Joshua LaVeck was a painfully shy kid who cowered when he found himself in big groups. So it was no surprise that after his first day of Cub Scouts he vowed to quit.
His parents pushed him to give it another try and secretly hoped that he would stick with it, gain confidence and become a role model for his two younger brothers. Maybe, just maybe, they'd all become Scouts and actually enjoy it.
Within 15 years, not only would Joshua achieve the Boy Scouts' highest honor by becoming an Eagle Scout, but his brothers would follow suit, a rarity in the world of scouting where just 5 percent achieve the accolade shared by heads of state, business executives and other notables.
On Saturday, Christopher LaVeck, 16, became a part of the family tradition in a ceremony at Christian Temple Church in Catonsville, his two elder brothers beaming in the front pew. The ceremony, known as an Eagle Scout Court of Honor, is steeped in 100 years of tradition and is the culmination of years' worth of hard work. This one featured remarks by Del. James E. Malone Jr. and former Maryland Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, friends of the LaVecks, who presented him with two American flags.
To become an Eagle Scout, one must earn 21 merit badges in such categories as safety, citizenship and swimming. To gain the latter, a Scout must jump into a pool fully dressed, then use his clothes to make a flotation device.
But it's not all "MacGyver"-like tasks. Eagle Scouts learn service, honor, loyalty and courage by completing a public-service project, which the Scouts orchestrate from start to finish. They raise money, hire staff, seek support from adult experts and learn to be their own boss.
"They become great leaders, better people and are able to communicate to adults in ways that a lot of kids can't do," said the boys' mother, Kathie LaVeck.
Bill LaVeck, father of the trio and Scoutmaster of the troop, said his sons stuck with it despite some doubts along the way.
"It's a daunting task; it's not for the faint-hearted," he said. "Each one of them had moments where they didn't want to do it, where they would rather be playing lacrosse, or Wii or PlayStation."
The boys set out to do projects to benefit Christian Temple Church, which the family has long attended.
"They each asked us what the church needed, and for that we were very grateful," said the Rev. Rick Powell. "Now, each time we look at these projects, we will think of their service."
Joshua LaVeck raised $4,000 and hired a contractor to build a basketball court on the church grounds. Middle brother Zachary, 19, raised money through a pasta dinner to purchase new chairs and tables. Christopher built a 10-by-12-foot shed, providing much-needed storage for the church.
Christopher got his idea after a summer service project spent building casitas in Matamoros, Mexico, for the area's poor residents.
"I love building things," he said. "I usually like the process of doing things, but through this I learned I can be a leader."
It can be tough being the youngest brother in the bunch, but Christopher said there was no pressure to achieve what his brothers had — just good-natured competition.
The boys have lots of company in the Eagle rank. Since 1996, 25 boys in Troop 1910 have attained scouting's highest rank, said Bill LaVeck.
"People think Boy Scouts are a bunch of nerds," Joshua said. But the eldest LaVeck brother, a student at Salisbury University who hopes to become an athletic director one day, scoffs at the idea. His message for people who think so: "I'll see you when you're working for me."