Scout from Medina attains Eagle rank, completes new pavilion at Hartland church
GASPORT – A Medina High School junior has achieved a goal not many can claim, and he did it in spite of tremendous odds.
David Vanderwalker, son of Todd and Alicia Vanderwalker of Middleport, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 5. During his Eagle Scout ceremony Saturday at Hartland Bible Church, his mother shared their journey and the challenges they faced along the way.
“Roughly 12 years ago, we sat in a doctor’s office and listened as he told us he wanted to prepare us that David would probably never graduate high school and that he would have severe limitations throughout his life,” Alicia said. “Thankfully, we serve a God that does not believe in labels or limitations on what He can do in and through those who believe in Him. We left the office that day with two options – (1) just accept that our son had no hope for a future and allow his disability to be an excuse, or (2) with faith, support and a lot of work we could focus on his abilities and provide him with opportunities to learn and overcome his challenges.”
Shortly after, they enrolled David in Cub Scouts with the hope he would have the opportunity to form connections and gain social skills. His Tiger year was not easy, but they persevered, Alicia said. After attending summer camp with his dad and then going to an Eagle Scout ceremony, David set his heart on becoming an Eagle Scout.
“If I am being honest, at that time I felt there was no way, given the level of behaviors and lack of social emotional abilities,” Alicia continued. “But as those who know my kids know, when you tell them they can’t do something, it is a challenge and they will do all they can to prove you wrong.”
David’s desire to succeed meant the family quickly became very involved in Scouting. Scouts became part of their day-to-day life and their mission field, not only for David, but for the rest of the boys in the Pack and Troop, who became like family. David’s life plan became the Scout law. His goals were to be able to follow the Scout law in his day-to-day life.
The Scout Law says a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
David not only worked extremely hard over the last 12 years in Scouting, but in life and in his own personal growth, his mother said. Crossing into Boy Scouts, David became a member of Tim Miller’s Troop 28 in Medina and the entire Miller family became an extension of the Vanderwalker family, Alicia said.
Two other Scouts who later earned their Eagle badges, Aaron Miller and Christian Hahn, became mentors to David.
On his journey to an Eagle Scout, David earned more than 40 merit badges, assumed various leadership roles in his Troop and volunteered hundreds of hours of community service.
Two summers ago while helping carry picnic tables up the hill for a church event, David said it would be nice to have a place up there to store them and have shelter from the weather. That’s when he knew what he wanted to do to earn his Eagle Scout badge.
Although everyone told him it was too big a big project and too expensive, David carried on. He brought the idea to his church congregation. He approached businesses and individuals, asking for donations and help. The result is a completed 24 by 40-foot pavilion with a 24 by 16-foot enclosed storage area with overhead door. His project took 18 months to complete, with more than 800 volunteer hours and a cost of $19,200. He has named it the Legacy Pavilion, in memory of deceased loved ones who were honored by donations to the project.
During his Eagle Scout ceremony, David received recognitions from Congressman Chris Jacobs, Senator Rob Ortt’s office, Assemblyman Mike Norris and Niagara County Sheriff Mike Filicetti. David also presented Mentor pins to Scoutmasters Tim and Steve Miller and his parents for their support along his journey. Also acknowledged was the support of Heather Jackson, Committee chair of Troop 28, and Craig and Dale Brittin from Hartland Bible Church and their pastor Jon Goodwin. All have supported and encouraged David throughout the years, his mother said.
David’s sister FaithAnn shared some of the letters of congratulations from people all over the country, including those in multiple branches of government from senators to presidents, movie stars, members of the military and more.
David and his family also thank more than a dozen local businesses who either donated materials or gave them discounts for the pavilion. They include Ace Hardware in Medina, All Metal Works, American Concrete, Brigham Concrete, Big East Timber, Hi-Tech concrete workers, Lakeshore Metal, B & L Wholesale, Shelby Crushed Stone, Newfane Lumber, Stanton Signs, Sunrise Door and Window, Wargo Enterprises and Vanderwalker’s Sawmill.
David is now attending BOCES building trades program and hopes to run his own construction company after he graduates from high school next year.