As disabled son wins eagle, mom recalls: 'I felt such triumph'

"Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (D&C 130:18, 19.)

This scripture has dwelt in my mind for many years, especially when it came to helping my son Jacob make decisions. When he began Cub Scouts, it was an important verse to me.

Jacob is quadriplegic due to an auto-tricycle accident when he was 3 years old. His body is almost lifeless, but his mind is brilliant. This scripture impressed me to encourage him to participate the best he could and learn the most he could, and it would not be in vain.

When Jacob turned 8 years old his "Trail to Eagle" actually began. He loved Cub Scouts. He especially loved it when they "made things." Even though his private-duty nurse, who accompanied him to Cubs, actually was his hands, he was the brain behind the work on his project. That made it "his creation." He had great Cub Scout leaders who adapted games to include him. He had a spoon that he held in his mouth to help him throw things. He was usually the "quarterback" of football games, had a deadly free-throw in basketball (using a small soft ball that fit on his big spoon, and an indoor-style basketball hoop), and enjoyed bean-bag toss games and the old pie-tin washer togs game in his Wolf den.

Jake really looked forward to becoming a Blazer Scout. He loved wearing his uniform at first, and attending meetings. Though his patrol struggled without strong organization for a time and his interest waned, things picked up a couple of months before his 12th birthday.

A new leader helped Jake set the goal of becoming a First Class Scout by the time he left the Blazer Patrol on his 12th birthday. Weekly meetings (at least) were held. The "buddy system" was used, and Jacob usually worked with another Scout while the nurse took a "side-kick" approach. Jacob was made the patrol leader, and his leader really let him function and run the patrol. He made it to First Class just in time. It was so touching to me when he received a thank-you note from his leader for all of his service in the Blazer Patrol.

At the time Jake began Aaronic Priesthood Scouting, my husband, Rich, and I were both called to positions on the Scout Committee in our ward. Our oldest son, Nathan, had just attained the Eagle rank and set a great example for his brother. So it was a family effort to help Jake advance in Scouting, but we knew we could not achieve the goal without a lot of outside support. Jake's Scoutmaster, Brent Summerhays, was heaven-sent. He sat down with us immediately and we set goals, discussed merit badges that Jake could do, and custom designed some of the required badges.

Jacob served as a patrol leader and assistant senior patrol leader, participated in two different Junior Leader Training sessions, and was called to be the deacon's quorum president. He was able to serve others as a deacon through the use of a specially designed tray on his wheelchair on which he carried the sacrament trays.

Jacob was 13 1/2 when he planned and carried out his Eagle project. He involved some 120 people and acquired more than 200 service hours as he directed them. When he was through, he had fabric and labor donated to sew more than 100 drawstring bags filled with gifts and personal-care items to be distributed to homeless and abused children in the community. Many of those bags served as Christmas gifts since his project was completed the first part of December. Jacob's patrol and leaders were great support, as well as parents and families in the ward.

Jake still had two more merit badges to go. One of them was Environmental Science. Just its name discouraged Jake. To the rescue was his newly turned Blazer Scout brother, Marcus, who was fresh and enthusiastic. They did the several hours of observations together, and another Eagle Scout in the ward came and helped them with the experiments.

When the counselor for the badge sent the boys home to study and learn the environmental terms better I thought that was the end. Finally, though, they passed off the badge and were better for it. They then did the elective Law Merit Badge together, and even included several other Scouts in the troop to do it with them. It ended up being one of the favorite badges because of the interesting experience of attending a court session.

I'll never forget Jake's Eagle Court of Honor. He was the recipient of many special tributes and awards from ward and stake leaders, the Young Men general presidency, and state and national government leaders. As his mother, I felt like I was going to burst. I was so full of gratitude for priesthood, Cub Scout and Boy Scout leaders, family and friends, who had supported Jake throughout his whole life. I was grateful for the knowledge and intelligence he had gained through his Scouting experiences, for I know those things will be his eternally. The leadership skills he gained will always be of benefit in his life. The opportunities for him to be of service to others, especially when he has to rely on others for so much of his own daily care, were so meaningful.

I felt such triumph on his behalf, coming from the devastating moment doctors gave us the prognosis that Jacob would probably not live through the night - and that if he did, he certainly would never walk again - to this special moment. He may not walk or run yet, but he now flies with Eagles.

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