VERNAL — A teenager who crafted nine infant-sized caskets to give to families who lose a child as a service project says the experience taught him to be more grateful for what he has.
“It helped me realize for myself to be grateful for everything that I have and what I’m given,” Tanner Woodruff said. “There are so many people that lose and don’t have as much as I do or as much as other people do. … It really makes you think twice and have more gratitude towards life when something is given to you.”
Woodruff, 17, made the caskets as part of his Eagle Scout service project. He put almost 100 hours into the project and delivered the finished products to Ashley Valley Funeral Home in Vernal last month.
The small, 8-by-16-inch caskets are made with stillborn babies in mind, Woodruff said.
With Woodruff’s donation of the caskets, combined with a number of other donations from various local agencies, Ashley Valley Funeral Home owner Jake Phillips said local families that experience the loss of a premature baby have no funeral expenses.
“Vernal is a great community with generous people,” Phillips said in an email. “When people see others struggling, the community comes together and makes things happen.”
Local business owners also donated money to Woodruff when they found out what he was hoping to accomplish with his project.
After finishing the project, Woodruff was also invited to speak at a ceremony for a group that assists families that have lost a child.
“That was really cool to share my project for those families that have lost children,” he said.
Woodruff at first thought he wasn’t going to do an Eagle Scout project. Then somebody gave him the idea to make caskets and he went with it, he said.
The project ended up being more meaningful than he thought it would be at first, he said.
Woodruff said if he could meet one of the families that benefit from one of the caskets, he would tell them that even though he can’t put himself in their shoes, he would mourn with them as they grieve.
“I just feel this project was so important,” Woodruff said. “Being able to give that to someone so they don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars out of their pocket for a casket, it’s very precious gift that is given to them, and I hope it is as meaningful for them as it is for me.”