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Cuyahoga Falls twins follow family footsteps in earning Eagle Scout rank

Akron Beacon Journal 9/27/2022 Eric Marotta, Akron Beacon Journal

As young girls, Kathryn and Marjorie Spinner would hang out at their brothers' Cub Scout meetings, never realizing that they would some day earn Scouting's highest rank.

The twins from Cuyahoga Falls are among 17 Great Trail Council girls who have become Eagle Scouts since Scouting was opened to girls in 2019. But they are remarkable in that they both also earned the Girl Scout Gold Award before joining their brothers and father as Eagle Scouts last year.

The pandemic delayed their honor and the two were recognized at a traditional Eagle Court of Honor at the end of July at Camp Manatoc, where they have been part-time instructors for the past several years.

The 20-year-olds (born about 20 minutes apart) are in their junior year at the University of Akron, with Kathryn studying art education and Marjorie hoping to become a music teacher. They are 2020 graduates of Cuyahoga Falls High School.

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Five Eagle Scouts in the family

The sisters were formally allowed to join their brothers Jake and Noah Spinner in Troop 7153 in Silver Lake in February 2019, when Boy Scouts of America allowed girls 11 to 17 to join for the first time.

The organization was renamed Scouts BSA.

Both girls, who were then 17, immediately set their sights on earning the rank of Eagle.

The sisters said they thought about becoming Eagle Scouts in 2018, when news came out that girls would soon be allowed to join Scouting. Marjorie said it was initially just a matter of speculation.

"The first discussion that I had was at a RubberDucks game. It was on Father's Day, and I was sitting next to my older brother and he said, 'Wouldn't it be cool if Dad had four Eagle Scouts?' I said: 'Look Jake, I'm doing my Gold Award; it's my senior year in high school. Let me enjoy my life.' "

Kathryn said the idea quickly took hold.

"My father and my two brothers being so into Scouting, and with us being really close in the Scouting community, when it happened, it was a cool thing," said Kathryn.

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"Scouting is life," said Marjorie. "We started Girl Scouts when we were in kindergarten, but we still attended Boy Scout meetings through our brothers — it was easier that way to keep everyone together."

Their father, JD Spinner, said he had earned his Eagle promotion at age 14 in 1979. He continued with Scouting though high school, took a break in college, then after a time got married and started having children.

"My oldest, Jake, came home from elementary school and says, 'Dad, this guy came in and showed us Pinewood Derby cars,' and he wondered about becoming a Cub Scout," Spinner said. "'Do you know about that?' he asked. 'Well, yes I do!' I told him."

He had volunteered as an assistant scoutmaster after college until he got married, and signed up again.

"It's hard not to be part of it," he said.

The girls eventually got involved as well, including with the Pinewood Derby, a miniature Soap Box Derby.

"My daughters would see their brothers doing all these things. We used to have a siblings Pinewood Derby event, where the brothers and sisters would build miniature cars," JD said.

And even though the girls were also members Girl Scouts, he said the girls' program was "never the same."

"It was just a different program," he said.

Cramming 8 years into 2 to earn Eagle Scout rank

The twins said they faced quite a few challenges, including a two-year time limit to fulfill requirements in the areas of leadership, service and outdoor skills, in addition to finishing high school, starting college and closures due to COVID-19.

"I think the biggest challenge is we were given a time limit," Marjorie said, explaining that the boys in their troop had been able to work toward attaining the rank since they had been 10-11 years old, or around eight years.

While the requirements for Eagle must be completed by the time a Scout is 18, girls who joined in 2019 were given two years to complete all the requirements and their Eagle projects.

COVID-19 also posed problems. For one thing, the rank of First Class Scout requires a swim test, which became an issue when all local pools were closed as part of pandemic shutdown measures. 

The shutdown also made it difficult to earn merit badges — accomplishment of specific skills such as First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, Personal Fitness and more. Of the 136 merit badges available, 13 specific badges are required and a total of 21 must be earned to qualify for Eagle Scout.

The sisters were fortunate in that their long association with Scouting had led to summer jobs as mentors and instructors at Camp Manatoc, starting in 2018. They stayed for more than a month at the camp during the shutdown, working remotely as merit badge instructors for other Scouts, and had enough free time to devote to earning Eagle rank.

They also had valuable advice from their brothers and father, who all had gone through the requirements themselves.

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Eagle, Gold projects targeted at service to the community

For their projects, Marjorie organized the construction of a brick path from a parking lot to a wheelchair-accessible entrance at The Church in Silver Lake. Kathryn organized construction of a brick prayer path at the church.

They said the planning for the service projects took nearly two years and required the organization of donations, as well as volunteers to lay out, dig and place the bricks. W.L. Tucker Supply Co. of Cuyahoga Falls donated pavers.

The projects also required various government approvals, which had to be considered as part of the construction timeline.

Scouts BSA says the primary purposes of the Eagle Scout service project is to demonstrate or hone, or to learn and develop, leadership skills. Related to this are important lessons in project management and taking responsibility for a significant accomplishment.

The girls had already achieved the highest honor in Girl Scouts through service projects benefiting their hometown of Cuyahoga Falls.

At the same time they joined Scouts, the sisters had been completing requirements for their Gold Awards, Girl Scouts' highest honor. According to the Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio, the honor is achieved by only about 5% of eligible Senior Scouts (girls in ninth and 10th grades) and Ambassador Scouts (girls in 11th and 12th grades).

They earned their Gold awards in 2020. Marjorie's project involved construction of shoe-box-sized cars made of wire. From in-person workshops to an online format, she taught artists how to problem solve, create and build their own wired cars in order to create a virtual “cruise,” or a parade, of all of the artists driving their artwork.

Kathryn's project involved distributing blank postcards to city residents, who were invited to decorate them with a memory or favorite place in Cuyahoga Falls. Hundreds of the postcards were returned, and with the help of Downtown Cuyahoga Falls Partnership and the parks and recreation department, Kathryn was able to display the cards in the downtown pavilion windows. 

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Their mother, Cuyahoga Falls City Council Ward 2 representative Susan Spinner, said she is proud of her children.

"It's rare that the girls continue on and make it to Gold, and it's rare that the boys continue on to make it to Eagle," she said.

"There was some expectation that the boys would make it to Eagle," she said, adding it wasn't surprising that the sisters followed the same path, as they had been so involved with Scouting for so many years — including as young merit badge instructors at Camp Manatoc even before they joined Troop 7153.

Great Trail Council Executive Patrick Sherer said there have been about 175 Eagle promotions in the past two years, 17 of whom have been girls. There are about 6,000 Scouts in the council, which stretches from Medina to the Pennsylvania border.

The Great Trail Council is comprised of four districts, pictured here. © Courtesy of the Great Trail Council The Great Trail Council is comprised of four districts, pictured here.

"Right now, 5% of all Scouts attain the rank of Eagle Scout," he said. "The girls are doing it at a little bit higher percentage rate than the boys are, but I think there was some pent-up demand for them to have the opportunity. I think it will come closer to the boy's rate as it becomes more normal ...

"It's the one of those few things that you can do before your 18th birthday that you can keep on your resume your entire life."

Sisters describe future plans as leaders, mentors

Like their father, the girls said they plan to continue being involved in Scouting.

"Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout, and always involved," said Marjorie. "I still go to troop functions, and I still support my Scouts if they need help with advancements and if they need help with a certain task, I'm still there for them."

"You're always an Eagle Scout," said Kathryn. "I'm still signed up as a merit badge counselor, and I still get emails saying so-and-so needs help with ...

"Woodcarving," Marjorie interjected.

"Hopefully, in 20 years, I want to inspire other girls like me and still be a rep and a good ambassador for the organization," Kathryn said.

Eric Marotta can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MarottaEric.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Cuyahoga Falls twins follow family footsteps in earning Eagle Scout rank

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