The world of Scouting is perfect for Bryan’s personality. He is very goal oriented, concrete in thinking, and very driven to achieve those goals to make us (and himself) proud.
Two weeks ago, we were privileged to have Bryan’s story briefly mentioned on the National Down Syndrome Society’s “My Story Monday” social media page. As a result of those 2,000 views by others around the country, I found some interest from parents with Down Syndrome sons in Bryan’s Eagle achievement. Hence, this post.
Bryan began his Boy Scout journey in his twenties. He relished the spring and fall camping trips to local parks, summer camp at Ockanikon Scout Camp, and winter Klondike Derbies. His first major milestone achievement on the path to Eagle was the Order of the Arrow in which he had to camp overnight by himself in the woods during the weekend “Ordeal”. Of course, the Scoutmaster assured me, the fretful mom, that he would secretly be with Bryan at all times, hidden in the woods, to make sure he was safe and relatively unafraid. How proud Bryan was of his white and red sash, received at the end of Ordeal weekend!
The attainment of merit badges offered opportunities for Bryan to learn so many new skills for life. Each achievement added to the badge display proudly sported on his sash. I believe he has over 42 merit badges. Yes, these were hard-earned and took much longer to achieve, sometimes requiring much assistance from family and scoutmasters. But, boy, he lived for those award ceremonies and those two-inch colorful circular patches!
He climbed through the various ranks of Scouting until he announced that he wished to become an Eagle. Detailed forms were filled out. A mentor was assigned to help us along the way. Character references were obtained. We outlined several project ideas for Bryan to choose from. He settled upon raising materials and money for the Aark Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center which cares for orphaned and wounded wild animals around the clock with the goal of retuning these creatures to their natural habitat as quickly as possible when they are able to fend for themselves.
After creating large donation boxes which we located throughout Bucks County, Bryan collected around 400 pounds of various kinds of food for the animals, gallons of cleaning detergents, sponges, copy paper, ink cartridges, and $938 with which more supplies were purchased. On the warm summer delivery day, Bryan was very excited to see the caravan of people who helped him deliver the supplies to the Aark. Helping the director of the organization release three little fawns from their pens into the wild was a wonderful culmination to the whole experience.
Once this project was completed, Bryan had to be questioned and interviewed by the Scout Board of Review. When I picked him up that early fall evening to drive him to the interview he was unusually quiet. “Buddy, what’s wrong?” I questioned. Silence filled the car. And then he broke down and cried. “I feel like there are lots of butterflies dancing in my stomach.” Poor Buddy was scared to death. I prayed silently that his stuttering would not stand in the way of him achieving his dream.
The Board was kind and understanding. Once the review was complete and Bryan emerged from the room, he rushed over to me for a hug with new tears of joy, crying “I DID it!”
It was on a warm November weekend when we celebrated Bryan’s great accomplishment. Only five out of every one hundred scouts ever achieve the rank of Eagle. It was time to party! I was particularly stressed with trying to make this ceremony and reception personalized and special for Bryan in order to celebrate ten years of hard work. After setting up our church’s Fellowship Hall and sanctuary with handmade decorations and prepping mountains of food, my husband and I wearily stopped for lunch at a local store. Grateful that the prep was over, I waited for him to return with sandwiches, looking skyward while offering a prayer of gratitude for the compilation of many years of hard work which Bryan was able to achieve.
Circling overhead in the blue fall sky was a large bird. It had a white head and tail. It was a bald eagle! Never had I seen an eagle in our hometown – and only rarely in the outlying countryside. It was God tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me of one of my favorite scriptural passages- Isaiah 40:31: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.
That scripture would be read by our pastor the following day at Bryan’s Eagle Scout Ceremony in our church sanctuary. It was not only wholly appropriate for the occasion, but continues to serve as a wonderful reminder to all of us to remember than when something seems insurmountable, God will strengthen us to achieve our task no matter the difficulty. Like a young man with Down Syndrome achieving his Eagle dream.