By Clairissa Cooper
Hercules lives among us today.
A well-known hero in classical mythology, Hercules lived a difficult life, endured many trials, and completed many arduous tasks.
Enter Baden Combs of Flower Mound.
His motorized wheelchair zooms to the front of the room at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Saints building to accept the highest achievement attainable in the Boy Scouts of America program. To earn the rank of Eagle Scout is a tremendous accomplishment. To do so with muscular dystrophy is herculean.
To put his awe-inspiring achievement in perspective, only four percent of Scouts have earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the history of the program since 1911.
At three years old, Baden was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – a rare and fatal genetic disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness and leads to serious medical problems.
Now 18 years old and a senior at Founder’s Classical Academy, Baden proves that anything is possible, especially with the support of family and friends. Standing alongside him at the Troop 242 Court of Honor was Johnny Wursten and McKay Eastham, two of Baden’s friends also earning their Eagle Scout rank.
Together they call themselves the “Trifecta of Eagle Scouts”.
Johnny, a junior at Flower Mound High School, has known Baden since 2006 when they met through church and cub scouts and McKay, a senior at Marcus High School, joined the group later in middle school. Over the years, the boys developed a deep bond that led to them helping each other with their eagle projects.
Baden worked with the Muscular Dystrophy Association summer camp at Camp John Marc in Meridian, Texas, where he’s been attending every summer since he was 12. Camp John Marc hosts many different pediatric organizations who help kids with various limitations and diagnoses. Baden wanted to give back to the camp and found that they needed new bins where campers store their belongings. He raised money and purchased new bins for the cabins and also labeled them in vinyl with the camp logo.
His friend, McKay was also a Camp John Marc alumnus, having attended for 4 years due to his psoriatic arthritis diagnosis at age 11.
“I really had my mind set on giving back to them after all they provided to so many children,” said McKay.
McKay designed an original blueprint for seating to be built at the ropes course section of the camp. Using computer animation design and with a great deal of planning and assistance in the build and execution, the camp has five sturdy, new benches.
Johnny worked with the Flower Mound Foundation where he produced two videos about the historic Flower Mound. The first was about the rules and etiquette for visitors to the Flower Mound and the second was a training video to help volunteers learn about invasive plants. Both videos are posted on the foundation’s website at www.theflowermound.com.
“Me and the boys have been best friends since I moved here and we’ve been a big factor in pushing each other in scouting and life,” said McKay.
The friendships also extend to compassionate leaders. Baden’s boy scout and church leaders have played an integral part in his scouting journey to help him feel just like everyone else.
“Baden’s leaders were accommodating to his needs so he could do these really hard things the same as his friends, even though he was having to do it differently,” said Sarah Combs, Baden’s mother.
His leaders have pulled him in a bike trailer so he could go biking with the troop, they have carried him into canoes, and pushed his wheelchair on hikes.
“Baden’s boy scout troop has always been a place where he has felt included and loved. For him it’s given him this confidence that he can do something really hard,” said Sarah.
“It’s just that some things are different for me,” said Baden. “There are certain merit badges that I could do and some others I modified. I’m proud that I was able to do this.”
When asked what advice he would give to other special needs friends, Baden says, “to just keep working past your struggles, keep the goal in mind, and utilize family and friends to help you.”
“Baden can set his mind on a goal and then accomplish it – and sometimes that means getting creative and figuring out what that looks like for him,” said Sarah. “Earning his Eagle has helped Baden to see that he can do whatever he sets his mind to just like his peers. That has been a great blessing to him.”
Baden notes his next goals include serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, attending college, and securing a job.
Step aside. Hercules has more battles to fight!