As they stood in front of the new lodge at Baiting Hollow Scout Camp in Calverton, dedicated to the memory of their late 12-year-old son Andrew McMorris, John and Alisa McMorris said they were sure their son was with them in spirit.
"I’m sure Andrew is smiling from above in heaven right now seeing this building and knowing that it will serve his fellow Scouts for so many generations to come," said John McMorris at the podium during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday at the camp. Local, Suffolk County and state officials and dignitaries attended the ceremony for McMorris Lodge, named in memory of the young Boy Scout from Wading River.
The lodge cabin, which cost $130,000 to build, was paid for through fundraisers such as a walkathon sponsored by the nonprofit Andrew McMorris Foundation in November. The building can house 40 people and will be used for Boy Scouts and corporate events, according to Boy Scout officials.
"It’s fitting that this lodge is inspired by him, this lodge that will touch the lives of generations of Scouts who will continue to be inspired by this amazing young man," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
Andrew McMorris, who loved planes and was a member of Boy Scout Troop 161, died in September 2018 after a drunken driver crashed into him and three other fellow Scouts while they were hiking 20 miles in Manorville; the other three Scouts survived with injuries. The driver, Thomas Murphy of Holbrook was sentenced to 8⅓ to 25 years in prison in September.
Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar presented the McMorris family with a citation and Brookhaven officials declared Saturday as "McMorris Lodge Day" in their town.
John McMorris said that while the event was special, it was also bittersweet.
"Andrew was so full of life, and he never wasted a moment. There was no question that he would have become an Eagle Scout and eventually an airline pilot, as he was so driven and passionate about his interests. His life was taken away in a flash, and me, my family, our troop and our community will never be the same without Andrew here by our side," his father said, vowing that his family will do all they can to keep Andrew's memory alive and bring awareness to the dangers of driving while intoxicated.
Alisa McMorris said she was "extremely overwhelmed" by the outpouring of support, adding that the lodge perfectly represented what it took to rebuild her family’s lives.
"I know my sweet boy is watching from above, and although each day I wake with an ache in my heart from his absence, I know I will see him again and I will make meaningful change in his name," his mother said.