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Kirtland High School Junior's Eagle Scout Project Brings Gaga Ball Fun to Elementary Schoolers
Kirtland Elementary School students are enjoying the fast-paced inclusive fun of Gaga Ball on their playground thanks to Kirtland High School junior Walter Knoop’s recent Eagle Scout project as a member of Scout Troop 286. Gaga Ball is a fast-paced game of dodge-ball contained in a 20’ octagon - the trick being you slap the ball rather than throw it, and you are only “out” if the ball hits you below the knee. All players have a chance at winning these quick games encouraging many exciting rounds during a recess period.
Walter’s idea for the Gaga Ball pit comes from years of playing this fun game at summer camp. Conceiving and leading a multi-generational community project, Walter organized a team of 21 adults and students to build the octagon on the elementary playground. These volunteers combined to provide 74 hours of service on March 24. All this was made possible thanks to the financial support of the Kirtland Kiwanis and Barber Williams American Legion Post 609, as well as an in-kind donation of lumber from the Chardon Home Depot.
To get approval for such a task, Walter met with Superintendent Chad VanArnhem and Elementary Principal Katy Nagaj, to discuss the project and ensure the pit’s location wouldn’t interfere with other activities. With these approvals, Walter began the work needed to make the idea into reality: fundraising, communication, and organizing the work that needed done.
“When Walter brought his idea to us, we were thrilled,” said Nagaj. “We knew that students would welcome the addition of Gaga Ball to the recess experience. He chose a familiar, fast-paced and high energy game that allows many students to play and enjoy together. I was impressed with his organization, plan, and follow-through.”
Walter says that he found the most challenging part of the project was directing people during the building phase, as the project is deceptively difficult to assemble with the heavy wood sections. But as everyone worked together they found their pace and tempo and it was a big success.
Earning Eagle Scout is a demanding and difficult process such that only six percent of all registered Scouts ever achieve this prestigious award. Walter is joining the long tradition of Eagle Scouts from Troop 286 which is celebrating its 65th anniversary chartered through Kirtland’s Old South Church. 
To earn Eagle Scout, Walter completed the previous six Scouting ranks while earning the required 21 merit badges (and a few more for fun) which include serious study of first aid, lifesaving, community and civic engagement, and physical skills. Beginning in first grade, Walter has completed every rank of Scouting and led Troop 286 through multiple outdoor adventures such as backpacking, canoe camping trips, white-water rafting and many service projects. 
With the completion of this fun and exciting project, Walter is grateful to have had so much community support and knows that Kirtland students will enjoy Gaga Ball for years to come. “We are extremely grateful that Walter chose KES for his Eagle Project and created this opportunity for our Hornets,” said Nagaj.