After two years, 359 man hours and help from a slew of volunteers, Allen Rutan finished his Eagle Scout project -- six hay racks for Equi-librium, a non-profit organization that empowers "individuals with special needs to reach their highest potential through horse-related activities."
Allen, 17, of Nazareth received his Eagle Scout award on Sept. 25 at Holy Family Catholic Church.
“It was one of the happiest occasions of our lives,” said Deborah Rutan, his mother.
Allen isn’t just another "Whiz Kid" from Nazareth, however. He was adopted as a baby from Russia and has autism spectrum disorders.
“When you’re special education, you’re segregated,” Deborah said. “I wanted him to be around typically developing boys. I wanted him to be around more men -- more positive male role models.”
Allen said his favorite part of the awards ceremony was receiving the U.S. flag from U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-15th. The flag flew over the U.S. Capitol, Deborah added.
- About 60 people attended the awards ceremony, including U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, State Rep. Marcia Hahn and a representative from State Sen. Lisa Boscola’s office.
- A representative from the Marine Corps League presented Allen with the Good Citizenship Award.
- Allen received proclamations from The Miracle League of the Lehigh Valley and the Bushkill Township Volunteer Fire Company.
- He received l0 letters of recognition from several dignitaries, including Gov. Tom Corbett, President Barack Obama and Pope Benedict XVI.
When it came time to decide on his Eagle Scout project, Allen was sure that he wanted to build something that would help Equi-librium in Snydersville, Monroe County.
At the age of three, Allen started going to Equi-librium, according to his mother. The organization uses horses to help people with a variety of disorders gain better coordination while also helping them with social development and self esteem, according to www.equi-librium.org.
Allen created six hay racks -- with feeding tables -- for the horses, Deborah said.
“It’s a big achievement,” she added.
The racks, which are six feet tall, hold the hay while the horses munch away. Any pieces of hay that fall land on the tables below, which allows the horses to eat those stray pieces.
Before the racks were built, according to Deborah, hay was scattered all over the ground after the horses were finished eating. The racks, Allen hopes, should save Equi-librium money by reducing waste.
Friends, family and other special needs children helped Allen plan, raise money and build the racks. About $400 was spent on materials -- another $300 in funds and materials were donated, according to Deborah.
The racks are portable, so they can be brought indoors if there's bad weather. According to Deborah, the racks are not made of pressure-treated wood -- because the horses chew on more than just the hay -- but the racks should last for several years.
Shannon Rutan, Allen’s 12-year-old sister, said the most touching part of her brother's Eagle Scout ceremony was seeing his old saddle on the altar.
At Equi-librium, Allen used to ride a horse named Vegard, who died three days after Allen finished his Eagle Scout project. He dedicated his project to Vegard, Deborah said.
“I saw my brother’s old saddle on the altar, so I was a little sad,” Shannon said. “Then I saw he was happy, so that made me happy.”
Allen is also a student at Family Tree Karate in Bethlehem. He is currently a green belt.
Allen goes to school at Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 and is enrolled in the high school rotation program. This means Allen is currently in his senior year in the Nazareth Area School District.