April 2, 2021

Teen adds new chapter to family’s Eagle Scout story by collecting books for children

Teddy Isakson is pursuing the achievement of becoming an Eagle Scout with his plan to collect books and build bookshelves for the children who are served by St. Mary’s Child Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Teddy Isakson is pursuing the achievement of becoming an Eagle Scout with his plan to collect books and build bookshelves for the children who are served by St. Mary’s Child Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

As soon as he heard the little boy’s enthusiasm, Teddy Isakson knew he had found the place where he wanted to make a difference.

That moment of revelation came as the 14-year-old youth visited St. Mary’s Child Center in Indianapolis, which provides life-changing, early childhood education to boys and girls who often grow up in poverty. About 93% of the students who attend the center are in that situation.

“The kids were coming out of the lunchroom, and they were all so excited and smiling,” recalls Teddy, a freshman at Cardinal Ritter High School in Indianapolis. “One of the kids said his favorite part of the day was the teachers reading to them. That’s when the light bulb went on for me.”

In that moment, Teddy decided that helping the children at St. Mary’s would be the focus of his project to become an Eagle Scout, the highest honor for a Boy Scout. He shared his goal in a short description of his plan.

“Most children are read to about 1,600 hours before they start kindergarten. However, children in poverty are read to about 25 hours before they start kindergarten,” he noted. “As a result, when children in poverty go into kindergarten, they are about two years behind other children.

“I learned that St. Mary’s Child Center can help 85% of the children they serve start kindergarten at the same reading level as other children. To accomplish their mission, they need more books to read to the children.”

Teddy’s plan is to collect at least 120 new or gently-used books in English or Spanish that are suitable for pre-school children. He also plans to build bookshelves for several classrooms.

“I’ve grown up in a Catholic family, so I’ve learned all those ideals,” says Teddy, a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis. “It just feels right to help those kids who are in poverty and who are struggling.”

His efforts to become an Eagle Scout by helping others is a family tradition. Each of his three older brothers became Eagle Scouts through projects that supported ministries that help people in need in the archdiocese.

Joey Isakson focused his Eagle Scout project on Holy Family Shelter, while Mike helped Birthline, the archdiocesan program that provides assistance to struggling pregnant women and mothers of infants. And Bobby directed his effort to help the Catholic Charities refugee resettlement program of the archdiocese.

At 14, Teddy is on pace to attain his Eagle Scout at an earlier age than any of his brothers.

“That would be pretty cool,” he says with a wide smile about the thought of having that bragging right. But that thought soon gives way to the connection he hopes to share with his brothers.

“It is really cool to have three older brothers who have all gotten Eagles,” he says. “Seeing what they’ve been able to do and the impacts they’ve been able to make on families and people’s lives, that’s what I want to do with these kids—to make a big impact on their lives. Hopefully everything will be done by the time they start school next year.”

Teddy’s book collection campaign will be a blessing to the child center, which is celebrating its 60th year of striving to shape the lives of at-risk, pre-school children now and for the future.

“St. Mary’s Child Center is so grateful to Teddy that he is dedicating his work and time to benefit the children,” says Connie Sherman, executive director of the child center. “Books are so important for our young children, and the bookshelves will allow us to organize the books so the children can easily find what they need.

“We are very proud to mark our 60th year in 2021. St. Mary’s has a long history of support in our community, and we are delighted to count Teddy as a great supporter.”

He’s thrilled to help.

“If I can help them with the gifts and talents I have, then I’m going to do it,” Teddy says. “It’s leading by example, and that’s what Jesus did.”

(For information about providing book donations or monetary donations to his effort to help St. Mary’s Child Center, contact Teddy Isakson at tisakson20@gmail.com or 317-600-8045. To learn more about St. Mary’s Child Center, visit www.smccindy.org.)

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