On a quiet grassy spot overlooking Young’s Creek, one local Boy Scout envisions a place to contemplate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Braiddinn Plymate wanted to create a space to honor the emergency responders and health care personnel who sacrificed so much during that tumultuous time. In planning his Eagle Scout project, he intended to recognize the essential workers who kept our communities going when everything else locked down.

More than anything, he wanted to memorialize those who died during the pandemic, and give their loved ones a way to remember them.

“I wanted to create a place of peace, remembrance, to be able to express whatever you need to,” he said.

Plymate, a senior at Franklin Community High School, is raising money to create the COVID memorial atDewitt Park in downtown Franklin. The space will include three black benches set on a concrete pad, flowers and a time capsule recalling the pandemic.

A key portion of the project is a memorial brick walk, where supporters can buy personalized bricks.

“This memorial will not only be a nice addition to our park system, it will also allow people to reflect on the pandemic and the impacts that it had on the residents/front line workers of our community,” said Rocky Stultz, assistant superintendent for Franklin Parks and Recreation.

Plymate has been in Scouts for the past 11 years, and is a member of Troop 227 at American Legion Post 205. His time in the organization has taught him a wealth of knowledge, from survival skills and civic responsibility to new hobbies and career opportunities.

For him, the experience has been transformative.

“There’s a bigger meaning to it than just merit badges and selling popcorn,” he said. “There’s so much to it.”

Eagle Scout is the highest achievement possible in the Scouting world. Even to be eligible, Scouts need to have been active in their troop, earned at least 21 merit badges and demonstrate character adhering to the Scout ideals.

Finally, they must plan, develop and lead a service project to benefit either a school, community or religious organization.

As Plymate was considering what he wanted to focus on for his project, his mind kept coming back to those early months of the COVID pandemic. For the first time in his life, the whole world paused, everyone enduring and fighting the same battle, unsure of what would come next, he said.

He had spent time volunteering in local nursing homes during that time, and saw how disruptive the pandemic was. He kept thinking about how so many people who lost someone close to them — either from COVID, or those who died during a time when people couldn’t gather — they never had a chance to say goodbye.

“When people didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones, the fear of the unknown stirring around, the world being paused — it had an effect like no other,” he said.

When Plymate discussed his idea with his mom, Emily Worley, she warned him that the pandemic was still an open wound that was divisive to a lot of people.

“I told him, Braiddinn, this is going to be a project that causes emotions — whether good, bad, ugly, doesn’t matter. There are going to be some tears,” Worley said. “He said, ‘Mom, if I can bring tears but those tears bring peace, that’s a stronger message than anything I could do for my Eagle.’ What do you do? You back it at that point.”

Plymate presented his idea before the Scouting Committee to get approval for the project, which he received. The next step was working with Franklin Parks and Recreation, going through a lengthy approval process and attending multiple park board meetings to get the project approved.

People both for and against the project voiced their opinion.

“The divide was so heavy during (the pandemic). They wanted to know if the project would be viewed as distasteful, would it be viewed as political, would it be viewed by anything more than what his view was?” Worley said. “It’s a touchy subject. A lot of people, when you say ‘COVID,’ they cringe because they’re so tired of it.”

In the end, the park board approved the project. Plymate quickly mobilized to move forward with his plan.

The memorial will be located at Dewitt Park, situated to the east of Garment Factory Events on the grassy lawn along East Wayne Street.

Inside the 12-foot-by-9-foot pad, Plymate plans to have three black 6-foot-long benches in a U shape. The first bench will be dedicated to emergency medical services, fire, police and hospital workers, while the second will honor essential workers.

A third bench will remember all who lost their lives during the pandemic.

“Each bench will have a placard on it to recognize it,” he said.

Plymate is planning a time capsule to be installed on the memorial, and mulching and landscaping will beautify it.

A 30-foot-long brick walkway will connect the sitting area to the sidewalk.

“People can buy a brick and put whatever they want on it. They have a maximum of 30 characters, but it could be, ‘In Loving Memory’ of someone, or something like that,” Plymate said.

Plymate has to have his project finished by the end of November, so he has quickly mobilized to raise funds and get the project going.

Bricks for the walk are $30, and can be ordered either online at a website he created, espcm.square.site, or at the Local Grind, which Worley owns. People can also make monetary donations both online and at the shop.


COVID Memorial

What: A memorial created in honor of those who died from COVID-19, as well as to recognize health care workers, first responders and essential workers during the pandemic.

Where: The memorial will be located at DeWitt Park in downtown Franklin, off of East Wayne Street.

Who: Braiddinn Plymate, a Franklin Community High School senior who is doing the project to earn his Eagle Scout badge.

How to help: Plymate is accepting orders for personalized bricks to be installed in the memorial. Bricks are $30, and can be purchased online or at Local Grind, 25 N. Main Street, Franklin. Monetary donations are also being accepted.

For more information, go to espcm.square.site or call or text 317-680-6678.