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Remembering Andrew McMorris takes another leap forward

They finished the hike. 

Now, the McMorris Family and Suffolk County Council of Boy Scouts are aiming to complete a cabin being built in honor of Andrew, 12, who was killed after being struck by a drunk driver while hiking with his Boy Scout troop in Manorville in 2018.

A memorial walkathon and 5K run is planned for Saturday, March 28, at the Baiting Hollow Scout Camp. The route will wind through trails within the camp and culminate at the McMorris Lodge, which is currently under construction.

The fundraiser will help the Boy Scouts and Andrew McMorris Foundation complete and furnish the Adirondack-style cabin. The 3,200-square-foot cabin will replace one that was built in the 1950s, according to camp director Jim Grimaldi. Designed to accommodate 40 Scouts, it will be outfitted with a kitchen, bathrooms, a great room, outdoor patio area with an indoor and outdoor fireplace, he said.

When completed, this room will be able to sleep 16 scouts. (Credit: Tara Smith)

Andrew’s mom, Alisa, said construction of the new cabin is part of their mission to turn darkness into light.

“This is our walk towards that light and it covers so many things that Andrew embodied,” she said at the scout camp Saturday. “He was about to run his first cross country meet on Monday [Oct. 1, 2018]. This is where he camped. He loved being a Scout, he loved hiking.”

The family hopes the lodge will serve Scouts for decades to come — with little reminders of Andrew scattered throughout. His dad, John, placed a paintbrush, guitar pick, aviator sunglasses and a model airplane as the building’s foundation was being poured last year.

Boy Scout Troop 161 also had a hand in the cabin’s construction, joining forces with the family last winter to hand-stain the building’s wood siding. “It was really good for the kids, because when they’re grieving like the way they’re grieving…putting their energy towards something that makes them feel good. It helps them heal,” Mr. McMorris said.

A rendering of the Adirondack cabin.

Mr. Grimaldi said the majority of work completed on the cabin, from framing to plumbing and electric, was done by volunteers, some of whom have dedicated over 100 hours into the project so far. “The guys that are here today are all Scouters,” Mr. Grimaldi said Saturday, pointing out at least a half dozen people working in different rooms. “[Andrew’s death] impacted the Scouting community from all over.”

The driver, Thomas Murphy, 60, was convicted on nine counts related to the crash that killed Andrew and injured three others. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 27.

Alisa and John McMorris with some of the volunteers working on the lodge. (Credit: Tara Smith)

The rain or shine event will begin with registration at 7:30 a.m., with the walkathon and 5K kicking off at 9 a.m. It will conclude with a barbecue for participants and a sneak peek of the lodge.

Participants who raise more than $100 in donations will receive a commemorative long-sleeve t-shirt, event organizers said.

Event chair Donna Lillie said the event is meant to honor Andrew’s legacy. “People were hearing his story and asking, ‘What do we do?’ ‘How can we help,’? It could have been any Scout, so everybody wanted to do something,” she said.

Ms. McMorris said the event is open to all. “We want it to be an inclusive event, not just to Scouts but anyone who wants to participate in moving this forward,” she said. “It’s for Andrew, but it’s really for all of us.”

For more information or to register for the 5K, visit sccbsa.org/walk2020.