Cumberland Eagle Scout Henry Dennen’s Leadership Lifts Spirits

He learned he had to be willing to be open-minded to be an effective leader.

Henry Dennen
Photo Credit: Jerry Silberman

A key scorer for the cross-country and track programs at Cumberland High School, Henry Dennen is accustomed to getting from Point A to Point B in a hurry.

Scouting has been an important part of Dennen’s life for a long time now. As  senior, Dennen understood that he would need to undertake a different course of action before achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. First, he had to come up with a well-thought-out plan.  Some serious time would need to be budgeted – multiple months to be exact.

On a more personal level, Dennen set out with a purpose to strike a chord with the target audience that he sought to enrich through his project.

“I wanted to do something that had meaning,” said Dennen. “I wanted my heart to be in it through helping people.”

 

 

Thanks to a unique approach to lighting up the Providence nighttime sky, Dennen was able to ace his Eagle Scout presentation. Celebrating his 18th birthday last weekend, Dennen’s timing couldn’t have worked out any better since he would be aging out of Boy Scouts.

A 2020 First Team All-Division cross-country selection who finished 16th overall at last year’s state meet, Dennen finds himself in a reflective mood these days. Much work went into the endeavor entitled “Good Night Light-ups” that would be a spin-off of the “Good Night Lights” program that’s on display each night near Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

Every story has an origin. In this case, Dennen’s mother Megan urged her son to reach out to Steve Brosnihan, known as Hasbro’s resident cartoonist. There’s a side of the hospital that does not face the street, hence patients in those particular rooms miss out on what has become a well-received phenomenon now going strong for five years.

Henry Dennen

It was that side of Hasbro Children’s Hospital that Dennen wished to illuminate.

“They like to flash lights at a Do Not Enter sign across the street, thinking it helps bring it to life,” said Dennen. “I wanted them to be able to produce positive messages and happy images off the sign.”

The spirit-lifting endeavor featured a heart, a star, and a smiley face.

“Happy images that would project good vibes,” said Dennen. “Steve said he had been thinking about something along those lines for a while, but we were able to get it off the ground. He’s expanded on it further, bringing in professionals to make new signs.

“It was amazing to see,” added Dennen, his distinctive stamp officially coming to life this past July. “I’ll still check in with Steve now and again. The kids are so excited. They can’t wait to reflect each night. It’s really heartwarming.”

It was this past February when Dennen submitted his “Good Night Light-ups” proposal to the council overseeing Troop 1 Diamond Hill.

“They approve it, then you have to do the project, then speak about it before the Board of Review,” he said. “The core of the project has to do with leadership. For me, the biggest thing was getting ideas from other people. It was a relatively small project, but having people’s input of seeing it through different ways … I think the best way to put it is that it helped me grow as a leader.

“I had to be willing to be open-minded and have other people help me. The way they saw the project was different from what I originally imagined,” Dennen delved further. “I would respond, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea.’”

 

 

Working on the project throughout the spring of his high school junior year, Dennen handed off the initial prototypes to Brosnihan sometime in June. On a personal note, Dennen was going on Year 12 of involvement with Cub/Boy Scouts. His dad Bill was a Boy Scout back in the day. Presently, Bill serves as Troop Committee Chair for Troop 1 Diamond Hill, in Cumberland.

“Sketching out a timeline back in January, Henry remembers, I was able to stick closely to it. It was different because I never had to have that structured of a plan before. With school, you study for the test, take the test, then move on. With running, it’s preparing for a meet, run it, then start to get ready for the next meet.”

The wait time was two weeks from Dennen’s presentation on “Good Night Light-ups” to learning the good news that he had been named an Eagle Scout. Call it a stamp of approval on a project that proved most fulfilling.

“The best feeling was the last time when I brought them to the hospital. Steve came downstairs and said a bunch of kids couldn’t wait to see the lights,” said Dennen. “I remember driving around the corner and just smiling. It felt so good to hear the kids were looking forward to this project. You have a sense of appreciation of doing something good for other people.”