When the first drop of rain hit Dan Herrera’s window on Aug. 6, the rising Geneva High School junior’s eyes shot open.
Herrera, a Boy Scout, had been planning a 5K race as his Eagle project for 10 months; he wasn’t about to postpone it due to weather.
“After a few minutes of freaking out, I calmed down,” Herrera said. The race wouldn’t start until later that night, so Herrera forced himself back to sleep until 8 a.m. “It was nonstop after that,” he said.
More than 200 hours of Herrera’s legwork all came down to this day. By 4:30 p.m., Herrera had marked the course, made a playlist for the runners, set up a registration area and been in contact with everybody involved in the project.
Volunteers arrived to help with the final touches, and “everything started rolling,” Herrera said. By the time the national anthem signaled the start of the race at 7:30, the entire course had been lined with glow sticks and marked with flags.
Five minutes later, the gun went off and 182 runners took off through downtown Geneva, just as Herrera had imagined they would on a run of his own when he came up with the idea.
While training for cross country, Herrera was disgusted to see an American flag stuffed in the trash. He retrieved the flag and ran with it the rest of the way. “People don’t stand for the flag,” Herrera said. “I’m an American, and I want the whole world to know it.”
So Herrera organized the 5K race, Run for the Flags, to raise money to buy new flags for the city. He estimated that if they raised $1,000, they’d have enough money to buy at least 40 flags.
“We will be able to afford that,” Herrera said. “And then some.” He’s still tallying the numbers, but he was accepting last-minute donations all day long on race day, and they’re still coming in.
Most of Herrera’s Eagle Scout project is now complete, but he still has a few final details to take care of. Once he orders the flags, he’ll present them to the city and organize a retirement ceremony for the old flags—a proper one where they’ll be burned in a respectful manner, not tossed aside like garbage.
If Herrera stays on track, he should complete the remainder of his Eagle badges by the end of the year, and he’ll kick off 2012 as a certified Eagle Scout.
But beyond the ranking, Herrera’s accomplishments will have restored beautiful American flags to the city, and that was always his highest priority. “I proudly stand behind our men in uniform and will proudly hang our flag until the day I die,” he said.
Whiz Kid: Dan Herrera
Whiz Kid's School: Geneva Community High School
Whiz Kid's Accomplishment: Organized a 5K to raise money to provide downtown Geneva with new flags.