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For his Eagle Scout project, Boy Scout Josh McDermaid is organizing a volunteer drive at Misawa Air Base, Japan, to sew gowns, receiving blankets and knit hats for newborns in Myanmar.

For his Eagle Scout project, Boy Scout Josh McDermaid is organizing a volunteer drive at Misawa Air Base, Japan, to sew gowns, receiving blankets and knit hats for newborns in Myanmar. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Some Boy Scouts reshingle roofs, map trails, beautify parks, paint orphanages, all in pursuit of the coveted Eagle Scout badge.

Josh McDermaid, a junior at Edgren High School, will be threading his way — literally — to the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America.

His project: to make gowns, receiving blankets and knit hats for newborn babies in Myanmar. With a goal of 100 each, that’s a lot of stitches. But since an Eagle Scout above all must demonstrate leadership, Josh’s primary task will be to gather the fabric and patterns, as well as organize a massive volunteer effort to sew the materials.

“We’ve been calling for people to volunteer to teach sewing and crocheting to other volunteers so we can get it under way,” McDermaid said.

The delivery of the baby items will be left to Capt. Shayne Stokes, a pediatrician with the 35th Medical Group at Misawa. Stokes is traveling to Myanmar in August with a handful of civilian doctors from the States on a mission funded by LDS Humanitarian Services.

The group will teach an American Heart Association course on neonatal resuscitation to Myanmar health-care providers who tend to newborns in a country with a high infant mortality rate. The physicians also will provide some nurseries with equipment vital to save sick babies, such as breathing and tracheal tubes, breathing ventilator bags and catheters that can deliver medication quickly. Also expected to be in the mix will be McDermaid’s assortment of infant gowns, hats and blankets.

“I think those will have a big impact,” Stokes said. “Simple things like drying a baby and keeping it warm can mean the difference between life and death.”

It was through Stokes’ association with McDermaid’s dad, Master Sgt. Todd McDermaid, 35th Services Squadron’s first sergeant, that the Eagle Scout project was born.

“I work with his dad in Scouts,” Stokes said. While talking about Stokes’ upcoming trip to Myanmar and the conditions there, “his dad came up with the idea that maybe this would be a great Eagle Scout project,” Stokes said.

Volunteers interested in stitching baby gowns, blankets or hats may attend an all-day training and sewing session starting at 8 a.m. June 10 at the Scout Hut at Rocky’s Roost. For more information or to help with the project, phone the McDermaids at DSN 222-8100.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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