Friday, October 7 2022

POWELL — There were many obstacles that Drew Valdez faced on the path to advancement to Eagle Scout. COVID-19, supply chain issues, inflation, and a bit of self-doubt all stood between him and his required service project.

But he had a dream, and on Saturday he saw it come true, including winning Gaga Ball’s first organized match at Powell’s Homesteader Park.

Dozens of scouts and enthusiastic spectators came to the park, many with no idea of ​​Gaga Ball.

But after a short groundbreaking ceremony, Valdez explained the game and within minutes he was victorious in the gladiator-style hex, ready for more fun. Pleasure is the key word here.

“It’s family. And there’s a lot of competition in there as well,” Valdez said.

The Gaga Ball is a variation of dodgeball played in a Gaga “pit”. The game combines dodging, kicking, running and jumping, with the goal of being the last person standing. Players hit the ball with their hands and are out if the ball hits them at or below the knee.

Once out, you can get back into the game if you catch a wayward ball leaving the hex, so you’re never really out of the game as long as there’s only one player left.

Valdez was introduced to the game in 2016. But it wasn’t until four years later, while looking for a project, that he was reintroduced to the game at Boy Scout camp.

At the same time, the cost of supplies for the project rose dramatically as pandemic lockdowns persisted. With a price tag of over $1,000 for the materials, Valdez doubted he could raise enough money.

Powell’s companies and contributors shined brightly. Almost everyone he contacted was willing to donate.

Aldrich Home Center secured almost half of the funds to get the project off the ground. Valdez said he had an “inside guy” at Aldrich. Troop 26 Scoutmaster Donnie Peterson is a salesman at the company.

Valdez was yet to appear before City Council, seek approval from Parks Department Director Tim Miller, and inquire about the permitting process with city building official Ben Hubbard.

It took more than six months of work before he could finally deliver all the materials to the site, just west of the festive park play area.

The final task was to build the structure. Valdez prepared by spending time creating specifications on an architectural design program. Then he had to lead a crew to erect the pit, which took four days to ensure it would be a solid addition to the park.

“The point of Project Eagle is that he’s running the project, like he’s a manager, and he’s got to get everyone to do the work and lead them,” Peterson said.

Valdez won the opener but was the first out in the second as the fun continued on a sunny day. If you want to play, all you need is a hard ball, like a kick ball, and a group of friends ready for a rumble.

Valdez donated a ball to the cause, but suggests bringing your own.

“That one won’t last long,” he predicted.

It will be another four to six months before Valdez is promoted to Eagle Scout.

His next challenge will be with the US armed forces, probably the military, he said. He’s still weighing his options and talking to Navy and Air Force recruiters.

Chris and Pam Valdez are the proud parents.

“He worked really hard on this project,” Pam said.

Neither had seen the match played until Saturday, but both said it looked fun to watch from a shady spot on a hot day. Despite the challenges, Drew’s perseverance is what impressed them.

“He’s not one to give up,” Chris said.

This story was published on August 23, 2022.

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