabin entrance. The frame was then filled in with gravel.

The retaining wall around the cabin was built using buried railroad ties.

The day of the project, Ciota was in charge of instructing the volunteers on the proper use of tools, dividing the volunteers into teams and supervising and guiding their progress.

As one of the Peoria Park District rangers who approved the plans and completed project, Russell said Eagle Scout projects are an important part of their yearly maintenance and park improvement.

“Basically, the South Cabin was a muddy mess with the ground eroding away from the front and side of the cabin. It would have only continued to get worse if it were not for Cannon’s project. The cabin has been a lot more popular this summer because of the improvements,” Russell said.

Russell said the park district attracts about five to six Eagle Scout projects per year, with many of them based around the erosion problems on trails and around cabins.

Ciota was officially given the rank of Eagle Scout at the Eagle Scout Award Ceremony March 22 at Cross Point Church in East Peoria.

Ciota said the Boy Scouts has given him some incredible memories, including building a 30-foot-tall, 100-foot-long bridge out of logs in a matter of hours for a pioneering merit badge.

“I have learned a lot of skills I never would have learned without the Scouts. I want to continue to be involved with Scouting because I want to give others the opportunity to learn these skills,” Ciota said.

He is now an assistant Scoutmaster passing on his skills to the next generation of Boy Scouts.