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Scout overcomes disability to win Eagle badge

April 30, 2001

Scout overcomes disability to win Eagle badge



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A Williamsport High School sophomore who was born without arms and with stunted legs overcame physical obstacles - and the skepticism of others - to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

It took five years, but Jacob Skidmore, 16, was awarded Eagle ranking on April 21. The rank was awarded by Jack McCarter Sr., past Scoutmaster of Troop 100, who presided over the ceremonies at the request of Skidmore's family.

McCarter said some people, including fellow Scouts, questioned how Skidmore could do all the work required to achieve Eagle status. He needed to earn merit badges in first aid, backpacking, cooking, disability awareness and others.

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Watching Skidmore grow closer to earning the award was inspiring, McCarter said.

"He's just an amazing young man," he said.

Skidmore has been an inspiration to the troop, McCarter said.

"They just love him," he said. "He has been a very nice young man. He is well mannered and has worked hard."

"It was really rewarding," Skidmore said of becoming an Eagle Scout. He has been in Scouting since becoming a Cub Scout at age 6.

Skidmore was born with a severe limb deficiency called phocomelia. The congenital disease is characterized by the absence of the proximal portion of a limb or limbs, with the hands or feet attached to the trunk by a small, irregularly shaped bone, according to the Virtual Hospital Web site.

He called his Scouting experience enjoyable.

"It keeps you going," he said.

A highlight of his Scouting was when he and his father canoed seven miles across Cranberry Lake in New York and lived on an island for a week.

Skidmore said a more difficult task was traveling the 184-mile Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath from Georgetown to Cumberland by wheelchair. He and other Scouts covered most of the distance in a week but had to stop after some got hypothermia because of cold, rainy weather, he said. They finished the trip later.

For his Eagle Scout project Skidmore organized and supervised volunteers to paint 2,664 square feet of hallways and ceilings at his church, New Life Christian Ministries in Clear Spring. He also solicited paint supplies from area merchants.

Skidmore's interests extend beyond Scouting. He is on the school's art and chess clubs, and he has taken up drawing with charcoal, using his feet. One picture took him 13 weeks to complete, working a few hours a day. Another took six weeks.

Skidmore is adept at using computers, which he operates with his toes. He chats with friends and sends instant messages and e-mail, he said. He is learning computer languages.

Next year he will be the computer system operator for Williamsport High School, which involves maintaining and upgrading the system and updating the school's Internet site, he said.

But first he has summer plans that include getting his first job.

He also hopes to attend Creation, which his father, Keith Skidmore, describes as a "Christian Woodstock." The four-day event in Mt. Union, Pa. features Christian bands and prayer.

Skidmore hopes to attend a disabled youth leadership forum in Bowie, Md., where he would share ideas with other disabled teenagers, said his mother, Denise Skidmore.

"I see myself as a leader with problem solving and such," Jacob said.

On Tuesday Skidmore will be honored by the Washington County Commissioners.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz has represented the commissioners at other Eagle Scout award ceremonies, but none affected him as much as Skidmore's.

"If you set your mind to it in America, you can accomplish anything," Swartz said. "Jacob set his mind to it. He accomplished something that very few Boy Scouts can accomplish."

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