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Scouting tradition goes way back

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Posted: Sunday, November 6, 2005 5:43 am

Scottsdale teenager Steven Kann has reached a lofty status within the Boy Scouts of America. He’s one of the nation’s first fifth-generation Eagle Scouts.

At least Boy Scout executives believe he is.

It may be impossible to authenticate the achievement, said Eric Moore, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America in Irving, Texas.

Two factors obscure the matter a bit:

• Boy Scout records were maintained at multiple regional headquarters throughout the country before they were centralized in the 1950s. In some instances, historical regional records remain sketchy.

• Steven’s family and national Boy Scout executives have yet to confirm that his great-great grandfather earned the Eagle rank during the early part of the 1900s.

Steven’s great-great grandfather presented himself as an Eagle Scout and volunteered with the Scouts for decades. However, Scout executives have been unable to locate paperwork detailing when and where he earned his Eagle.

Irwin Kann moved around quite a bit in his youth, so the records may be stored in a footlocker somewhere in New York or New Jersey.

National Scout executives are not aware of another fifth-generation Eagle, Moore said Friday. However, the Yorba Linda City Council in March recognized a California youth who also is believed to be a fifth-generation Eagle.

In any event, it’s a lightly traveled trail. Steven, a Saguaro High School junior, followed a path established by his father Robert, his grandfather Nathan, his great grandfather Martin and his great-great grandfather Irwin.

Eagle is the highest of six ranks in the Boy Scout program. Only about 4 percent of all Scouts earn it.

Steven completed the requisites Sept. 8 and will receive the red, white and blue badge and pin during a Court of Honor ceremony Thursday at Mountain View Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale.

The 16-year-old didn’t realize the full scope of the Kann clan Eagle tradition until his father told him after he earned Life, the rank just below Eagle.

"My first reaction was that it couldn’t be true. But dad showed me pictures and told me about it and I eventually believed him, so the pressure was pretty tremendous," Steven said.

It got worse. His younger brother Michael was moving through the ranks quickly and threatened to overtake him. "I really did not want that to happen," Steven said.

The most difficult aspect was completing the required Eagle Scout service project, he said. He developed a pilot program for Scottsdale’s Solid Waste Department to alert residents about plastic bags and other debris that contaminate recycled materials collections.

He designed stickers illustrating the contaminants, raised more than $1,300 to pay the costs, and rounded up 48 volunteers to stick them on 1,150 household recycle bins.

The project produced a 50 percent reduction in contaminated materials. The city is seeking funds to expand the program citywide.

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