Since its debut a year ago, our Unsung Heroes series has spotlighted 16 underreported acts of heroism. We’ve told you about a Venturer who rescued a family after a car crash, a Cub Scout who stopped a friend from choking and a Scout who saved an injured hiker during a family vacation.
But today’s Unsung Hero is a little different. Jasper Wang, a 13-year-old Star Scout from Troop 755 of Northville, Mich. (Michigan Crossroads Council), isn’t being recognized for a one-time act of courage but for a lifetime of them.
Jasper’s older brother, Malcolm, has epilepsy that causes intense, scary seizures. Though he’s shorter and six years younger than Malcolm, Jasper acts as a protective big brother.
When Malcolm has what’s called a grand mal seizure, which causes him to lose consciousness and experience violent muscle contractions, Jasper is right by his side. He checks vital signs, moves furniture aside, gets towels and an ice pack, and finds Malcolm’s wheelchair.
Quick action is vital to prevent Malcolm from injuring himself. The neurologist has instructed the family to call 911 only under specific circumstances.
“So we’re usually on our own during these events,” says Karen Wang, Jasper and Malcom’s mom. “Our attention and care can mean the difference between life and death.”
Jasper’s heroism earned council recognition in October 2017 when he received the National Certificate of Merit, awarded for a “significant act of service.” The act being recognized happened in February 2016 when Jasper and Malcolm were doing homework after school. Malcolm had a seizure, and Jasper and Karen helped prevent further injury.
“When I wake up from a seizure,” Malcolm says, “Jasper tells me that I did everything right.”
A guardian and friend
Jasper’s kindness toward his older brother isn’t limited to the frightening moments immediately before, during and after a seizure.
He’s around during the lighter moments, too. Jasper teaches Malcolm how to play games, finish jigsaw puzzles and build complicated Lego models.
“Jasper is an expert at Legos,” Malcolm says.
In 2019, Jasper earned the Disabilities Awareness merit badge. While working on that badge, Jasper started teaching a Pokémon class at the Living and Learning Enrichment Center in Northville, Mich. Malcolm takes music therapy classes at the local nonprofit, so Jasper knew the place well.
Jasper, who has been collecting Pokémon trading cards since elementary school, thought the center’s clients with autism would enjoy seeing the cards and memorizing facts about Charizard, Pikachu and other Pokémon characters.
From a neurological perspective, Jasper’s plan was sound. Therapy programs often incorporate special interests like trading cards in order to teach social skills — turn-taking, paying attention and holding a conversation.
All on his own, Jasper planned lessons to teach the rules of the game and purchased materials for the class. It was an instant hit, and clients began asking how they could join the fun.
The most impressive part: This was all Jasper’s idea. He’s showing what it means to be helpful, friendly and kind without expecting anything in return.
“I believe in doing the right thing because it’s the right thing,” Jasper says, “not because someone told me to.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the family has decided to stay home as much as possible out of concern for Malcolm’s health. Jasper plans to resume the Pokémon classes once it’s safe to do so.
His own identity
Karen and Orson Wang know that Jasper’s role in helping care for Malcolm could, if unchecked, become all-consuming. Malcolm has health needs that often demand the family’s full attention.
Jasper doesn’t complain. He’s the kind of young person who puts the needs of others before his own. He’s a Scout.
That’s why Jasper’s parents work hard to make sure Jasper has time to grow on his own.
“Jasper and I have been involved in Scouting since he was in first grade, and Scouting allows him to develop his own identity separate from his brother,” Karen Wang says. “In the summers, my husband takes a week off work to spend with Malcolm while I go to Scout camp with Jasper.”
At camp, Jasper enjoys teaching skills to younger Scouts. (No surprise there.) But his favorite activity is archery — a passion first developed at Cub Scout day camp that has become more than a hobby. Jasper now competes in Olympic recurve target archery year-round.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jasper — like others across the country — has continued his Scouting adventure from home. He completed his Star rank board of review through a videoconference, is working on his religious emblem and has earned merit badges from home. (For the Collections merit badge, he wrote about his Pokémon trading cards collection.)
Whether making his own strides or helping others like Malcolm, Jasper shows what it means to be a Scouting hero.
Share your Unsung Heroes story
Stories like these brighten my day — especially because I know this kind of thing happens regularly in Scouting.
Here’s how to share the news of an Unsung Hero in your pack, troop or crew:
- Send an email to me with the subject line “Unsung Heroes.”
- Include a detailed summary of the heroic act.
- Include any “supporting documentation” you can. Examples include links to a story in your local newspaper, paperwork for a Scouting heroism award nomination or eyewitness accounts.
- Include high-res photos of the Unsung Hero.