March 29, 1999
By Rob Hedelt
Published March 25, 1999, in The Free Lance-Star,
Fredericksburg, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.
Scouting lets teen’s life
MENTION Alan Street’s bid to become an Eagle Scout,
and it’s hard to decide whose smiles with more joy: him or his dad. The
16-year-old Spotsylvania County youth, a student at Massaponax High School, certainly has
plenty to be proud of... Completing all the ranks and merit badges leading up to Eagle.
Mastering Scout skills ranging from knot-tying to lamp-wiring. Making a troop full of
friends who think the world of him.
Richard Street, Alan’s dad, is proud of those accomplishments as
well. For three years, the Transportation Department hydraulic engineer has been right
there beside Alan in Boy Scout land, examining every requirement, overseeing the pursuit
of each new merit badge.
He even became an assistant troop leader, even though he was never a Boy Scout himself.
But now, as the pair approaches this ultimate Scout honor—Alan will host a
fund-raising lunch June 5 as his Eagle project—the father says it’s satisfying
on several levels.
It wasn’t that long ago that he’d see people cross the street just to avoid
having to walk near Alan. “Just because he has Down syndrome, they’d do anything
to keep from being close to him,” said Street. “It never occurred to them that
he’s a person, too.”
Street has also been the one who watched his son progress through
school programs that, as often as not, have steered him away from the “regular
kids.” And he’s the one who was saddened to watch Alan come home from school on
too many days and plop down in front of a television, content to do little and interact
with no one. Looking for an activity that would involve him with other kids, Street turned
to the Boy Scouts.
Watching Alan glide into Troop 835’s meeting room at Five Mile Fork the other night,
welcomed warmly by every Scout he saw, Street beamed like a harvest moon. He’s
thrilled that the Boy Scouts of America—and this Spotsylvania troop in
particular—have faced up to Scouts with special needs.
In fact, Alan isn’t the only Scout working toward his
Eagle rank in this troop, under new “disability rules” that make
ranks and merit badges winnable for Scouts challenged in different ways. One of his best
buds in the troop is Matt Shomper of Spotsylvania, also working toward a coveted Eagle
badge. Matt and Alan are in the same special education class at school.
Alan is on target to achieve Eagle rank first, which Scout officials said would make him
the first disabled Scout to earn that rank in the Mattaponi District.
Rick Roberson is a former scoutmaster for the troop, and is still active in it. He said
that initially, there were some concerns when the disabled boys expressed interest in
joining the troop.
“There were some worries about how we would maintain our standards [for earning ranks
and badges], and yet make it so these young people could succeed,” Roberson said.
The revised requirements for special-needs Scouts provided
the answer, or at least the starting point. They provide activities and
tests of new skills that Alan, Matt, and Scouts with other disabilities can master, if
they put in the time and work.
Alan’s Eagle project, the biggest part of the final step for that rank, is an example
of the accommodation that has served both him and the troop. Instead of some involved
project building a nature trail or cleaning up a wetland, he’s hosting a fund-raising
spaghetti lunch from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. June 5. It will be held at Spotsylvania Moose
Lodge No. 1655, near the AMF bowling alley on State Route 3 at Five Mile Fork.
Alan and his dad chose the lunch idea partly because Alan loves to cook spaghetti, and
because it’s a project he can handle. With his dad’s supervision, he’ll
organize the cooking, the help, the purchasing, the arrangements and the advertising.
The money raised by the event will benefit the local chapter of the American Red Cross and
the Association of Retarded Citizens, which will have $5 advance tickets for sale.
But things like projects, ranks and badges are just the
official Scout measures of Alan’s success. The thing that’s most
rewarding to him, and his dad, is the way he’s been accepted, embraced even, by his
peers. To a youngster whose contact with other kids his age is somewhat limited, that
acceptance is a big deal. His fellow Scouts say the friendship is genuine.
“I’d do anything for my buddy, Alan, and he would do the same
for me,” said 16-year-old Ricky Roberson. “I’d love it if he makes Eagle.
We’d all be very proud of him.”
Fourteen-year-old Derek Hanlin, a Troop patrol leader, echoed those sentiments,
“It’s good to have Alan around. He truly is