MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Minnesota teenager is earning the Eagle Scout rank while keeping his brother’s memory alive.

Eli Pruka’s brother Sean was a marine, and a lover of animals.

So, Eli began working on a project that would honor that along with Sean’s service to his country.

Eli is a senior at St. Cloud Apollo, a boy scout and a teenager who loves animals almost as much as his older brother.

In fact, his family’s passion is giving homeless dogs a home.

“Huskies, Malamutes, you name it,” Eli said.

But the bond Eli has built with the animals he rescues is nothing compared to the love he had for his older brother Sean.

Four years ago Sean, a marine and the person Eli looked up to most in the world, was killed with two other soldiers while fighting in Afghanistan.

“It gets hard. But it’s always there in the back of your mind. It’s just grief. It will creep up on you. It’s always there you just have to work through it,” Eli said.

But with his mom’s help, Eli has found a way to turn his grief into something great.

“I’m a firm believer that something good has to come out of something bad,” Eli’s mom, Kelly Hugo, said.

As part of an Eagle Scout project, Eli is starting “Heroes’ Hearts.”

It’s designed to match-up returning veterans with a pet they can care for.

It is also a way to hopefully counter anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One of Sean’s fellow marines took his own life after he returned home.

“It’ll give them a reason to get up in the morning and function. Give them a routine to get into,” Eli said.

Eli said the Department of Veterans Affairs has told him that they want this to be something that goes well beyond an Eagle Scout project.

They want this to be something that helps veterans for years to come.

It’ll help Eli too. Call it a big project for a kid who misses his big brother.

“When someone relies on you it’s a powerful feeling. There’s a lot of trust involved,” Eli said.

Eli is currently fundraising to help pay for Heroes’ Hearts.

He said it will cost him about $250 to $300 per adoption.

Funds to donate to Eli’s cause can be donated to the following:

Heroes’ Hearts C/O Long Lake Lutheran Church

3921 277th Avenue NW

Isanti, MN 55040

Or by contacting Eli at 763-772-4897 after 3:30 p.m. on weekdays or anytime on weekends.


John Lauritsen