Mark Davis Powell Tribune via Wyoming News Exchange
POWELL – There were many obstacles that Drew Valdez encountered on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. COVID-19, supply chain issues, inflation and a little self-doubt stood between him and his required service project.
But he had a dream, and on August 23 he saw it come true, including winning the first organized game of the Gaga Ball at Powell’s Homesteader Park.
Dozens of excited scouts and spectators descended on the park, many unaware of the Gaga Ball.
But after a brief opening ceremony, Valdez explained the game and within minutes he was standing victorious in the gladiator-style hexagon, ready for more fun. Fun is the keyword here.
“It’s family friendly. And there’s a lot of competition, too,” Valdez said.
Gaga Ball is a variant of dodgeball played in a Gaga “pit”. The game combines dodging, hitting, running and jumping with the goal of being the last person standing. Players smack the ball with their hands and are eliminated if the ball hits them at or below the knee.
People also read…
Once out, you can return to the game if you catch an unpredictable ball leaving the hex, so you’re never really out of the game until there’s only one player left.
Valdez was introduced to the game in 2016. But it wasn’t until four years later, when he was looking for a project, that he was reintroduced to the game at Boy Scout camp.
At the same time, material costs for the project increased dramatically as the pandemic lockdown continued. With the materials priced at over $1,000, Valdez doubted he could raise enough money.
Powell companies and contributors came through in a big way. Almost everyone he contacted was willing to make a donation.
The Aldrich Home Center donated nearly half of the funds to get the project off the ground. Valdez said he has a “guy inside” at Aldrich. Troop 26 Scoutmaster Donnie Peterson is a salesman in the store.
Valdez had yet to appear before the City Council, obtain approval from Parks Department Director Tim Miller, and consult with City Planning Officer Ben Hubbard about the permitting process.
It took more than six months of work before he was finally able to deliver all the materials to the location west of the playground in the festival park.
The last task was to build the structure. Valdez prepared by spending time creating specifications for an architectural design program. He then had to lead a team to build the pit, which took four days to ensure it would be a solid addition to the park.
“The point of the Eagle project is that he runs the project like he’s a manager and he has to get everyone else to do the work and run it,” Peterson said.
Valdez won the opening game but was first in game two as the fun continued on that sunny day. If you want to play, all you need is a hard ball, like a kickball, and a bunch of friends willing to rumble.
Valdez donated a ball to the cause but suggests bringing his own.
“It won’t last long,” he predicted.
It will be another four to six months before Valdez advances to Eagle Scout.
His next challenge will be with the US armed forces, likely the army, he said. He’s still weighing his options and speaking to Navy and Air Force recruiters.
Chris and Pam Valdez are the proud parents.
“He worked very hard on this project,” said Pam.
Neither had seen the game before Saturday, but both said it looked fun watching from a shady spot on the hot day. Despite the challenges, she was impressed by Drew’s persistence.
“He’s not the type to give up,” Chris said.