WHITEHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — When nearly everything in one young man’s life told him no, he found a way to say yes.
Ben Hayes is not your typical 12-year-old. He’s been bullied, beaten but finally found his way through scouting.
His dream of becoming an Eagle Scout has been achieved by a select few, astronaut Neil Armstrong and President Gerald R. Ford among them. It’s not an easy task, it takes years to achieve but it’s a challenge, like so many others thrown Hayes way, he knows he can overcome.
Already earning 99 merit badges and quickly rising to the rank of Star Scout with Troop 1048, Hayes has overcome much. He also has autism.
“People always say don’t trust a book by its cover,” Hayes said. “Some people might accept you, but some people might not accept you cause the way you are but don’t need to change yourself.”
His mother, Rebecca Shannon, explains how much her son has already overcome as being a typical kid never came easily for Ben.
“He was a target for the longest time. He kind of just was in the back corner all the time and now he’s main stage. He can talk to anybody. He can sell a person a piece of paper he didn’t know he needed,” Shannon said. “I’m so proud of Ben for everything he overcomes because he doesn’t take no for an answer. He’ll just keep trying. It just amazes me because I was told from the beginning that he wouldn’t be able to do much. There’s just been an amazing change in him.”
Through something as demanding as scouting, Shannon says his schoolwork and social skills have improved as she says her son now lives by the scout law.
“A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent,” Hayes recited. “I want to be really, really helpful.”
Ask Hayes and he will tell you scouting changed his life. It’s evidenced by scores of medals and certificates which decorate his family living room. Over the accolades, he has made friends. He says friends Shirley, Aimee, Brad, Rob Markiewicz, Mr. Ethan and Mr. Joel all helped change his life.
“It was just great to see a bunch of kids want to help him, and didn’t see his disability as a problem,” Shannon said. “He’s got so much effort into planning his future, that I’m in awe. I sit back and I go, oh my gosh, I don’t know what I’m doing next week, and you know what you’re doing in a couple years.”
His next goal, becoming Eagle, to do that, Ben will have to fulfill many requirements, looming largest however is the Eagle Scout Project. His plan is where his medals and certificates come alive, giving merit to another of his passions. Football.
“I do the long snapper for the touchdown only. Like I always have to hustle to get the ball and my first time getting a touchdown. I feel a great person,” Hayes said. “My Eagle Project — t’s about, it’s with football, and people who got hurt and need a lot of money to get people the treatment to fix people with something.”
Hayes took CXPR training and is now certified through the Grant Fire Department. There he learned the chances of survival significantly decreases with every moment in which defibrillation is not performed. AED’s can be used in emergency situations by train personnel to save lives.
His football team at Montague Middle School currently does not have outdoor AED equipment. In an emergency situation, an automated external defibrillator could be the difference between life and death.
Hayes is raising money through popcorn sales to make sure a tragedy never occurs. Already selling much, Hayes is asking for more support.
You can purchase popcorn from him online — select “Are you a scout supporter?”, type in “Benjamin Hayes” zip code 49461 and complete your purchase.
Hayes has until he turns 18 to achieve his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout. When he does, he would like to join the U.S. Air Force and serve his country.