When Ray Daugherty was just 4 years old, he attended a family friend's Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony and became fixated with scouting.
Ray, 12, became an Eagle Scout himself on Jan. 18 and will be honored at Baltimore's B&O Railroad Museum on March 12.
"I learned what scouting was and that got me thinking that I wanted to be a Scout," said Ray, of Eldersburg. "I knew I wanted to be an Eagle, and I hit the ground running."
According to Manny Fonseca, deputy Scout executive and chief operations officer for Boy Scouts of America's Baltimore Area Council, the group has no way to verify who the youngest Eagle Scout is, but he said Ray is in an elite class.
"At age 12 this is a great accomplishment," Fonseca said.
Ray, a member of Troop 483 in Silver Run, completed his 250-hour Eagle Scout service project at the end of November. He reclaimed a fourth-acre of land at Liberty Reservoir, removing invasive grasses and replacing them with native wildflowers. He said the idea for the project came after a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine.
"They have a trail with a wooden path that you walk on to keep the species safe. I called a bunch of parks and asked if I could do that, and they didn't have enough resources," Ray said. "When the Liberty Reservoir called back, they asked if holistic planting would be OK, so I did that."
Ray said he started the arduous project in September 2014.
"First I had to kill the grass off. There are a lot of boulders there, and I couldn't till the land or use chemicals," Ray said.
Ray's parents, Marie Daugherty and Deanna Monda, as well as his Scoutmaster, Don Baker, helped him to remove the grass with a skid loader donated from Sunbelt Rentals in Finksburg and to add topsoil. When it was warmer, Ray planted black-eyed Susans, white turtleheads and other wildflowers to attract native insects. Because of this year's snow, he said he might have to re-plant, though he's in good spirits about his project regardless.
"I'm very excited," Ray said. "I've worked hard to do this and I'm very proud of what I've done."
Daugherty said only about 6 percent of today's Scouts earn the Eagle Scout rank and most Scouts don't earn their Eagle rank until they are 16 or 17 years old.
"We're exceptionally proud that he has accomplished this," Daugherty said. "It's a goal he set years ago and one he's been determined to follow through with. To say that Ray is a bit of an overachiever would be a significant understatement."
Monda predicted that she will be very emotional during Saturday's ceremony.
"This is what he wanted to do and we supported him. He's worked so hard and so long," she said.
In a congratulatory letter, Ray's merit badge counselor, Diana Goodwin, praised Ray's ability to lead.
"You are unique in that you don't allow others to steer you. You make observations prior to leading, and then lead with unreserved focus and compassion," Goodwin wrote.
Scoutmaster Baker said Ray is a people magnet.
"He's very engaging," Baker said."When the troop helps at community events, people often come up and talk to me about him, saying he's the most polite and respectful young man they've ever met. He's very old for his age."
Not content with the 21 merit badges required for Eagle, Ray said he plans to earn additional merit badges to receive additional Eagle Scout palm awards. He also plans to actively recruit for his troop while acting as the Bacon Ninja Warrior Webelos den chief for a Cub Scout pack in Ellicott City.
Ray joined Scouts in September 2009. He quickly rose through the ranks as a Cub Scout, earning his Bobcat rank in December 2009, Tiger in April 2010, Wolf in Dec 2010 and Bear in December 2011. Ray then completed the two-year Webelos program in one year.
Ray became a Boy Scout in January 2014, then achieved Tenderfoot rank in May 2014, Second Class and First Class in July 2014, Star rank in Nov 2014 and Life rank in May 2015.