Skip to comments.A most able Scout: Teen with Down syndrome has gained far more than badges, rank in program
Posted on 09/04/2009 5:39:39 PM PDT by kathsua
Lucas Wondra has Down syndrome and communicates with a few words, sign language and a PDA with a speaker and voice software. But when it comes to the Boy Scouts, he concedes no disability.
On Monday, Lucas, a 16-year-old freshman at Hutchinson High, became an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America and the latest in a collage of medals and merit badges covering his uniform.
Scout Master Bill Whitlow said Lucas is the first Scout with Down syndrome from Troop 301 to achieve his Eagle rank.
"I feel like it's been a community effort," his mother, Leann Wondra, said. "The school helped with physical therapy, occupational therapy and communications therapy so he could earn merit badges."
He also had the support of church leaders, his parents, brother Evan and sister Alicia and all his friends in Troop 301.
"While Lucas achieved his Eagle, the troop also benefited," his father, Korey Wondra, said. "I'm not sure who benefited more. How many times do kids get a chance to hang out with a kid with a disability? And Lucas is a cool kid to hang with."
A few years ago, when Lucas was a Cub Scout, his parents were debating whether and how he could advance into Boy Scouts.
His mother felt he could do it all along, but his father freely admits he had doubts until he and Lucas' younger brother, Evan, went to a Scout summer camp in Colorado and Korey saw a Scout from a Texas troop who also had Down syndrome. He made a note of the troop number on the Scout's shoulder and looked up the Scout master, who told him that Danny had just completed the requirements for Eagle Scout.
Korey came home prepared to let Lucas give it a try.
In fewer than four years, Lucas has earned 28 merit badges.
He loves cooking, almost as much as eating, so that was a natural one.
Physical fitness wasn't a problem. He runs the 100, 200, 400 and 800 meters and relays in the Special Olympics, so five 10-mile hikes and a 20-mile hike to earn another badge wasn't a problem.
He loves photography. "So we just gave him the digital camera and he did his thing and put them all on the computer and created his slide show," his mother said.
Communication was more of a challenge, especially before he had the PDA, or personal digital assistant, talker to help. So his mother created a paper sash covered with icons instead of merit badges. Lucas then was able to talk about himself by picking out icons of things he liked or disliked.
He did a presentation on professional wrestling - one of his favorite things - on a computer with talking software.
He fulfilled another requirement by serving as a chaplain's aide, during which he used his PDA talker to offer a thought for the day and lead others in the Lord's Prayer.
For his Eagle Scout project, he led a group of Scouts who created the horseshoe-shaped John Baldwin Memorial Garden at Reins of Hope, which aims to aid people with physical, mental or emotional disabilities through therapeutic horse riding.
"The troop is really proud of him," Whitlow said. "When he first came into the troop, he didn't interact with other people, other than his family, that much. But after a few months, he really blossomed. He did really well with all things."
And Whitlow said that the Scouts and the leadership of the troop learned a lot from being around Lucas.
"When he started in the process, we didn't have any hesitation, but we didn't know what we were doing, either," he said.
"So we just took it one step at a time. We had to modify some things. For instance, he couldn't swim. But he could walk 20 miles, so he did hiking instead of swimming."
Korey Wondra remembers being in a tent with 10 boys who at first wanted to know what Down syndrome was, whether it was contagious and why Lucas couldn't talk.
But now, he said, those Scouts look out for Lucas. If someone starts to say something rude to him, they protect him, and they watch out for him during camps and other activities, Korey Wondra said.
"That's been one of the interesting things," Korey Wondra said. "They've taken him in, and he's taken them in. They've really bonded."
"... I'm really hoping these boys take what they've learned from Lucas, from being around him, and take that through their lives."
Twenty years ago, his mother said, children like Lucas might have been hidden in a back room. Today, it still might be easier to park them in front of the television and let them play video games than to work with them.
"It's scary putting kids in a situation where they might fail, but we felt we needed to give him the opportunity," Leann Wondra said.
And Lucas has done anything but fail.
"It gives me hope that he can be a productive member of society and an accepted member of society," she said.
Wow. What an inspiration.
What a great story and thanks for posting it!
I was a Scout but not very ambitious. That a Down's Syndrome kid could achieve this changes my perception of Down's folks -- sweet people -- there's a younger Down's woman at the local theatre and frankly she's a far better greeter/ticket-taker than the too-often-surly teens working there and other local theatres.
There is more I could say but won't.
...a proud salute -- from this old Scout and Scouter...
They're friendly, loving, enthusiastic . . . and stubborn. When they have a hard-charging, inventive family and friends that will sit down and brainstorm ways for them to work around their particular disabilities, they will go all-out to succeed.
And thanks to the Boy Scouts for figuring out ways to let this young man work hard for his Eagle! They are an A-number one organization -- we've been involved with them for years, my husband as a Scoutmaster and myself as a Venture Crew Advisor.
God Bless Lucas, God Bless his parents, God Bless his awesome troop, and God Bless the Boy Scouts of America.
There is a story in today’s local paper about another Eagle Scout with Downs Syndrome. The young man’s father compares him to a bumble bee.
“According to the laws of aerodynamics, the bumblebee can’t fly. But the bumblebee doesn’t know that. So it flies.”
“Like the bumblebee, (my son} doesn’t know that he’s not supposed to fly.”
A lot of "normal" boys should take notes from Lucas. Quit whining and DO.
Lucas showed more perserverance, guts, and ingenuity than I see in most of my "able-bodied" hires.
Bravo, young Lucas, bravo.
We were always each other's "favorite brother in law".
Contrast this kid’s accomplishments with Zero’s comments about bowling in the Special Olympics...
And this IS a child that many pro-abortionists wouldn’t want to be “punished” with.
As an Eagle Scout I want to say how proud I am of you and want to welcome you aboard! Job well done!