The Star is partnering with Harvesters again on a virtual food drive to feed Kansas City kids. To donate, go to FeedingKCKids.HarvestersVFD.org.
Reat Underwood had a plan, with most of the logistics and details mapped out and typed up.
Scouts in his troop would walk neighborhoods in southeast Johnson County and saturate the area with fliers asking for food and other household supplies. Then a week or two later, they would go back around and pick up the donations.
And when his Eagle Scout project was completed, he envisioned truckloads of supplies for the pantry at Operation Breakthrough, a local early childhood education center where he and his mom often volunteered.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
“He told me that was something he could do,” said Sister Berta Sailer, co-founder of the center. “Our pantry sometimes has very little in it. He wanted our moms to have food for their children.”
However, days before the 14-year-old would present his project for approval — a last step before beginning the work — he was killed. On April 13, Reat was one of three victims fatally shot outside two Jewish facilities in Johnson County.
Soon after the shootings, which shocked the nation, Scouts in Troop 92 knew what they must do — fulfill Reat’s project.
On Saturday, Scouts gathered in the parking lot of Blue River Elementary School in Stilwell, which their friend once attended. With cool winds whipping at a few boys wearing short sleeves and dark green khaki shorts, Scouts divided into groups and headed into four neighborhoods.
They walked paths Reat had drawn out.
“He left us the game plan,” said Will Sharpe, the troop’s senior patrol leader when Reat was killed. “We just have to carry it out.”
Added Jack Reeves, 14: “Reat was a really great guy and he didn’t get to finish it off, so it’s our job to finish it for him.”
That sentiment, leaders say, has been instilled in Scouts since that first campout when they’re around 11 or 12 and — for some — away from their mom and dad for the first time. Take care of those in your patrol, your troop, when they need you.
“That’s why there was no question this would happen,” said Dave Timpe, Reat’s Eagle Scout coach, as he looked around at the Scouts gathered Saturday morning.
Reat was fairly new to the troop. When his old troop merged with another, he transferred to 92. It’s chartered out of his church, Leawood’s Church of the Resurrection, and his old cubmaster, Jim Rinehart, was with 92.
The young man known for his singing voice and an ease making friends was also the kid in the group who didn’t act up, leaders say. He’d have fun with the rest, but he always was known to be respectful of adults and rules.
The past several months have been hard for Troop 92. But Scouts said they have pulled together since that Sunday afternoon in mid-April.
Reat and his grandfather, William Corporon, were at the Jewish Community Center, where the teen was competing in a Kansas City singing competition. Both were shot and killed in the parking lot.
Terri LaManno, 53, an occupational therapist who was visiting her mother at the nearby Village Shalom care center, was also killed.
A southwest Missouri man has been charged with the killings and is jailed in Johnson County awaiting trial.
Sharpe and Nick Rein, the current senior patrol leader, have worked for months with Reat’s plan. Scouts wanted to do even more than Reat drew up.
Part of their expansion was a food drive at Reat’s church.
“Everybody wanted to help out in some way,” Rein said.
In small groups Saturday, Scouts walked down streets like Rosewood and Birch, Howe and Mohawk. They walked past couples walking their dogs and residents out jogging or hanging Christmas lights.
And in one of the neighborhoods, they went up to Tony Corporon’s house. A sign with a heart and the initials RU (for Reat Underwood) stood prominently in his yard.
Corporon, who was working outside on a project, is Reat’s uncle and William Corporon’s son.
Tony Corporon said he knew that if his nephew had been able to complete his project, William Corporon would be out there helping his grandson. Probably driving a truck picking up donations.
“And he’d be hollering at Reat to make sure the boys were walking fast enough,” Tony Corporon said, smiling at the image. “And Mom would have been in the passenger side of the truck.”
The rest of the family, he said, including his sister and Reat’s mom, Mindy Corporon, would have been collecting bags of food. His nephew would love that everybody — from his Boy Scout troop and Scout leaders to his family and the community — continued his project.
“I see those boys giving back and learning through this,” said Corporon, wearing a maroon T-shirt from the website faithalwayswins.org bearing the date 4-13-14. “And with every bag someone puts on their porch, it’s a message to us that the community hasn’t forgotten.”
One hour after they set out, the Scouts were back in the school parking lot. They unloaded truckloads of food and supplies, from toilet paper and hygiene products to children’s clothing.
The neighborhood drive Reat had planned collected enough goods to fill 30-some cardboard boxes.
“They’ll have a lot of food for a long time,” said one Scout, Braden Madison, 16.
Knowing that children are hungry across the Kansas City area, they say they understand why Reat picked this project.
“No matter where you live, there is a way to help out,” said Will Brabston, 16.
Rinehart, who knew Reat since he was 7, had few words Saturday. Seeing all the Scouts, the younger ones and the older ones who had just received their Eagle or are in the process, touched Reat’s old cubmaster.
“It’s very nice to be able to finish this for him,” said Rinehart, now the scoutmaster of Troop 92.
On Monday afternoon, the troop will deliver the most recent collection of food to Operation Breakthrough. In total, Reat’s project — and the expansion his troop carried out — will have provided the center’s pantry with about 9,000 pounds of food and supplies. Plus about $6,000 in donations from his church and others. All of it much more than Reat even planned.
The center will hang a plaque honoring Reat, Sailer said. When families don’t have enough food at home and need to go to the pantry, they will see his name.
They will remember the 14-year-old who had a plan, who wanted to feed the center’s families and their children.
And when he couldn’t finish it, his fellow Scouts did.
Feeding Kansas City kids
This holiday season, The Star is again partnering with Harvesters on a virtual food drive to raise money for the area’s hungriest children.
All money goes to Harvesters’ BackSnack program, which provides low-income children with packs of food each Friday to tide them over until they return to school Monday. A $25 donation provides a child BackSnack packs for a month; $250 provides BackSnacks for a year.
If you would like to give, go to FeedingKCKds.HarvestersVFD.org. Or you can send a check to Harvesters, 3801 Topping Ave., Kansas City, MO 64129. You can donate in a loved one’s name, with reader dedications published in The Star’s Christmas edition. The deadline for dedications is 5 p.m. Dec. 21.