A most meritorious achievement

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
“Scouting teaches a lot of skills that could potentially save your life-or the life of others,” says Andy Holt, explaining the value of Boy Scouts.

Holt, who turned 18 years old in February, knows more about life than any 18-year-old should have to know.

Holt received his Eagle Scout award in a ceremony Sunday afternoon at the St. John Nepomucene Church in Pilsen.

As a testament to kind of individual Holt is, nearly 250 people attended the ceremony to witness the Marion High School student receive the highest award offered in Boy Scouts.

But this isn’t just a story of an individual who excels in the ways of scouting.

Holt has been battling postural orthostatic tachycardic syndrome (POTS) since he was diagnosed with the disease when he was 14 years of age.

POTS is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes rapid heart rate, dizziness and severe headaches.

During the past four years, Holt has struggled to maintain a “normal” life for a teenager. In fact, he has had to basically withdraw from the normal school routine.

Holt is listed as a junior at Marion High, but thanks to his inner resolve and six trips to the Mayo Clinic, he is back to school full time once again.

“I recently went to the Mayo Clinic again to a pain rehabilitation clinic for a session that lasted about three weeks,” Holt said. “It helped me quite a bit.

“I still get worn down, but I’m able to go back to school the next day,” he said. “Chronic fatigue that developed along with (POTS) is a common co-side effect.”

No cure has been found for his illness. But the last thing Holt wants or needs from anyone is pity.

Holt has earned straight A’s at Marion High School this year, and has aspirations of attending a community college followed by a four-year college.

“I want to do something in the field of aerospace engineering, or in the zoology or biology fields,” Holt said.

But Sunday, the spotlight shone on Holt for his achievements in Boy Scout Troop 102.

Holt listed the 12 attributes of Boy Scouts: “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”

Holt climbed the ladder of Boy Scouts by successfully completing the requirements of the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life.

By earning the highest award in Boy Scouts, Holt has accomplished something only the top 2 percent of Scouts are able to do.

Scouting awards are earned by completing the requirements to earn merit badges. To be an Eagle Scout, Holt said 21 specific badges are necessary. But true to his exemplary attitude, Holt was able to earn 50 badges.

Holt was also required to do an Eagle Scout project, which he did by coordinating a 40-mile lakeshore cleanup at Marion Reservoir.

Holt organized 95 volunteers who scavenged the shores of Marion Reservoir and reclaimed nearly 21/2 tons of garbage during the project.

Holt also had to be active in scouting for at least six months, hold a leadership position for six months, and demonstrate leadership.

Holt completed all the requirements March 18, 2002, but because of setbacks in his illness, the ceremony was postponed until this past Sunday.

Jackie Palic served as master of ceremonies. Doug Dick, Holt’s sixth-grade teacher, spoke of his former student.

“Andy had character and attributes far beyond most sixth graders,” Dick said. “Andy showed a lot of maturity. He was serious in his studies, but witty and well liked by his fellow students.

“Andy’s school work was always done with his best effort,” Dick added. “He was the kind of student all teachers wish we had more of.”

In attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, Holt joins a list of distinguished members of the Eagle rank. Among them are former President Gerald Ford, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart.

Holt said earning the Eagle rank can have lifelong benefits.

“If you’re going into the armed forces and you’re an Eagle Scout, you get an automatic one rank advancement,” he said. “Being able to list Eagle Scout on a resumé, could mean the difference in getting a job, too.”

Holt is quick to thank his family and friends for their support, hard work, sacrifices and prayers during his time of illness and rehabilitation.

He credits his father Terry, along with former troop leader Duane Kirkpatrick and current troop leader Bob Brookens, for helping him achieve his quest for the Eagle award.

Ann Holt, Andy’s mother, said “the good Lord Almighty, has a plan for everyone, and we are so thankful that Andy is meeting this challenge with the determination and confidence that he has.”

Andy said his illness has helped him learn patience and perseverance through difficult times.

Ann Holt said the hardest adjustment the family had to make is the lack of true family time.

“We lost a lot of quality family time, with all of us together,” she said. “Many times I stayed home with the other kids while Terry was with Andy visiting doctors.”

Added Andy: “I feel that I’m getting over the hump now, though.”

Andy Holt has scaled many mountains in the last four years, and admits his uphill battle is far from over. But this new Eagle Scout knows he has what it takes to reach the summit.

“Keep plugging away and don’t give up,” Andy tells all who face their own battles. “If you give up, you’re beat.

“If you’re beat, you don’t have anywhere to go.”

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