SYCAMORE – Scott Mertens hoped for 10 or 15 instruments to give out to his music students in Sycamore schools who could not afford to rent or buy them.
He received 55.
“In retrospect, I should have assumed he would exceed the target, knowing how well he organized the program,” Mertens said of soon-to-be Eagle Scout Kevin Loitz. “We’re incredibly lucky to have him in our district.”
Mertens, music department chairman for Sycamore School District 427, was the beneficiary of Loitz’s Eagle Scout project designed to give low-income students access to the music program. The Sycamore High School sophomore set out with the goal of collecting 10 to 15 instruments and repairing them for use, but the community support he received quickly changed those plans.
From Roger Morgan of Roger’s Music in DeKalb helping repair more than 15 of the instruments, to the DeKalb County Community Foundation offering financial assistance, Loitz found enough help to far exceed his goal.
In all, Loitz invested more than 50 hours to the project and enlisted more than 35 volunteers, including most of his fellow scouts, who helped with an instrument cleaning day.
“The community support was astronomical,” Loitz said. “I could not have done this without them.”
Loitz’s donation included clarinets, violins, flutes, trumpets, coronets, trombones, saxophones, cellos and eight other types of instruments. Depending on the instrument, renting one could cost anywhere between $30 to $50 a month he said, and buying one could cost thousands.
Mertens said the donation came at the perfect time, as the number of students on free or reduced-price lunches in Sycamore schools has increased from 18 percent to 28 percent in the past two years. He said the majority of instruments would be lent to elementary students, some middle-schoolers and on a case-by-case basis to high-school students.
“It’s hard to request new money for instruments for kids to play,” Mertens said. “So our focus is on accommodating more beginners.”
For Loitz, the project was a rewarding blend of two of his biggest passions. He has been working on his Eagle Scout rank ever since he joined Cub Scouts almost 10 years ago, and the cello and guitar have fostered his passion in music. Loitz said he plays cello with the high school orchestra and is hoping to make the jazz band as a guitarist. And for scouting, he does not plan to stop once he earns his Eagle Badge.
“It’s been very rewarding to get to this point,” he said. “I plan on helping others work toward their Eagle Scout project.”