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Iowa Eagle Scout restores high school victory bell

April 1, 2018

WEST BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — When Daniel Crooks, 17, restored the aged, cracked victory bell for West Burlington High School, he helped cement his last name as part of the school’s legacy.

“I think it’s awesome. It’s been a great project and a learning experience for him,” Daniel’s father, Mark Crooks, told The Hawk Eye .

Daniel Crooks recently hosted a short presentation about the five months of work he put into the bell, giving far more credit to those who helped him than himself. He spoke of his older brother, Andy Crooks, who earned his Eagle Scout badge through a landscaping project in front of the school.

He will be the third and final Crooks brother to graduate from the school this May, and he wanted to make sure that name is remembered.

“I thought it would be a cool project to bring back school history,” he said.

Crooks, who will soon turn 18, remembers walking by the dilapidated victory bell on his way into school. Though it was used as a celebration call during school sporting events in the 1980s and ’90s, it had been decades since it last rang.

Daniel rang the bell with a short rope attached to a plastic clapper inside the bell, which was created using a 3-D printer at Winegard Co.

“If you hit it with something metal, it would crack,” he said.

Crooks came up with the idea of the project about a year ago — a way to help his school and earn an Eagle Scout badge at the same time. He made his case to the school’s booster club, which offered up to $500 to restore the bell. Superintendent David Schmitt offered to cover any expenses that went beyond that, but it wasn’t necessary.

Daniel was able to restore the bell with $172.

“It probably would have cost $700 or $1,000 if the school had to do it,” Daniel said.

Crooks was able to save a lot of money through material and labor donations from several local businesses that welded, sandblasted and painted the bell. He didn’t know it suffered from extensive cracks until he agreed to the project, and feared it might beyond repair.

So did Winegard Co. Yet through a miracle of sand blasting and welding, the bell was mostly repaired. There will always be a crack, but it has been filled enough to withstand the impact of the plastic clapper.

“You should have seen how cracked this was when we got it out,” Mark Crooks said.

The crowd gathered at the presentation got to see exactly that, following Daniel Crooks’ progress through a PowerPoint presentation. He attached the bell to a steel base with roller wheels, allowing the bell to be taken anywhere. Buying the wheels ate up most of the money — about $110.

Considering his activity on the school’s sports scene, he’s hoping to hear it ring after a game at least once.

“West Burlington’s really small, and it’s going to be such a cool, fun tradition,” said Leah Godar said, president of the West Burlington Athletic Booster Club.

Each coach will come up with their own tradition involving the bell, Godar said, and it will be wheeled from field to field for home games, likely rung if the Falcons win. She speculated it could be taken to away games as well, though it would be difficult to transport given its large size.

West Burlington students won’t be the only ones to partake in the tradition’s resurgence as the district has sharing agreements with Danville and Notre Dame for several sports, and Godar wants those families, students and community members to partake in the celebration as well.

“In my mind, it’s a huge thing,” she said excitedly, explaining its something for student athletes, families, the school and the community.

Crooks will officially become an Eagle Scout in about two weeks. A plaque will be added to the bell detailing its history — what little is known.

“We don’t really know the history,” Mark Crooks said.

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Information from: The Hawk Eye, http://www.thehawkeye.com

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