Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Northeast Times: Family Tradition

Northeast Times highlights four eagles.

At the start of football preseason last month, Eagles fans began preparing for the associated sport traditions, such as chanting "Fly Eagles, fly," the first words to the team’s fight song.

At the same time in Fox Chase, the Sender family watched their youngest son become a different type of Eagle — and the fourth in his family.

John Sender, 18, has followed in the footsteps of his three older brothers — Peter, 25, Daniel, 23, and Matthew, 20 — who are all Eagle Scouts. Becoming an Eagle at all is rare — only 5 percent of Boy Scouts nationwide have received the honor.

But the Senders give 100 percent. And troops throughout the state know it.

"They say, ‘They’re the Sender family,’" John said in a mock tone of intimidation.

While collectively a local legend within Troop 251, based at the Fox Chase United Methodist Church, each Sender son had individual reasons for sticking with scouting.

"We’re a group of friends," Peter said of his troop. "If you don’t have that core group around, you might not stay involved."

"You get back as much as you give," Dan said.

"It’s worth it. It’s something that you look back on and cherish," Matt said.

"It gives kids the opportunity to succeed," John said of his lifelong hobby. "Some drop out because they don’t like doing the work."

The Sender sons became involved in scouting upon entering grade school. When a Boy Scout aspires to Eagle, he must pass specific tests related to merit badges. He must also organize and lead service projects, to be completed within a set amount of time.

The Senders’ projects included repairing a church in Bristol, cleaning up Burholme Park, entertaining at the Philadelphia Protestant Home in Lawncrest and installing smoke detectors for local senior citizens.

Matt completed his project first and earned the most merit badges.

"Summer camp merit badges were fun," Matt said. "We just had a blast."

Family Life and Personal Management badges were harder, he said. They require Scouts to create and adhere to a budget, among other "grown-up" responsibilities.

Peter said he uses much of the knowledge he learned from scouting.

"There are everyday things that are useful. Even tying knots," he said.

There also is the knowledge they pass to younger Scouts — and the mistakes they learned not to repeat.

"On a camping trip with Dan, I left the tent flap open," Matt recalled. "When we came back, there were spiders and ticks everywhere. I didn’t sleep all night because I was scared of tick bites."

The Senders have remained active in scouting. Dan and John belong to the Order of the Arrow, a national scouting honor society, and Venturing posts, which highlight areas of nature, sports and arts. The two have particularly enjoyed learning about Native American dance through that program.

"It’s good, because it keeps the kids involved until they’re twenty-one," said mom Donna Sender.

Scouting wasn’t the Senders’ only hobby, however. All the brothers, who attended Central High School in North Philadelphia, are athletes and play musical instruments. They also are strong Christians who stayed involved in religious activities.

Asked if they ever wavered in their commitment, the brothers said "no" — for the most part.

"I made fun of it in middle school, and in high school I was proud of it," Matt said. "I’ve been ever since."

"The older Scouts have to be good leaders. It’s almost impossible to do (scouting activities) by yourself," John said.

"They were really self-motivated," mom added. "There was no nagging. They were really blessed with incredible Scout leaders."

Additionally, the Sender parents gleaned positives from their 17-year involvement with the Boy Scouts. They were never troop leaders, but helped their children with projects when needed. Dad Stephen had been involved with the association, but only as a Cub Scout.

"We had fun. We made friends," the boys’ mother said.

The Sender men seem to have bright futures in store. All but John are married. The youngest Sender just began classes at Pennsylvania State University, Abington Campus. He plans to eventually major in civil engineering.

Matthew is a biochemistry and chemistry double major at Ursinus College, and Dan is working toward a master’s in violin performance at the University of Maryland. Peter works for State Farm Insurance in Lawncrest.

"I’m so proud," said their mother. "We’re so thankful that they were young men willing to become leaders."

The brothers also want to give back to the Boy Scouts, whether as future troop leaders or in other capacities.

"All the adults that give to you, you want to give back," Peter said. "I think we all plan on doing that."

After all, once an Eagle, always an Eagle.

"It’s something you can share with people for the rest of your life. When you’re seventy years old, you can still say you’re an Eagle," Dan said.

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