My Biggest Hero Was Nine Years Old. By James Garner

When my son was in second grade I was the leader of his Cub Scout Den. Before his third grade school year started, a Cub Scout Pack leader called and asked if I would take on another boy. We had a large group and I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but so did everyone else in this age group.

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The kicker of the deal was that Tray was a cancer patient and an amputee, one leg at the knee. I had a hard time making up my mind about exposing “my” boys to what I was almost positive would surely end in a lot of anguish and sadness for all of us. I finally decided to take him in, but before I said yes to our Pack leader I called all my parents to let them know what I planned to do and get their feedback.

To a person, they all supported my decision. Only one mother verbalized the fears I had for the emotional well being of my little charges, but she too supported my plan. We felt like it would help teach them compassion and generosity, it did and us too!

When Tray came to us I found out that not only did he have severe health and physical problems, his family was incredibly poor. But they wanted Tray to have all the experiences he could in what would most likely be a short life. His parents did their very best to provide it.

Tray was without a doubt the most enthusiastic member of my scout den. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t try to do. When we did the things for all their little badges he was right in there with us, and most often excelling. ALL of my boys encouraged him and helped whenever they could, this carried over into their school life as well.

Even the physical fitness segment of our program he did well in, better than most other boys save for the broad jump. Tray just couldn’t get far enough to match the standards the Cub Scout Manual said had to be met to achieve this badge. I passed him on this one because I deduced that the skills were written for boys with two legs and since Tray only had one his goal should only be half that of the other boys. Tray achieved that half and a great deal more, in fact was only just a little short of the minimum anyway.

We all progressed along through Tiger, Wolf, Bear, and Lion ranks and went on to Webelos. Over the years our Pack’s leadership made sure that somehow Tray had all the hats, uniform parts, etc. that was necessary for him to be just like everyone else. Most of the time I knew that some of the things required weren’t in his folks budget but they found ways and when they couldn’t we found ways to make sure it just happened.

We all suffered when he passed on.

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