A.J. Jolly Park now sports park bench that honors Kentucky Thorough-Breasts

  • A bench has permanently been erected in honor of the Kentucky Thorough-Breasts. Others are to follow later in the summer. Photo by Carolyn Reid.
    A bench has permanently been erected in honor of the Kentucky Thorough-Breasts. Others are to follow later in the summer. Photo by Carolyn Reid.

    Thanks to an Eagle Scout who is inspired by the Kentucky Thorough-Breasts Dragon Boat Team, a team of women who paddle to bring about breast cancer awareness and support, A. J. Jolly Park in Campbell County, Kentucky, is now the home of a work of art that is as practical as it is aesthetic. A pink park bench, complete with a laser-cut back and three mosaics representing dragon boat racing now sits beneath an oak tree that faces the lake that is home to Kentucky’s first dragon boat team.
    Dragon boat racing is a popular sport among breast cancer survivors due to its health benefits, and it has become a vehicle for awareness and fundraising for breast cancer support.
    Grant Ayers, son of Julie and Michael Ayers, an upcoming Turpin High School senior and a member of Boy Scout Troop 281, led the creation of the display to earn his Eagle Scout rank. As is required by the Scouts, Ayers planned, developed, and led the service project that he estimates required over 200 hours collectively between Scouts and adults who helped. Friends, including another aspiring Eagle Scout Josh Day, and family provided the support that turned his vision into a reality.
    “It was labor-intensive,” Ayers concedes, “but it was for a good cause, so I am glad I did it.”
    “Clearly, we’re all touched by cancer in some way,” he stated during the unveiling ceremony. “We’ve all gathered here to acknowledge that. Unfortunately, I have also had a lot of family and close friends who have dealt with cancer, but the nice thing about organizations like [Kentucky Thorough-Breasts Dragon Boat Team] is that there is always work being done. I hope to make this process better in some way or another, whether that is working toward research or support for those who are affected; so that is why I decided to do a project [at the park] in support of the Kentucky Thorough-Breasts. I think it is a really great cause that they’re working toward because it needs to be recognized.”
    Ayers has worked with causes that support cancer awareness and fundraising for several years, especially the dragon boat festival. His adopted grandmother, Ellie Rudolph, is on the dragon boat team as a supporter.  His mother and Ellie taught together for several years.
    While survivors are honored by the project, so are those who have lost their battle with breast cancer. The team sports those names on the sleeves of their team shirts. According to Kentucky Thorough-Breasts Coach Priscilla Elgersma, the suggestion for a memorial bench came after they lost several of those team mates rather quickly after the team was formed. Ayers captured their memory with the poignant slogan that is laser-cut into the back of the bench which serves as a tribute to those team members who have passed: With every stroke, we remember. The slogan is centered vertically around the horsehead logo for the Thorough-Breasts. Images of dragon boats are to the left of the logo, and to the right are the familiar breast cancer ribbon and crossed dragon boat paddles. Three mosaics are also included on the ground in the setting. To the left of the bench is a mosaic that dons a dragon boat paddle, and to the right is the ribbon. The center mosaic portrays a dragon, and that mosaic serves as a foundation for the bench. All three mosaics are created from pink and white tile.
    The mosaics to either side of the bench will serve as homes to other benches, and the area around the benches will hold a flower garden that will display predominantly pink flowers and a peace pole that will serve as a memorial to all who have been lost. The rest of the project is to be completed by Joshua Day, a classmate and troop mate of Ayers. Day seeks to earn his Eagle rank by completing the honor garden.
    Elgersma praised Ayers. “If you don’t have faith in the future, let me tell you, you just have to come and see someone like Grant. He got out of his comfort zone and met with people he’s never met before such as Larry Harrod [Director of A.J. Jolly Park] and officials. It was a family project; it was friends; it was his troop. Just like our team, it takes many people to make things go so well.”
    The idea for a memorial bench may have come nearly a decade before it became a reality, and that dream coincided with the time Grant Ayers was just starting his tenure as a Scout. The idea that originated in the mind of a grieving teammate and the long-term goal of a young Scout converged a decade later.
    Elgersma expressed her praise for his work.  “This is beyond what we thought could be done.”