David Spragg of Golden Valley recently attained a goal 30 years in the making: He became an Eagle Scout. Spragg is 43 and has cerebral palsy. Some outdoors tasks, like building a fire, can be a struggle for him, but it’s doable if he takes small steps.He starts out by simply gathering the kindling. “The more small stuff you start out with, the better the fire will be,” he said.
In some ways, that characterizes his approach to becoming an Eagle Scout. He has tried to break down the workload into small, manageable chunks.
At times he felt impatient, but he never gave up, and last month Spragg saw his efforts pay off. He received his Eagle badge and medal at a Court of Honor ceremony at the Church of St. William in Fridley, where his troop meets.
It’s the first time that someone from the Fridley Knights of Columbus Troop 364 has reached the Eagle level. The 18-member group, which includes adults with various disabilities, has been active for 27 years.
Only about 3 percent of Boy Scouts attain the Eagle rank; even more rare is for someone with special needs to “get Eagle.”
Mike Quesnell of Blaine chairs the Polaris District, which runs several metro-area special-needs troops, including Spragg’s. He said: “It’s a high honor for anyone, and for someone who stuck with it for 30 years is an incredible feat. We’re proud of him as a district.”
For his Eagle project, Spragg pulled together 25 volunteers to help make four sizable wooden flower planters at Oak Grove Church in Golden Valley, his home church.
Between the project and earning merit badges, Spragg has had his hands full.
One of the hardest activities, which centered on physical fitness, required “a lot of muscle coordination and walking back and forth,” which was tiring, he said. “But it’s worth it. You have to endure it.”
It felt good to become an Eagle Scout. “I’ve heard I’m in pretty good company,” he said, like astronaut Neil Armstrong. “It’s kind of humbling to me to be in that category.”
Going through the process, “I’ve been letting people know what I need and when.”
In scouting and in life, he’s a firm believer that “people need to advocate for themselves,” he said.
His late mother, who used to help out with his troop, first encouraged him in scouting. He’s glad he stuck with it. “Scouts has given me other opportunities,” he said, and the group has been a good source of friendship and moral support.
Coming full circle
Keith Sparks, Troop 364’s scoutmaster, said Spragg is obviously “very passionate about scouting.”
Spragg is among only a few Scouts with special needs to be part of the organization’s Order of the Arrow, an honor society to which one has to be elected. Spragg also been recognized for his leadership at work and in the community, Sparks added.
The fact that Spragg has cerebral palsy “affects him a great deal, but he’s never used it as an excuse,” Sparks said.
Even if it means crawling up a steep hill, “he does what he has to do. He’s never shied away from walking in the woods,” Sparks said.
Persistence is something that Bill Anderl, Spragg’s first scoutmaster, remembers about him, too.
They were reunited a couple of years ago when Anderl agreed to mentor a special-needs Scout on the Eagle process, not knowing who it was.
Anderl, who is an Eagle himself, said it’s been rewarding to see Spragg take early Scout teachings to heart.
“David was always front row and center, always asking questions,” Anderl said. “So you knew his enthusiasm was really great.”
His fellow Scouts “are looking up to him as a role model and they’re thinking about achieving things they hadn’t dreamed of before,” Anderl said.
Although Spragg has limited mobility, using a walker to get around on foot, Anderl said he is proof that “you can find a way if you have the will. I think that’s David’s motto.”
Spragg isn’t likely to stop at Eagle; he is already thinking about the “Palms,” or optional badges representing ongoing enrichment.
He also hopes to one day be a scoutmaster himself. “I want to work with parents and kids who want to be in scouting, on their goals and desires,” he said.
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer.