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Eagle Scout Project Benefits Arlington Park Backstretch

Recent Barrington High School graduate Tom Kudla earned his Eagle Scout rank on July 5, 2012. His projected benefitted more than 500 children who live on the backstretch of Arlington Park through the D214 Kids on Track program.

Tom Kudla
Tom Kudla
Tom Kudla, 18, of North Barrington has a lot to be proud of. 

He achieved Eagle Scout rank in the Boy Scout Troop 309 Lake Zurich, the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scout program, and helped more than 500 children from the ages of three to 13 in the process.

The children he benefitted live on the little-known area called the backstretch at Arlington Park, 2000 W. Euclid Avenue. 

Kudla is a true horse enthusiast - and comes from family where racetracks are something of a second home. He has worked part-time at Arlington Park for the last several years with horse trainers and breeders. 

Many may not be aware that Arlington Park provides housing for more than 2,000 people seasonally, including parents and children, in the area known as the backstretch. 

While working there over the years, Kudla had noticed an old, unused building with broken windows that he ultimately decided to convert for the hundreds of children who live there as the focus of his Eagle Scout project.

He knew from meeting the young people and knowing their parents, they had limited places to go to learn, and cool off in the hot summers while their moms and dads were at work. 

The young man teamed up with the recently unfunded District 214 Kids on Track program, and with a team of volunteers, completely rehabbed the building. He replaced broken windows and flooring, and converted the space into a place where the children of the racetrack could go and learn, and be safe. 

The more than $12,000 in donated funds and product to complete the rehab were garnered by Kudla alone. In addition to private donors, Adavanced Home Exteriors in Hoffman Estates donated not only the windows, but their installation as well.

Kudla was able to engage several of his fellow Boy Scouts and their parents to help him complete the job. In total, 350 hours of work were put into the current Learning Center that resulted from Kudla's, and his team's efforts.

There are now 20 computers for children living at the track to use, in addition to a library and craft area. The center also doubles as a cooling center for when the weather becomes extremely hot, and a safe place during inclement weather. 

The project, which took more than a year to complete and was finished in July of 2012, originated from Kudla's desire to help the kids he has observed for so many years, whom he knew had few constructive places to go. 

"I know that if you give a chance, and hope to young kids, they can do anything they want to," Kudla said. 

And Kudla's passions, not only for helping others, but also for horses, have translated into a career direction for him as well.

He will be heading off to the University of Kentucky in the fall and majoring in Equine Science. He admits a large part of that decision was for the strong program, in addition to the college being right near Churchhill Downs, the racetrack which is the home of the Kentucky Derby. 

When asked what his future plans are, Kudla said the options are relatively open.

"As long as it is near horses, I'll be happy," he said. 

Kudla's Eagle Scout project was considered such a success, it was recently nominated for a regional award through the Northwest Suburban Council. 

Best of luck to Tom Kudla, a truly impressive young man. 



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