CLINE: A unique Eagle Scout project

Isaac Penman and Mark Coughlin

Isaac Penman and Mark Coughlin



What: Better Health for Haiti 5K

When: Saturday, 9 a.m.

Where: George Pierce Park, Suwanee

Registration: Cost is $25 to register the day of

More info: Contace Isaac Penman at 770-277-0331 or email isaacpenman@chart...

As Eagle Scout projects go, this one is pretty unique. But it’s not surprising that Isaac Penman would figure out a way to marry two of his passions — running and scouting.

The junior at Peachtree Ridge High School finished 12th at the state cross country meet this past weekend, and while that season is over Penman still has one big race left for the year — the 5K run he is putting on this weekend at George Pierce Park in Suwanee.

The race is to benefit the charity Better Health for Haiti, which was started by Mark Coughlin, an assistant coach at Peachtree Ridge who runs with and helps train Penman and his teammates. For Penman it was a win-win situation, a chance to create an Eagle Scout project that included running and supported his coach.

“I knew I wanted to do a 5K but I didn’t know what to do it for,” Penman said. “(Coughlin) has an organization, and it just felt right. The whole (idea of this) is not only a fundraiser, but to raise awareness.

“We have almost 50 signed up, and people have told to expect more to show up on the day of the race. I was hoping for a few more runners, but other than that I’m pretty excited about it.”

Penman has been working on the race, which starts at 9 a.m., since July. A lot has gone into it, from finding a location, organizing timers and awards along with promoting the event and recruiting runners. It’s an impressive effort, said Coughlin, who said he has talked about the event during runs with Penman, including a 10-miler on Monday.

“I’ve watched him go through the whole process, and I admire him for taking this on,” Coughlin said. “And I’m grateful he decided to make this a benefit to my charity.”

Coughlin started his charity after visiting Haiti on a mission trip. Moved to help, Coughlin decided to use his skills as a musician to help produce songs and music videos that promote healthcare, including ones as simple as promoting hand washing and oral hygiene and as complex as talking about AIDS. An alliance with a group called Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante has helped Coughlin’s group distribute CDs and mp3s of the songs, some of which are played Haitian radio stations.

A member of Troop 827, which is chartered out of The Catholic Church of St. Monica’s, Penman said he got into Scouting in part because of his love for the outdoors and camping. As he’s stayed with it he’s found it requires the same type of discipline and committment that he’s needed as a runner.

“It’s a good extracurricular,” he said. “It teaches leadership. I’ve learned a lot from this (project).”

In addition to Coughlin, Penman credits Ron Clanton, Peachtree Ridge’s head coach, and assistant Randy Adams with helping him with the logistics of the race. He also said he’s had much support from the Peachtree Ridge booster club and scout leaders in tackling the project.

Any Eagle Scout project takes a lot of committment, and Coughlin said that maturity also reflected in Penman’s running, which culminated with his strong finish at the state meet.

“He’s a very hard worker,” Coughlin said. “This year he got really focused and has done a teriffic job.”

One he hopes continues with another great finish on Saturday morning.

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.