When it comes to choosing their service or leadership project on the path to becoming an Eagle Scout, many candidates draw inspiration from situations or challenges within their communities, faith centers, or schools. However, Life Scout Manny Parker, hailing from the Gulf Stream Council in Florida, embarked on a unique journey by using his own life history as the foundation for his pinnacle project.
Manny, an aspiring Eagle Scout, undertook a mission to provide leadership and service by organizing a team to create comfort and care packages. These thoughtful packages are destined for families with children staying in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at St. Mary Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
But Manny’s commitment didn’t stop there. In a remarkable display of dedication, he is currently leading the preparations for a similar effort next month, where he will deliver these care packages to families in the NICU at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
September holds a special significance for this endeavor, as it is National NICU Awareness Month. You might wonder why Manny chose the NICU over other areas of the hospital. The answer lies in Manny’s own history—he was a “graduate” of the NICU in Maryland 15 years ago.
Born prematurely, Manny weighed a mere 1 pound, 4 ounces at birth and spent his entire first year in the NICU. His hearing was lost at around 15 months, leading him to rely on cochlear implants for hearing. Over the years, Manny has undergone an astonishing 78 blood transfusions and endured 47 surgeries, including two brain surgeries.
His mother, Erika Parker Garrett, proudly shared, “He’s actually my hero. For a child to go through all of this, being developmentally delayed, having all of these blood transfusions, and he’s also deaf as well, for him to go through it all, with no behavioral problems, no issues—if he can do it, he can do anything.”
Manny’s project is not only a testament to his resilience but also a reflection of the core values instilled by Scouting. The Eagle Scout requirement calls for a Life Scout to “develop, plan, and manage” a service project benefiting an organization, group, or community, thereby embodying the leadership principles learned through Scouting experiences. In recent years, the term “leadership” was added to the project description, emphasizing its significance in earning the prestigious Eagle Scout recognition.
On September 15, Manny, along with a team of volunteers, delivered the first set of care packages to the NICU at St. Mary, coinciding with National Neonatal Nurses Day. He eagerly anticipates his return to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, his birthplace, to distribute packages to families in the NICU there.
The care packages thoughtfully include journals, Bibles, personal care travel kits, and snacks. Manny’s remarkable journey from NICU graduate to aspiring Eagle Scout is a testament to his resilience, compassion, and dedication to making a difference in the lives of others.