Eagle scout raises more than $77,000 to build a veterans memorial in Olivia

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How’s this for an uplifting story? A 17-year-old boy scout in Olivia, Minn. raised more than $77,000 to build a veteran’s memorial in his community. His project has since gone viral in a big way. Dominique Claseman joined Cathy to tell his story.

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Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: I don't know about you, but I'm in the mood for an uplifting story. How's this one? A 17-year-old Boy Scout from Olivia, Minnesota raised $77,000 to build a Veterans Memorial in his community. His project has since gone viral in a big way. Dominique Claseman is on the line right now. Welcome to Minnesota Now, Dominique. How are you?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: I'm good. How are you?

CATHY WURZER: I'm fine, thanks for being with us. Now, I understand this was for an Eagle Scout project. Is that right?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Correct.

CATHY WURZER: Tell me about the idea.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: I guess we got the idea based off an officer-- police officer, sorry. He contacted my dad, who is a Scoutmaster, and he asked to see if some Scouts would like to touch up what's called a veterans park here in town. And after searching for quite a time, we could not find one. So after some family trips and seeing all these other memorials, I decided to take it upon myself and make one in our town.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, nice. So you had a park, but no Memorial.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Yep.

CATHY WURZER: OK. So tell. Me a little bit about your idea for the memorial.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: We kind of got a big idea off of Brewster Memorial Park, over by Worthington. So what it looks like is there's a walkway that leads up to a main stone. And on the walkway, there is 21 blue steps printed into the cement. The 21 blue steps signifies the 21-gun salute and amount of steps the Honor Guard takes to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, along with 221 veteran pavers. And then the rest of them were doner pavers, along with our American flag, our POW MIA flag, and state flag, and then four benches, and some plants and statues.

CATHY WURZER: That's beautiful. So you decided to raise money for this. How did you get the word out?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: I guess it was more of a door to door to businesses or word of mouth. Because we didn't use any electronic communication through other ways.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, OK. Because I know you have a radio station in Olivia. You could've used that, I guess.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Yep. Yep, we did use that because that was local.

CATHY WURZER: OK

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: But we didn't use Facebook or anything like that.

CATHY WURZER: Ah, OK. So you got the word out with local sources.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Yep, local word of mouth and--

CATHY WURZER: Got it.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: --door to door.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, gosh, OK. So how much were you hoping to collect?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: So my original goal was $12,000 to $15,000. And then, due to COVID prices, we kind of had to increase it. So I believe it was $18,000 to $20,000. Then after so long, we had raised enough funds to be able to expand my project. And it kind of led to making it bigger.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, wow. And you raised $77,000.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Correct.

CATHY WURZER: You must've been pretty surprised by this response.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Yeah, it's even weirder the exact total that it came to. It Is all 7's.

CATHY WURZER: Wow.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: $77,777.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, for goodness sakes.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Wow. So when you went up door to door and you were talking to people in Olivia, what was the general reaction?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: A lot of people thought it was a great idea, just even. By getting approval. It obviously didn't take long to get approval. Because I believe the board, they thought it was such a fantastic idea on seeing such a younger kid be able to do this, take action in his community.

CATHY WURZER: Have you had a chance to talk to any veterans? Have they weighed in? Have they told you what they think?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Oh, most definitely. My dad himself, also, is a veteran. He was my mentor, so he definitely helped a lot with this. And then, during my dedication ceremony, I had a lot of people saying how, hey, that's my paper. And they're very happy to be able to see that they're being honored in some sort of way.

CATHY WURZER: I understand you were interviewed by the Washington Post and other national media. So this story has gotten some legs.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: I definitely got more exposure than what I thought I was going to get.

CATHY WURZER: [LAUGHTER] What's it like?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: It's kind of cool, but sometimes, being national kind of builds up a little bit of nervousness. But I love it. It's all good.

CATHY WURZER: Well, why do you think people are so inspired by your story? I'm curious.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: I feel like a lot of, not calling people old, but I feel like the older generation thinks that the kids nowadays don't know how to take action. And being able to see someone be able to step up and take action and being able to be a role model for other kids is great.

CATHY WURZER: OK, so you raised the money, $77,777, right? So all 7's?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Yep.

CATHY WURZER: Now, for folks, can we see it at this point? Are you still building it? Or has it been--

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Nope. It's all completed. I did my groundbreaking on May 4th this year. And then I completed it May 30th on Memorial Day this year, as well.

CATHY WURZER: That fast?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Yep. I believe we only did it on the weekends, as well.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, my gosh, OK. So you did this on your own, no less, with some help.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Yep, with, obviously, some professional help. Zeet's Construction, he did our concrete, and some other local businesses, as well, that helped with it.

CATHY WURZER: OK, so when I'm driving through Olivia, which I've done several times, where's the park? Where can we see this?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: It is located in the corner of Kubesh park, along Highway 71.

CATHY WURZER: OK. So I hope, since this was an Eagle Scout project, are you close to making Eagle Scout?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: As of right now, yes, I am close. I just sent in all my paperwork the other day.

CATHY WURZER: So you sent your paperwork in for the Eagle Scout designation. Who decides?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Yep. So it's the Eagle Scout Board of Review that basically determines whether or not I get Eagle or not.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, gosh, OK. With all the work you've done, I would think you'd be a shoe in to be Eagle Scout.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: I would think so too.

CATHY WURZER: [LAUGHS] And when you get to that point, what's that going to mean to you?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Once I get to that point, it's definitely going to be able to-- I guess it doesn't mean it's the end of my Scouting career. i just to continue to live up to that standard.

CATHY WURZER: So you're 17. So you're going to be a senior this year, right, at Olivia high?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Correct.

CATHY WURZER: And what are you looking forward to?

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Definitely getting out of high school, be able to really get out there.

CATHY WURZER: Well, you've done a great job. What an amazing project that you've done, and you did it, pretty much, on your own. So, as I say, when I'm driving through, I'm going to definitely stop and see your work. And we thank you for everything you've done.

DOMINIQUE CLASEMAN: Thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Dominique Claseman is a 17-year-old Eagle Scout living in Olivia, Minnesota. He raised more than $70,000 to build a Veterans Memorial in his hometown.

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