Eagle Scout with spina bifida inspires New York hometown

Luke Schultz was born with spina bifida, a spinal defect that forced him to wear leg braces and undergo multiple surgeries.

When he crossed over from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts, he figured he’d advance as far as he could — no pressure if he didn’t earn Eagle. But then, he saw his friends reaching the pinnacle of the Scout ranks. His father, Steve, is also an Eagle Scout. So, he set a goal to earn the Eagle Scout rank, and when Luke sets a goal for himself, you’d better believe he’ll reach it.

His family and friends really took notice of this drive after he completed a five-mile hike at camp.

“I don’t think I ever heard him say, ‘I can’t’ do something, but with some encouragement it was ‘how can I do it’ and with this determination he would figure out how and accomplish the task,” Scoutmaster Russ Page says.

Tenacity with a smile

Luke has always had that resolve, his aunt Shari DeTar says. She recalled how he excelled during occupational therapy sessions as a toddler, completing tasks without complaint and with a smile. He joined Cub Scouts as a Wolf, enjoying day camps, Pinewood Derbies and blue and gold banquets.

“Those were some fun years,” Luke says.

He crossed over into Troop 85 in Leicester, N.Y., a short drive from his hometown of York, N.Y. He learned how to camp and serve his community. For his Eagle Scout project, Luke refurbished York’s holiday wreaths and installed LED lighting along Main Street. When he finished, he had $112.72 left over from fundraising for his project. So, he decided to donate that money to the town.

“I feel it’s really helped develop my leadership skills,” Luke says of Scouting. “Now I know what it truly takes to be a leader.”

Family members and Scout leaders agreed that Luke’s leadership and cheerful attitude are infectious. Those qualities didn’t stop when a troop meeting ended. He became a leader on his high school track team, winning multiple titles; with his school’s jazz band where he played saxophone, and with his church, doing mission and disaster relief work.

“Luke is our own Captain America,” Assistant Scoutmaster Steven Carroll says. “He has a great outlook; he meets every challenge head on.”

One of those challenges came when he was a First Class Scout and needed to undergo another surgery. It practically sidelined him for almost two years as he was in and out of foot casts and had to use a wheelchair or crutches. But that didn’t stop him from achieving his goal.

Luke earned the Eagle Scout rank last year and had his court of honor in February.

“I can’t express in words how proud I am,” his father Steve says. “He inspires me. He had the perseverance to stick with it.”

Scouting’s impact

Not only did Scouting provide character- and skill-building goals for Luke to strive for, it offered so much more that helped him grow as a person.

“I think Scouting definitely helped with his maturing,” DeTar says. “It gave him another support system with adults and peers.”

His adult leaders were often moved to tears as they saw Luke advance along the trail to Eagle, DeTar says. Living with spina bifida could have been a constant source of discouragement for him, and there were times he admitted that he wasn’t sure he could keep going.

“You know that it would have been easy for him to feel sorry for himself or demand that others help him and take the easy way out, but that’s not Luke,” DeTar says.

“I think the values and design of Scouting helped contribute to his positive attitude along with his family, teachers, camp counselors and faith. I think there is no better gift than spending time with children and making them feel important,” she continues.

“With technology and so many distractions these days, as a teacher, I see kids just craving this attention from adults. Scouting provides this opportunity in various settings and gives that precious gift of time and attention to let the Scouts know they matter to adults.”

About Michael Freeman 50 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is associate editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.