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10 Rising Hearts: student's grandmother inspires his Eagle service project

Max Berry turned to technology to preserve history

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Max Berry always knew he would be a Scout just like his dad, Mike Berry.

The sophomore at Hardin Valley Academy was looking for a service project to achieve the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America: Eagle Scout. 

Then his grandmother, Rebecca Rickard, passed away a few months ago in Memphis. 

Credit: Mike Berry
Rebecca Rickard

"I kind of wanted to preserve her grave and then I had the idea to do the same project here," he said. 

The project in Knoxville is similar to a project his cousin did in Memphis with a website called BillionGraves. Max calls his project the 'Piney Grove Cemetery Service Project.'

Credit: WBIR
Piney Grove Cemetery

Here's how it works. Take a picture of a tombstone. Upload it. Transcribe the words engraved on it. Then the photo becomes part of a searchable database online.

"If they have loved ones that they've lost and they don't know where their grave is located they can search their name and what year they were born and what year that they died and the website will pull it up to what cemetery it is and exactly where their grave is located in the cemetery," Max said. 

After a lot of preparation, he gathered a team at the cemetery next to Piney Grove Baptist Church.

Credit: WBIR
Max Berry gathered a team to take photographs of gravestones

"We got about 18 people that showed up: family, friends, and Scouts and we all took pictures. It took about an hour and 50 minutes to take all the pictures," he said. 

The pictures are a community service and a lasting legacy. 

"I feel really good and really glad I've done a service to help people who need to find their last loved ones," he said. 

Max Berry is helping others while honoring his grandmother.

"I think she would be really happy and really proud of me."

If you know a student who is making a difference in our community, send us a nomination! Just email 10hearts@wbir.com

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