NORTH ST. PAUL (WCCO) — In just five years of scouting, Antonio Vandal has amassed an impressive bunch of badges. On the wall in his family’s living room, hangs a sheet of felt plastered with badges of all kind.
Still, despite all the accolades and achievements the 10-year-old has earned, the collection is nothing compared to the honor he’s about to receive.
In a soft, but determined voice, Antonio described the scene on the Namekagon River in Wisconsin while on a canoe trip in the summer of 2010.
“We came around a blind curve and we saw our friends, they’d capsized and we started paddling over to them. He said don’t worry about me, go get my son,” Antonio recalled.
The young scout and his father were canoeing with a group of five other fathers and their kids. Suddenly, a canoe in front of them was overturned in the rushing water and one of the young boys was being washed downstream. To make matters worse, he wasn’t wearing a life preserver and was obviously panicked and in distress.
Antonio and his father, Rocky, rushed to the boy’s aid who by they had drifted about 75 yards down river. Antonio remembered how to maintain a canoe’s balance as his dad leaned overboard and pulled the boy in.
Describing his actions, Antonio said, “this is what I did, but I used the paddle to keep the canoe steady and I was on my knees.”
Rocky became emotional when he recalled his brave little scout who maintained their balance during the rescue and kept them from capsizing as well.
“He was there when he was needed, he prepared, did his best and took care of business,” said Rocky.
What makes Antonio’s story even more special is that he had no previous experience in a canoe. So, just a week prior to their trip he bought a Boy Scout canoeing merit badge book to learn the basics. But little did he know that he would soon use those skills.
“It’s a special award,” said the Northern Star Council’s Kent York.
To recognize Antonio’s actions, York will be on hand as the council presents Antonio with the National Certificate of Merit. The award is presented to scouts who demonstrate a significant act of service, but it is a rarity among Webelos scouts. Out of 416,000 Webelos in scouting in 2011, only seven received the high honor.
“He (Antonio) took some training, got the merit badge book, read up on canoeing and practiced with his father. And as the case would happen he needed to put the skills into practice,” said York.
It’s a big honor for such a young scout but one who was up to the Boy Scout motto in a time of need.
“By practicing, studying and overcoming my fears,” said Antonio.