Lance Davenport, of Weedsport, was frustrated that his parents have to drive as far as Rochester or Syracuse to get help for his brother Nathan, who has autism.
This led Lance, 17, of Boy Scout Troop 59, to devise his Eagle Scout Service Project: a conference on autism and other developmental disabilities to be held April 7 at Weedsport Jr.-Sr. High School.
Speakers at the event will include speech and language pathologist Marilyn Chadwick and Kirsta Malone of Healing H'Arts Equestrian Center, which provides physical therapy with horses. Therapy dogs from Go Team Therapy Dogs in Syracuse and the teddy bear franchise Teddy Mountain, among other services, will also available for people with disabilities who attend.
Many of the speakers have worked with Lance's parents and Nathan before, so it wasn't difficult to get in touch with them, Lance said. For his service project, which is supposed to benefit the community and demonstrate his leadership abilities, he wanted to showcase a wide range of options for people who have someone with a disability in their lives.
"Just seeing my parent's experience, I don't want other people to work that hard to get that type of help," Lance said.
Lance's tone of voice becomes noticeably cheerier when he begins talking about good times with his brother.
When Lance was either 7 or 8, he would chase the chickens on his family's farm, and once caught, Nathan would touch the bottom of the birds' scaly feet, Lance said, giggling intermittently as he told the story. Nathan is an extremely tactile person, Lance said, often curious about how things feel.
Lance said making phone calls and setting up the event for months hasn't been easy, but he argued that it pales in comparison to his parents' efforts to locate options for Nathan.
"Putting this together may seem hard — which it is — but they've been finding this type of information and digging for it for years," Lance said.
Venus Davenport, Lance's mother, said she is proud of her son's work. Lance said his mother jokingly suggested an autism conference for his Eagle Scout project, but he gravitated toward the idea.
"I think it started as a joke, but I think it developed into something he could do and would be helpful," Venus said.
Andy Roden, scoutmaster of Troop 59, said he has known Lance since he was a Cub Scout. Roden said Lance "will always do what he thinks is right, regardless of which direction the crowd is going."
The scope of Lance's undertaking is beyond the scope of normal Eagle Scout projects, Roden said. He noted that while many other Scouts rely on their peers for projects — and other Weedsport troops will have volunteer roles at the conference — he feels the fact that Lance is contacting adult presenters speaks to his leaderships skills.
Roden said Eagle Scout projects are vehicles for scouts to demonstrate leadership with a minimal amount of adult supervision. In that regard, he feels Lance has excelled with flying colors.
"He had a vision for this and wasn't really intimidated by the scope of it," Roden said. "But I think that's really a special thing to see in a young man, to have that vision and follow through on it."