Scout’s swing project complete

Salem High School senior Sam Murray, who’s a member of St. Paul Boy Scout Troop 6, stands near the controls for the newly-installed wheelchair swing at Waterworth Memorial Park. Morning Journal/Mary Ann Greier

SALEM — Now even residents in wheelchairs can safely experience the relaxing back and forth motion of a swing at Waterworth Memorial Park.

All thanks to soon-to-be Eagle Scout Sam Murray, who saw an unfulfilled need and filled it.

“I wanted to give people with wheelchairs something to do in the parks,” the Salem High School senior said.

Located near the basketball courts and playground, off of the sidewalk entered from the parking lot near the duck pond, the wheelchair swing can fit one wheelchair and has two other seats for family members.

Users are directed to text the word “SWING” to 805-219-6912 for instructions.

The wheelchair is pushed directly onto the ramp, with the back facing the sidewalk, then a safety strap is hooked onto the frame of the wheelchair. A red button is then pushed to tighten up any slack or there’s a black knob than can be used to self-tighten the strap. The metal harness piece must be lifted, then pull the black plug out, located above the number for the instructions, and push the large lever forward. That brings the back panel up behind the wheelchair and releases the brake, enabling the rider and family members or friends to swing away to their heart’s content.

When finished, just pull the black plug to bring the lever back to lower the back panel and activate the brake. Hit the red button to pull the harness off, return the hook where it belongs and roll off, leaving the back panel down for the next person.

Murray, 17, of St. Paul Boy Scout Troop 6, gave all the credit for the completed project to others.

He thanked his fellow scouts and leaders of Troop 6, his family, the parks department and all who assisted, but he especially thanked the community, saying the finished swing is the result of community members coming together with donations and support to help him complete his Eagle Scout project.

He was thankful to Doug Falk, whom Murray knows through Key Club, Falk set up a Go Fund Me page so the more than $1,600 in proceeds could be donated, finally putting the project over goal to cover all costs and then some — more than $10,000. Two kids, ages 10 and 12, even donated their chore money to the project.

“My Salem Babcia (Polish for grandma) brought us lunch and came out to support us during the building phase,” Murray said, referring to his grandma Carol.

Not only did Murray receive donations both small and large from all over during the fundraising phase, which took nearly a year, he learned some of the stories behind the donations.

One donor relayed how their daughter had been confined to a wheelchair and always looked forward to the swing at Robert Bycroft School in Lisbon. The donor really liked the idea of this project in Salem.

Another donor said a family member had been in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the longest living person confined to a wheelchair. Another note came from a donor who had a son confined to a wheelchair who would have loved the swing.

For Murray, that was the whole idea.

He wanted his project to mean something, to serve a purpose that wasn’t currently being served.

While researching the possibilities, he said some other communities have playgrounds for kids with disabilities or activities for people in wheelchairs. He discovered nothing like that in Salem, a town which has a lot of older folks.

“I wanted to given them something they can enjoy and experience and have fun in the outdoors, too,” he said.

He found inspiration all around him, from students at school to people at his mother’s work (physical therapy) who are wheelchair-bound.

Sam’s parents, Eric and Holly, couldn’t be prouder of their son and all his accomplishments.

“I love the project he chose to do. Sam is all about serving others. It fits to his character because that’s what he enjoys doing,” Holly said.

“It’s great for a community like ours with a lot of older residents. It’s important to make the parks accessible,” Eric said.

The swing came in a kit from Ironwood Products, made in the USA, with the frame constructed of California redwood. The parks department donated bricks for Murray to use for the walkway, which led from the sidewalk to the concrete pad. He also installed some landscaping and there’s money left for future maintenance. He thanked all individuals and businesses for their donations of both money and materials for the project and for their continued support of Boy Scouts. The swing will be under 24/7 surveillance through cameras in the park.

Murray said his late scoutmaster, Terry McElroy, kept him in scouts and served as a good role model. He also thanked Scoutmaster Eric Swiger and all the adult leaders of Troop 6.

When he’s not scouting, Murray plays trumpet in marching band, plays football, was a state-ranked wrestler last year in the 220-pound weight class, serves as senior class representative to student council, is a member of National Honor Society and Key Club, volunteers at the Banquet of Salem and is an altar server at St. Paul Church.

He represented Columbiana County as a delegate to the 2021 American Legion Buckeye Boys State held this summer at Miami University of Ohio. In a bit of irony, he served as parks director for his city at Boys State, creating three parks as part of the experience. He also spent time at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico with other Troop 6 members and his father, too.

Future plans include seeking a bachelor’s degree in welding engineering technology from Ferris State University in Michigan, which is two years in classroom settings and two years of labs and hands-on training. He wants to work in welding for five or more years, get certified as a welding inspector and eventually start a business. He’s also considering the military.



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