King me! Girl Scout builds jumbo-size checkerboard in Tupper Lake park

Girl Scout Marissa Moeller, left front, and Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun pose with the new checkerboard Moeller installed at Flanders Park on the shore of Raquette Pond for her Silver Award project. Behind them, from left, are Moeller’s parents Terry and Wendy, Susan Keiffer, the re-entry coordinator at the Federal Corrections Institute in Ray Brook, town youth Director Angie Snye and her two children, village Clerk Mary Casagrain, Moeller’s grandmother Isabell Smith and Moeller’s aunt and uncle Richard and Becky Moeller. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — A jumbo-size checkerboard was unveiled Wednesday at Flander’s Park on the shore of Raquette Pond, ninth-grade Girl Scout Marissa Moeller’s Silver Award project.

The 8-by-8-foot game board, implanted into the sloping hill with red and white pavers, was the result of more than 50 hours of work on Moeller’s way to earning the second highest award in the Girl Scouts.

Her work started in February when she pitched the game board to the village board for permission to add it to the park, between the Little Loggers playground and the bandshell, which is under construction. She finished it on Aug. 21.

Standing by the board with its two-seater Adirondack chair, proud parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, prison employees and village officials listened as Moeller thanked the many people who helped make this mind game a reality.

Moeller thanked village Mayor Paul Maroun for listening to and approving the project, village Clerk Mary Casagrain for taking her calls and questions, Bob DeGrace and the village Department of Public Works for the dirt, Angie Snye for mentoring and supervising the project, Ollie Burgess of Specialty Wood Product in Bloomingdale for donating the cedar wood for the chair, Warden Veronica Fernandez and re-entry Coordinator Susan Keiffer at the Federal Corrections Institute in Ray Brook, where her dad works, for setting up the inmates in the inmate work program to assemble and engrave the chair, her dad, Terry, who guided the work crew on the bench, Kentile Excavating, which dug the flat area into the hull and delivered sand, Rick Dattola and Tupper Lake Supply for donating the eight large pavers under the bench and the Marine Corps of Tupper Lake, Gina and Dave Bell, aunt and uncle Richard and Becky Moeller, grandmothers Isabell Smith and Eleanor Moeller, and Cynthia and Tom Staves for monetary donations.

Girl Scout Marissa Moeller shovels dirt as she prepares the base for the checkerboard in Flanders Park. Moeller worked all summer on the project to earn the Silver Award, the Girl Scout’s second highest rank. (Photo provided — Wendy Moeller)

The donations covered the majority of the $1,300 project, and Moeller paid for the remaining $450 out of pocket through working a job and recycling bottles and cans.

The chair is covered in engravings, from the Girl Scout and Lumberjack logos on the backs of the seats, to the quote on the front: “Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the whole world for one person.”

Moeller picked out the quote, searching through lists of sayings until one really connected with her. She said it’s a reminder of the impact one person can have.

“We’ve all had that one bad day when one person came along and made it so much better,” Moeller said.

Moeller has played checkers since she was old enough to understand the game but is still working on beating her ultimate opponent, her father.

“My dad is amazing at checkers,” Moeller said. “My main goal is to beat him. Even though I’ve never done it, I still try.”

She has not faced him on the new, larger board yet.

Moeller said her goal was to create something that brings people together outdoors. Checkers is a well-known mind game and Flanders Park sports a rare, easily accessible western view over Raquette Pond, making it a place to watch vibrant sunsets, sweeping cloud formations and views of the mountains.

While working on the board, the Moellers said they met people visiting Tupper Lake from as far away as Syracuse and Texas, and everyone had one question: “Whatcha doin’?”

Moeller’s mother Wendy said they should have put up a sign.

“We probably spent more time explaining what we were doing than working,” Wendy said.

Moeller’s troop, 4123, has earned a collective Bronze Award. The Silver Award is meant to be done alone or with a partner, and needs to have a lasting community impact.

The highest Girl Scout award, the Gold Award, takes another lengthy community project. Wendy said Marissa has four years left to achieve that award.

When asked if she has any plans for her Gold Award project, Marissa said, “I haven’t really thought about that yet.”