Only a select few Boy Scouts earn the rank of Eagle and fewer yet become one while using a wheelchair. Josh Swoverland of Avon, Indiana, is an Eagle Scout who was born with a spinal cord abnormality, a club foot, and paralysis in both feet.
Eighteen-year-old Swoverland said in a telephone interview, “I used to use a walker until kindergarten but getting around with it was too slow. So I switched to using a wheelchair.”
Over time growing up, Swoverland became a successful wheelchair athlete. In high school, he began focusing the bulk of his attention on track and basketball, with the intent of eventually earning a full-ride college scholarship in one of those sports. He said, “I really enjoy the competition and wheelchair track and basketball are really competitive.”
He also has enjoyed competitive swimming and in that sport this July participated in St. Louis at the National Junior Disability Championships, a Paralympics-style meet.
As for his becoming an Eagle Scout, don’t think for a moment his leader removed or altered any of the more difficult requirements. When Swoverland began Scouts, his Scoutmaster instructed the adult leaders and troop to “not make anything easier or different for me,” he said. “They treated me like everyone else.”
He especially enjoyed camping and helping out the younger boys. Also, Scouting gave him the opportunity to cook, something his mother seldom allowed him to do when at home. In case something went awry, his father always came along on camping trips.
Swoverland attributed most of his success in life to his parents, who have treated him “just like any other kid,” he said. “Also, my parents always pushed me in sports to be the best I can be. When I was younger, there were days I didn’t want to (practice) and they pushed me anyway. Now when I don’t want to (practice), I can push myself to do it because they made me when I was younger.”
For next year in college, he is considering majoring in sports psychology and would like to compete in wheelchair track or basketball for Illinois or Arizona. Eventually, he would like to become a motivational speaker.
He said, “I really like kids and want to be a role model. I’ve always believed having a strong attitude towards everything can help you accomplish your goals and I want to help people do that.”