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A secret worth keeping

High school freshman surprises grandmother with landscaping project in her honor

Created date

July 21st, 2014
eagle scout with his grandmother

Ten months is a long time to keep a secret.

But for Josh King, a freshman at Memorial High School, it was a secret worth keeping.

The 16-year-old Boy Scout was seeking the perfect Eagle Scout project. To earn the Eagle Scout rank, the highest advancement in the Scouting program, a Boy Scout must plan, develop, and give leadership to a service project.

“I considered a number of ideas for my project, but nothing seemed right until I thought about Eagle’s Trace, where my grandmother lives,” says Josh. “From that point, it didn’t take long to come up with a project idea.”

In search of the perfect idea

Josh visits Trace regularly to see his grandmother Terry King, who moved to the West Houston community two years ago.

“Eagle’s Trace has nice grounds,” says Josh. “I’ve gone fishing in the lake behind the residence buildings several times. It seemed like the perfect fit to do something outdoors.”

Josh met with General Services Director Mark Batterson and Senior Facilities Manager Juan Sierra in the fall of 2013 to discuss potential projects.

“Josh approached us with several potential landscaping ideas,” says Sierra. “When he suggested adding flowers and plants to the area around the gazebo, we felt it would enhance the space.”

Sierra thought the gazebo, located near the entrance to the Audubon Clubhouse, was an under-
utilized outdoor feature and wanted the fresh look to encourage residents to linger.

Months of planning

“The scope of the project involved refinishing the gazebo, preparing flower beds, adding river rock for drainage, and planting flowers and bushes around the gazebo,” says Josh. “I wanted it to look as professional as possible.”

While Josh mapped out his project behind the scenes, he kept it a secret from his grandmother. 

“I was doing this project in her honor, but I didn’t want her to know about it until she could see the end result,” says Josh. “When I met with Juan to talk about the plans, I had to sneak around Eagle’s Trace so I wouldn’t run into my grandmother.”

Josh raised funds from family members to cover the expense of the project. He consulted the grounds crew at Eagle’s Trace to determine which plants would fit with the existing landscaping. And he recruited the help of his Boy Scout troop to execute his plan.

On a Saturday in mid-May, Josh, along with his father Tom, mother Debbie, and brother Kyle, arrived at Eagle’s Trace ready to work. Members of Josh’s Boy Scout Troop 13, from Houston’s Second Baptist Church, came to help.

“We worked from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” says Josh. “It was a long day, but we finished the project.”

Worth the wait

Curious residents stopped by the gazebo throughout the day to check on the team’s progress, but Josh kept his eye out for one resident in particular.

“I didn’t want my grandmother to see us until we finished the project,” he says. “The timing worked out perfectly. She drove by just as we were putting the last plant in the ground.”

Terry, for her part, says she was on her way to church when she did a double-take at the group working by the gazebo.

“My first thought was that one of the men looked like my son Tom,” she says. “Then I recognized the rest of the family.”

Tom and Josh escorted Terry to the gazebo to show off the project completed in her honor.

“I nearly cried when I learned about Josh’s project,” says Terry. “It was such a dear, sweet thing to do. The whole thing was well-thought-out and well executed. I couldn’t be prouder.”