Scout’s good deed gets rewarded
January 18, 2013 4:30PM
Updated: February 22, 2013 6:07AM
A good deed 18-year-old Patrick Wilkins did almost two years ago earned him a heroism award recently from the National Boy Scout Council.
Patrick saved a fellow Boy Scout and friend when their canoe capsized in a rapids area of the Fox River during a trip in May 2011.
It takes a bit of time for an award such as this to be processed, but Patrick was honored in August during a Court of Honor at Channahon United Methodist Church and again this month at the Boy Scouts Eagle ceremony in Bolingbrook.
Scouting has become a way of life for Patrick — he started as a Tiger when he was just a little guy. Now as a senior at Minooka High School he has not only attained the status of Eagle Scout but has a heroism award to go alongside it.
What happened on the Fox River that day certainly took Patrick and Alex Youngquist, then 12, by surprise. But Patrick’s many years of Boy Scout training kicked in and he seemed to know just what to do.
The Scouts from Channahon Troop 444 were canoeing on the Fox River; some were getting in practice for an upcoming high-adventure trip to Virginia.
Patrick had already been canoeing and kayaking, but when Alex needed a partner Patrick hopped into the canoe with him.
As the two canoed down the river, they came to an area with a dam on one side and rocks on the other. They had to go over the rocks, said Alex.
“The canoe turned about 90 degrees, there was a huge rock in the middle. We hit the rock and tipped over,” Alex said.
Patrick was able to grab the top of the canoe, he said. Even though both boys had on life jackets, Alex struggled to get control as he was tossed about in the rapids.
In a letter to the Rainbow Council that November, Alex wrote, “Because we had been paddling for so long I was tired and rapidly losing energy. I kept going under and drifting farther and farther away from safety. Suddenly I felt someone grab my arm and start pulling me to shore, it was Patrick.”
Patrick had let go of the canoe and swam toward his friend.
“I pushed myself off the canoe and went with the rapids to get to him,” Patrick said. “I put his arm around my back and swam against the rapids to an island in the middle of the river.”
Once they reached the rocky oasis, Patrick grabbed hold of some drain pipes and pushed Alex so he could climb up on the island.
The life vest made swimming upriver more challenging, Patrick said.
Two Scout leaders were not far away and had witnessed the event. The boys waited on the rocks until the leaders reached them in their canoe.
Patrick credits his years of swimming at the Rainbow Council and life-saving classes he took through the Boy Scouts with helping him to know what to do in an emergency situation.
“If I hadn’t taken anything like that, I don’t know what would have happened,” he said.
Along with being a Scout, Patrick has been in the Channahon Police Cadet program for three years and may seek a career in criminal justice — or culinary arts, he said.
Alex, now 14, lives in Shorewood, is homeschooled and intends to stay in Scouting at least through his Eagle award.
Even though a year and a half has passed, both boys easily recall the incident. “I was very grateful,” Alex said.
Although the Eagle award typically marks the end of scouting for many young men, Patrick will likely continue on and apply for a position as assistant Scout leader.
He couldn’t have a better recommendation for the position than the one Alex gave him in his letter to the Rainbow Council, “He is a great example of what a Boy Scout should be.”
Reach Kris Stadalsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.