It’s called the LCS Joyful Noise — and the joy it has given children at this area private school has reached a national level.
Nathan Fain, a 16-year-old homeschooled rising 11th-grader in LaGrange, won the 2018 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award.
All of which means his project, creating a $40,000, handicapped-accessible musical playground at Lafayette Christian School, was rated the best among more than 50,000 service projects completed the previous year by an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouting program.
For more than a year, Nathan tried to come up with a fitting Eagle Scout project. Near the start of the 2016-17 school year, he decided his project should benefit LCS, which allows him to play on its football and soccer teams despite being homeschooled.
He met with LCS headmaster John Cipolla to brainstorm project ideas. Cipolla mentioned seeing a musical playground elsewhere and suggested it would be a useful addition to the school, especially for the disabled students.
“There was nothing for them to do outside,” Nathan said. “That really hit a spot in me.”
Then he took the project idea a step further: He designed this musical playground as a way to integrate the approximately 10 special-needs students with the 200 regular-education students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
“I put it in the playground where all the other children play and made it handicapped accessible so they could all play together,” he said.
The LCS Joyful Noise playground comprises three drums, two 4-foot-wide metallophones and one 6-by-8-foot set of chimes. A concrete path enables wheelchair-bound children to roll up to the playground, and a structure around the playground enables students to feel as if they’re playing on a stage where they also can perform skits.
The playground’s name came from a conversation Nathan had while working on the project with his father, Jay Fain, an electrical engineer with Milliken & Company, who mentioned the Bible verse Psalm 98:4: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!”
“The project is based on giving children joy and making noise,” Nathan said, “so I just thought that verse would be good for the name.”
And that verse is cited on a plaque affixed to the playground, which opened March 23, 2017, six months after his project idea was approved.
“I’m very excited and glad it’s had the outcome that it’s had, the impact on the children,” Nathan said. “They love playing on it, and I get to see them using it.”
Nathan is a member of Troop 326 in LaGrange, which is part of the Columbus-based Chattahoochee Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
“I have witnessed many of the special-needs children thoroughly enjoying this wonderful acoustical play area,” said Joe Westbrook, the scout executive for the council’s Yellow Jacket District, serving Troup, Meriwether and Heard counties.
Nathan and his volunteers put in more than 1,200 hours to construct the playground, “which was well beyond the average number of hours worked on an Eagle Project,” Westbrook said. “… The detail and number of hours put in by his worker volunteers was amazing and was documented carefully in his Eagle Workbook.”
Nathan has participated in Scouting since he was 6.
“When I joined up, I really started because I wanted to be with my brother (Jeremy),” he said. “As I progressed, it turned into more of a challenge, something that teaches me values I can use throughout my life.”
The most significant value Scouting has taught him, Nathan said, is the importance of leadership.
“It’s not just telling people what to do,” he said, “but it’s to teach them how to do it.”
Nathan tested his leadership skills by raising $22,000 in cash and getting $18,000 in donated material and equipment, he said. He went door-to-door among LaGrange businesses and solicited certain individuals for financial or in-kind contributions.
“His leadership really showed by his dedication to the project and by seeking experts to assist in the design and construction,” Westbrook said.
Although he succeeded, asking adults for help was the toughest part of the project for Nathan.
“I had to make sure they knew what I wanted done,” he said. “… People high up in companies, if you go there with a sincere need and something they could be interested in, it’s not like you’re going up against some giant machine or monster.”
The best part of the project, Nathan said, was when 18 of his teenage friends and fellow Boy Scouts gathered to help him put up the playground.
“We got to see it come to life,” he said. “Just seeing it come together and realize it was a reality was really exciting.”
The national Eagle Scout project award includes a $2,500 scholarship. Nathan wants to attend Georgia Tech and become a mechanical engineer.
This project shows he is on track to achieve that goal.