Scouting is in Kieron Pleis’ blood.
The 16-year-old from Lawndale, a member of Boy Scout Troop 563, has had great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters serve as leaders and members of various Boy Scout and Girl Scout-related organizations from Olney to Ireland.
Kieron became a Cub Scout in first grade and today is junior assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 563.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “I’ve met the greatest guys I know through Scouting.”
On June 2, Kieron was in the spotlight for all of his achievements over the last nine years, as about 150 people turned out for his Eagle Scout Court of Honor.
The teenager was humbled by the turnout.
“They all had a part in me getting to become an Eagle,” he said.
The guests who gathered at St. William parish hall lined the perimeter of the room, passing Kieron’s Eagle Scout medal to one another before it made its way to Christine Pleis, who was a Girl Guide in her native Ireland and later got permission from Monsignor James Mortimer to form a Girl Scout program at St. William.
Christine Pleis pinned the medal to her son’s uniform shirt, putting him in pretty exclusive company. He’s among 29 Troop 563 Eagle Scouts since 1993.
And, as Boy Scouts Cradle of Liberty Council board member Mark Chilutti explained, only about 4 percent to 5 percent of boys who join the organization become Eagle Scouts.
“He’s been a model Scout,” said Ryan Murphy, the Troop 563 scoutmaster. “He’s gotten so much out of the program that he will take with him the rest of his life. He’s set the bar high.”
Murphy became an Eagle Scout in 2005, painting the walls of St. William’s lower church for his project. Kyle Pleis, Kieron’s older brother, earned Eagle Scout rank the same year.
Kieron’s project included power washing and painting the exterior walls, the trim, the window panes and the entrance and exit doors of the St. William kindergarten building. He also replaced windows, stained two wooden flower boxes and a raised garden bed and replanted the boxes and an adjacent prayer garden. The school closed in June 2012, after his work was completed.
“I talked to Father Joe beforehand,” he said of the Rev. Joseph Watson, pastor at St. William. “I went to the school and wanted to give back.”
Family members and fellow Scouts assisted him.
“They all wanted to help,” he said. “We had a different crew every day.”
An Eagle Scout Board of Review approved Kieron’s work in January, leading to the preparation for Sunday’s extravaganza.
The project alone does not lead to the rank of Eagle Scout.
Over the years, Kieron has won numerous awards, taken leadership positions and earned 35 merit badges for everything from insect study to wilderness survival. Chilutti remembers him addressing a Cradle of Liberty Council dinner as a Cub Scout of 7 or 8.
A St. William Elementary School graduate, Kieron was an altar server and a member of CYO sports teams.
At Roman Catholic High School, where he is a sophomore, he’s an honor student, a varsity lacrosse player and a member of the Junior Ancient Order of Hibernians.
The tables in the St. William hall were filled with certificates, citations and other congratulatory notes for Kieron.
Local elected officials honoring him included U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey; U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz, Bob Brady and Mike Fitzpatrick; Mayor Michael Nutter; Philadelphia City Council; state Sens. Shirley Kitchen and Larry Farnese; state Reps. Brendan Boyle, Kevin Boyle, Mark Cohen and Cherelle Parker; State Treasurer Rob McCord; and Auditor General Gene DiPasquale.
Lawncrest Community Association president Bill Dolbow presented him with an American flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol in March. The LCA will honor Kieron at its June 18 meeting and will fly the flag in the Lawncrest Recreation Center grove during the July 4 celebration.
Others honors came from a wide variety of people: Alex Trebek; newsman Rob Jennings; radio personalities Preston and Steve; Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio; West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin; adventurer Bear Grylls; Momma Dietz; and Larry the Cable Guy.
Kieron, who lives on Shelbourne Street, also had a chance to give out some honors, presenting Eagle Scout mentoring pins to former cubmaster and scoutmaster Ernie Fink and his parents, Ron and Christine.
Scouting offers opportunities for outdoor activities, and members gain valuable skills, take on leadership roles and learn to work together, Kieron said. He recommends Scouting for other boys.
“You learn life lessons you don’t get in other programs,” he said.
This summer, he’ll serve as a counselor for nine weeks at the Resica Falls Scout Reservation camp in the Pocono Mountains.
Kieron, who is eyeing a career as an electrical engineer, plans to remain a Troop 563 member for years to come.
“I want to stay involved and help the younger guys, hopefully to make Eagle,” he said. ••