Making a Difference: The Gift of Self
Many of us enjoy giving gifts during the holiday season. This festive time is also an occasion to remind ourselves that the best gifts often don't come wrapped with fancy paper or a bow.
Take the story of Derek Slinger, a Boy Scout in the Kansas City area. His gift of courage inspired others to make his dream come true and brighten the lives of thousands of children in hospitals across the nation.
Derek lost both of his parents to cancer, and now he's fighting cancer himself. But that wasn't enough to stop him from working toward his Eagle Scout rank. Having spent a lot of time in hospitals undergoing treatment, Derek knew it was no fun for kids.
So he dreamed up a special Eagle Scout project: a coloring book for children in hospitals. He developed the concept and wrote a poem to his younger sister, Leslee Ann, to use as the text.
He planned to illustrate the book and distribute copies to children's hospitals, but Derek's cancer treatment made him too weak and forced him to put the project on hold.
A group of anonymous Kansas City benefactors, identified only as the Elves of Christmas Present, heard about Derek and stepped in. Unbeknownst to him, the group enlisted several famous cartoonists from Universal Press Syndicate to provide illustrations to accompany Derek's words. More than a dozen syndicated cartoonists, including Tom Wilson II, who draws "Ziggy," and Bill Amend, creator of "FoxTrot," contributed.
On Christmas Eve 2004, 20,000 coloring books went out to 60 hospitals across the United States. And one copy landed at the door of a very surprised and happy Derek Slinger, whose Eagle Scout dream came true.
As you know, an Eagle Scout project requires that the Scout take a leadership role. Derek was too sick to personally manage the project to completion, but he was a leader nonetheless. His example of courage spurred others to help and turned into a gift that kept on giving.
At this joyous time of year, Derek's story reminds us that the best present is our presence. As volunteers in the Scouting family, you are giving of yourselvessharing your time and effort, even though it might be difficult at times, even when it's not convenient or easy.
You may never know how that made a difference in the life of a young man. But know that, in ways you may never see, that gift will keep on giving, inspiring others and enriching our community for years to come.
So, we thank you for your leadership, your time, and for the many gifts and talents you share through the Scouting program. Here's wishing the holidays and the New Year are filled with happiness and health for you and yours.
Copyright © 2005 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.