Picture by David Beatson

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brady Gets His Eagle

The flashing lights and siren were hardly noticeable when the fire truck drove through the Lindon neighborhood. The hundred people standing on the sidewalk could only see Brady's smile. It was ear to ear.

• FOR YEARS, BRADY THOMPSON has wanted to be an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America. His parents, Lori and Darrell, can remember him asking about getting his Eagle for years. He's had several ideas for a project. A few that he's given to cousins, who have gone on to get their Eagle. But, something always came up, health or otherwise, preventing him from going through with his.

At the age of 3, Brady had his first seizure. He spent years traveling the country with his parents, looking for something that would cure him. They tried machines and medications. Some of them worked, but for only a short amount of time. At 15 years old, he asked his parents to put him on hospice care, something he has been on ever since. Despite having nearly 1,000 seizures every day, which has left his body weak and barely able to speak, Brady always knew when it was Tuesday. He would call Eric Redd, Troop 836 Scout leader, and say "When are we going?"

He was always on the go, said Redd, who was with him on several Scouting trips. No matter how bad his seizures got, he still tried to be a part of everything. He'd try to run down the hill to catch up with all the other boys and end up face first after a seizure. Once they had to tie him to a tree because they were too nervous to have him run around with all his seizures, laughed Redd.

"Brady has more Scout spirit in his big toe than most Scouts," said his Bishop, Star Hall. "He's probably done 10 Eagle Scout projects just because of his desire to be involved."

Brady completed all but one of the 21 merit badges required for an Eagle before he turned 14 years old -- an age the Thompsons mark when his health took a downturn. The single merit badge that kept him from getting his Eagle for several years was cycling. Because of the frequency of his seizures, Brady was unable to stay upright on a bike, making it nearly impossible to get a badge. Once they tried to take him up to Bridal Veil Falls and Brady ended up in the river at the base after he had a seizure and fell off the side of the bike. They even tried buying a recumbent bike for him. For a few months, he and Darrell would bike around the neighborhood, stopping every few minutes as Brady had seizure after seizure. Another alternate for the badge was hiking, but for similar reasons, he couldn't do that either.

Lori finally noticed the alternative of archery and took Brady to an archery class in Orem.

Archery was easier because he could shoot in between the seizures. Lori would stand beside him and grab the bow when he went into a seizure and when he came out of the seizure he was able to shoot. Archery was a more controlled environment that allowed him the time to have a seizure, recover from it and still be able to shoot the bow.

"He had no special treatment," Lori said. "We didn't want to give him a crutch of being disabled."

But, the Boy Scouts of America didn't accept the archery alternative because it hadn't been pre-approved by the council, which proved to be one road block in getting Brady's Eagle.

The other road block was Brady's age. One of the requirements of the Boy Scout Council is that the application for the project must be filed before the Scout turns 18. Brady turned 18 in November.

"We spent 13 years doing all this work toward it but we've spent the last four years to keep him alive," Darrell said.

Brady joined the special needs boy Scout group last year as a supplement to his traditional group. The group, which consists of about 40 people from a few dozen LDS stake centers, helps guide Scouts from ages 12 to 65 suffering from several illnesses.

"They just do everything slower," said special needs Scout leader Howard Bezzant.

The Scouts are assigned a youth counselor who helps guide them through the activities at a slower rate than the traditional groups.

"Youth counselors take their hand in theirs and walk them through everything or help them talk even if it's just a word at a time," Bezzant said.

When Skyler Trent, 17, was called to be a youth counselor through his church, he didn't really know Brady. But in the past year, the two young men have become extremely close. Trent wipes Brady's drool from his face, he helped guide him through Scout activities and even held him up during Scout dances.

"It's been the best experience of my teenage years," Trent said. "The special needs Boy Scouts "are always having fun and always smiling no matter what they are dealing with."

Chris Kearley didn't really know Brady until a few weeks ago. They'd never met, but she'd watched him ride in his Jeep Polaris for years in front of her house. She'd heard from Sheron Drake -- a neighbor and friend of the Thompsons -- that Brady had always wanted his Eagle but had run into setbacks. She thought about it for weeks and decided to do something about it, so she made a few phone calls to the local Boy Scout Council.

She was given the requirements of what she needed to get a packet together to get the application approved. She needed everything by the following afternoon when the council was meeting. Included in the packet, she needed three letters of recommendation. By midnight, that same night, she had 30.

"It took me four hours to write three paragraphs because I couldn't see the paper through my tears," said Eric Redd, who hand-delivered the letter to the Drake's house at midnight.

Normally it takes about three months for a Scout to complete the process of getting his Eagle but for Brady, it took two weeks. During the last week of June, Brady, with the help of neighbors, friends and family, painted more than 50 fire hydrants around his Lindon neighborhood for his Eagle project.

"Everyone has been waiting for this for so long that they were so excited to come out and help," Kearley said.

It wasn't much of a surprise for the Thompsons to see more than 100 people on their lawn ready to help paint.

"That's what Brady does," Darrell said, smiling.

During Brady's Court of Honor on Tuesday, packages of Kleenex were passed between aisles and sniffles punctuated each of the speakers as they spoke of how deserving he was of the award. He's selfless. A warrior. A true friend. Inspiring. In between seizures, he turned and smiled at Darrell, who wiped tears from his eyes. When it came time, Darrell grabbed him by the back of the arms and held him up as he walked to the podium.

"He was trying to stand so tall up there," Kearley said.

Brady, described as 10-foot tall and bulletproof, stood in front of the crowd as Skyler Trent pinned on his medal.

"I had goosebumps," Trent said. "Knowing that I was his friend and seeing all the respect that people had for him. It was emotional."

For many, Brady sets the perfect example of the Boy Scout oath, which starts, "On my honor, I will do my best."

No matter how hard Brady's life has been, he's always kept going. Always has done his best. And always kept smiling.

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