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SLANT45: Hope Is Where the Heart Is

When most boys sign up for Cub Scouts, they envision adventure: camping trips, ropes courses, Derby Car races. Character development and service don’t usually rank high on the priority list, but for the boys in Cub Scout Pack 200 … it goes without saying.

“At the core of the Scout philosophy is to help other people and do good things,” says Andy McDowell, a Plano mom of 10-year-old Emory. In this case, it wasn’t difficult to decide on a way to serve. Two members of Pack 200 have family members affected by Huntington’s disease—a progressive disorder in which brain cells deteriorate, affecting the person’s ability to walk, talk and think. It’s also hereditary.

Seeing this as a perfect fit, the Scouts registered for SLANT45 and trekked out to River Legacy Park in Arlington for the Huntington Disease Society of America Team Hope Walk on September 25. They showed up early to help with registration and hand out goodie bags—and walk alongside their friends who had been touched by the disease. The planned flag ceremony was cancelled because of the torrential rain, but that didn’t dampen the boys’ spirits.

“It’s easy to have hope on a sunny day,” says McDowell. “But people with Huntington’s have to fight every day, no matter what. … The boys felt great about helping. There was no trepidation through the thunder and lightning. … They made little signs of support for their friends.”

And those signs of support can go a long way. For some boys in the pack, the disease has really hit home. “I got tested … so I know I’m not at risk for the disease,” says Ronnie Thomson, mom to Mark, 10. “But he [Mark] knows Aunt Sally and Aunt Beth and Aunt Susan have all suffered. He knows he wants to do what he can to help them.”

McDowell echoes that, as 10-year-olds, the boys don’t all quite understand the hereditary—and devastating—nature of the disease. But they know they want to help other people, especially their friends who are suffering.

“I tell them we can help by doing exactly what we’re doing—by having hope,” McDowell says.

She hopes that they learn that kids at any age can help someone else. “It doesn’t have to be huge and elaborate.” And she’s right. You never know whose heart—and whose life—you may really touch … even with the simplest actions.