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Kenny Kromer holds with one of his sensory boxes. Once completed, Kromer plans to donate more than 50 boxes to the Squanacook Early Childhood Center. (Shane Rhodes/Nashoba Valley Voice)
Kenny Kromer holds with one of his sensory boxes. Once completed, Kromer plans to donate more than 50 boxes to the Squanacook Early Childhood Center. (Shane Rhodes/Nashoba Valley Voice)
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GROTON — West Groton Troop One’s Kenny Kromer wanted to do something a bit different for his Eagle Scout project.

To achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest attainable rank in the Boy Scouts of America, prospective scouts must complete an Eagle Project, where they demonstrate leadership through a project that serves the community. Rather than build and donate a bench to the local park, Kromer took his idea in another direction: Sensory boxes for local kids with special needs.

“We get a lot of projects that are ‘let’s go build a bridge or go clean or restore a trail,’” said Kevin Kennedy, Troop One’s scoutmaster. “But (Kromer) really thought outside the box, pun intended.”

A typical sensory box is loaded with, as the name would suggest, sensory items that can both entertain kids, but also help them fine-tune their motor skills, develop strength and dexterity or even deal with feelings of anxiety or stress.

Kromer, an active member in Groton-Dunstable Regional High School’s Best Buddies program, said the idea came from growing up with many special-needs kids and further experiences with them through the program. He said the fact that his mother, Nicole Kromer, is a special education teacher also played a role.

“I’ve been pretty close with kids in the special education program at school and I’m a pretty active member of Best Buddies,” Kenny Kromer said. “It just seemed like the perfect project for me.”

A Life Scout (Scouts BSA’s penultimate rank), Kromer said his idea for the project originated in 2019 but was put on the back burner and later adapted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At first we planned for more of a ‘sensory table,’ which was more or less the same thing, just bigger,” Kromer said. “Later, because of COVID, we sort of changed it to be a bit more individualized.”

Then, late last year, Kromer “put the pedal to the metal” on the project. Later, in February, he launched a GoFundMe for the project that, as of Wednesday, March 16, has raised $2,150 — nearly double his original goal.

The project has also received donated items from local businesses, such as Sterilite and Concord Lumber.

Neither Kennedy nor Kromer expected the attention it has garnered.

“He was focused on his goal and just didn’t really anticipate it catching the eye of anyone outside of his friends and family,” Kennedy said. “The way it kind of took off has certainly taken us all by surprise.”

“It’s definitely humbling,” Kromer said. “It’s definitely a lot more than I’m used to, but it has allowed us to make even more boxes, which is great.”

Kromer said the original plan had been to make 50 boxes and donate them to the Squannacook Early Childhood Center, which serves the towns of Ashby, Pepperell and Townsend. Now, with the extra, unexpected funding, he can make bigger, better sensory boxes and even has enough to make additional boxes that are a permanent fixture in classrooms.

Kromer said he planned to have all the boxes made and distributed by the end of the school year.

While the attention may have been unexpected, neither Kennedy nor Nicole Kromer were surprised by the passion in Kenny Kromer’s project.

Kennedy called his work “admirable” and said Kenny Kromer – who is a member of the BSA’s Order of the Arrow and the Vice Chief of the local Scout lodge with 600 members – was an excellent example of leadership. Nicole Kromer said she was happy to see her son work on something that was helping local students.

Both said the project was emblematic of who Kenny Kromer is as a person.

“When he brought the idea to us, we were just very happy that he had found something that meant something to him and I was just really impressed with his consideration,” Kennedy said. “He’s always been there to lend a hand and lead by example and, I think, he’s shown the rest of the troop that you can go out and really make lives better for those around you.”

“He realized a lot of these kids didn’t have some of the things they desperately needed,” Nicole Kromer said. “Any time you can assist any student, lessen their anxiety or help them work on their skills, it’s really a powerful thing.”

“It doesn’t surprise me that he would do something like this for others, he’s just a kind person and that’s always been the sort of energy he’s given off,” she said.

For more information on Kromer’s project, visit his GoFundMe page at https://bit.ly/3Nau6hg.

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