OWENSBORO, Ky. – When Philip Lovekamp received his Eagle Scout rank pin at his Boy Scouts of America Court of Honor ceremony, the event had extraordinary meaning to him and his family.
The pin belongs to his grandfather, the late John Gundlach, so a family tradition continues. Also, Philip Lovekamp was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2010 and completed his Eagle Scout project after a 10-month interruption with weekly chemotherapy treatments in Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville.
He’s still receiving chemo and will through December 2013.
“The diagnosis was a jolt and hard for everybody in the family,” said Chris Lovekamp, Philip’s father. “Fortunately, his type of leukemia is the easiest to cure.
“He’s a pretty tough kid, and he knew that he wasn’t going to feel good that first 10 months, so he didn’t even worry about it. He just wanted to be normal and enjoy the time he had with his friends.”
And he needed his friends to complete a project he was determined to finish on time.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common type of leukemia in children, according to reports. Standard treatments can involve chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The disease has a 70 percent cure rate.
“He’s doing well now,” Chris Lovekamp said of his son, a high school senior who also plays on the soccer team. “Chemo affects you ... and he’s had his down days ... but he’s adapted well. He’s fully functioning again. He’s really worked his way back.”
Philip Lovekamp, a Boy Scouts of America member for 11 years, started planning his Eagle Scout project – an owl mew (cage) at Yellow Creek Park’s Western Kentucky Raptor Center – prior to his diagnosis, then put his life on hold for almost a year, including leaving Owensboro Catholic High School to be home schooled. He was cleared to return to regular activities a year ago and resumed the Eagle Scout project.
“I feel a lot better now than I have in a long time,” he said. “There were times that I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to complete it. I was taking extra classes to catch up in school and playing soccer, and I still had to go back to Louisville once a month for maintenance treatments.
“The Scouts are good about granting extensions if you need one, but I didn’t want to do that.”
Lovekamp decided on his Eagle rank project because he likes the outdoors and wildlife. The mew is for rehabilitating owls moving from smaller to larger cages as they continue healing prior to being released.
Lovekamp’s responsibility was to organize and see the project through to completion. He worked with contractor Kevin Burcham to assist with the architectural work, and obtaining building materials, either through a fundraiser or by striking a deal with businesses.
Construction of the mew involved some physical labor on his part, but the Eagle project is designed for the scout to organize and lead rather than build it all individually. Lovekamp’s project cost about $1,900.
“I felt overwhelmed at times, but I had a lot of support from my friends and family, the scout troop and soccer team,” he said. “When I finished, I knew it was a group effort to get to that stage.”
Lovekamp’s project involved about 500 man-hours of planning and labor, including his work and those he recruited to help.
Prior to attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, a member must advance through the ranks and complete 21 merit badges in emergency response, citizenship and physical fitness. Lovekamp completed his project, passed the Eagle Scout Board of Review in May and was deemed worthy for the rank of Eagle. Only 5 percent of Boy Scouts reached the rank of Eagle in 2011.
“Philip’s had his challenges,” said Joe Eames, Scout Master Troop 76 in the Audubon District. “You have to get the project completed by your 18th birthday, and he’s had to take weeks and months off, so he’s had limitations. This is challenging enough for someone who’s healthy.”
“But his attitude has been fantastic. He’s got a great spirit and never stopped fighting.”
Said Philip Lovekamp, “With every challenge comes a silver lining. If you go through life without going through something like this, you’ll never learn how to persevere.”