Sunday, December 9, 2012

Heroes in the Sand

Welcome back to the Autism and Scouting Blog. It has been a bit since I have had time to write, I am hoping to do more blogging in the coming months.

Today, I want to share a very special story and it is a story of inspiration and Heroism. We are interested in hosting Alec and his family on the Autism and Scouting Radio program and are in the process of contacting them to see if they would be interested in the opportunity, however I wanted to share this story today.

If you have a story that you would like us to share here at Autism and Scouting, please e-mail me at or leave a note for me with your e-mail address on the Autism and Scouting Facebook Page.

Heroes in the Sand

On Saturday, September 15th, 2012, Troop 329 (out of Battle Creek, MI) with Cub Scout Pack 304 were on an outing just like they had been so many times before. This weekend the Troop was at the North Point Conservation Area which is a 17 mile stretch of sand-dune beach area on Lake Michigan. This area was no stranger to Boy Scouts since North Point Conservation Area is often referred to as the “Old Boy Scout Camp,” because the property has been utilized and maintained by Boy Scouts in Southwest Michigan for generations.

There were 15 boys (10 adult leaders as well)  having a great time not knowing that potential tragedy was about to strike. Some of the boys were playing on the dunes, sometimes sliding down on sleds while others were just playing in the sand.

Donovan, a 9 year old Webelos II Cub Scout from the pack was having a great time being a boy and then suddenly the dune collapsed around him and buried him alive.

Alec who is a new Boy Scout and who currently has a rank of “Scout” was the first to notice that something was wrong. The area they were playing in had suddenly changed and he noticed that Donovan was missing. Alec quickly ran over to where Donovan was and started yelling to other scouts and leaders to come and help find Donovan.

At first the other scouts and leaders thought that Alec was just upset that other scouts would not come and play with him and dig holes in the sand.

His Mom says that the other boys and leaders know that Alec is on the autism spectrum and that sometimes Alec does not how to communicate to others. An Assistant Scoutmaster, Larry Getman was on the top of one of the dunes, knew Alec pretty well and could tell by the way his tone changed from other times, that this time was different and that something was wrong.

Larry within seconds jumped down the 25 foot dune to where he found Alec digging. He started to ask what was going on and happening? Are you sure he was here?

Due to the way their bodies were positioned in the sand, Larry was asking questions in Alec’s face and typically this would have set Alec into a panic and full meltdown mode but Alec stood his ground and Alec quickly calculated where Donovan’s head was and insisted that Larry start to help him dig. (Larry is an outstanding Scout Leader and his own son who is also on the autism spectrum typically does not talk to the scouts in such a manner but in this case due to the shifting sand, the Scoutmaster and Scout had this quick conversation face to face).

After what Alec says seemed like forever, they reached Donovan’s head about two and half feet under the sand. But the story of Alec’s Heroism does not stop there. As they dug around Donovan’s head, the sand kept on filling back in and covering up his head.

So Alec crawled into a small hole they had and used his own body to become a human retaining wall to stop the sand from continuing to collapse on Donovan and back into the progress they were making. As Larry was holding Donovan’s head to keep it out of the sand it was up to Alec to continue the digging. To prevent the sand from falling back on him, he was only able to use one hand to do the digging.  

Larry yelled out for more help and for more scouts and leaders to come help. The scouts responded without hesitation and one other leader, Tyler (one of Larry’s sons) as well as four other scouts arrived on the scene (Tony, Josh, Brendon and Zach).  Tyler and Zach started to assist in the digging and then when Donovan was about two thirds out, Tony, Brendan and Josh (Josh is Larry’s other son and is on the autism spectrum as well) were able to locate his feet and pull him out.

When they brought Donovan out of the sand, he could not open his eyes and his nose and ears were packed with sand. Lisa, who is Alec’s mom and was on the outing reached the rescue team and quickly ran down to Lake Michigan, took a sweatshirt and drenched it and quickly ran it back to Larry who washed the sand out his nose and eyes.

It was estimated that Donovan only had about 30 seconds before things turned fatal and if it were not for the quick thinking of Alec, Larry and six amazing scouts, the story would not have had a happy ending.

Donovan celebrated his 10th birthday in October. 

When you ask Alec about that day, he would tell you “Don’t thank me, thank my math teacher, she taught me how to quickly calculate distance”.  Alec’s mom says that she doesn’t realize or understands the impact he and on the world that day.

Alec and Larry were awarded the Boy Scouts Heroism Award on Saturday, December 8th, 2012. The other four were awarded certificates and a BSA Coin for their role in the saving of Donovan's life.
Autism and Scouting salutes all of the scouts who assisted with the rescue but an extra well done to both Alec and Josh who just happen to be on the autism spectrum as well. I am sure they are all on the road to greatness.

If you have a story that you would like to share, please let us know at

Accept - The scout for who they are and if they are not ready for advancement that is okay. Scouting is not all about advancement. It is about learning life skills, gaining life experience and having fun along the way.

Enrich - The scout may be challenged to step outside of their comfort zone and expand their world.

Inspire - Make sure to inspire the scout with positive encouragement. A kind tone and positive words go a long way to increasing self-confidence. You will likely find yourself inspired by the scout as well.

Empower - By giving the scout the tools in advance to be successful, you are giving them the tools to do their best and to be empowered.

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  1. GREAT STORY!!!!!!!!!

  2. Wonderful story. My own son and two of my Webelos are on the spectrum. I love the impact that scouting has on them! Hooray for Alec!

  3. This story is so moving I did a reading of it at our Pack Family Camp this past weekend. Thank you for sharing.