Eagle Scout magazine
Although Scouting teaches boys to Be Prepared, few are prepared to go from varsity athlete to quadriplegic in the blink of an eye. But that’s just what happened to J.R.Harding 30 years ago.
One cold day in 1983, the 16-year-old Eagle Scout tried to walk away form a fight at Culver Military Academy and ended up being thown to the ground. By chance, the impact severed his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed. It was then that his Eagle Scout training kicked in. “Rather than helplessly lying on that cold dirt, I was able to guide and lead those had had just harmed me in how to help me,” he recalls.
Despite his injury, Harding graduated from high school nine months later, proudly wearing his Eagle Scout badge. He completed college and eventually earned a doctorate in higher education from Florida State Univeersity.
Today Harding works as external affairs manager with Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities. “Anything that facilitates your independence, your transportation, your self-suffiency falls under my perview”, he says. Over the years, he’s consulted on implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, served as an expert witness and co-written a book with his wife called Now What? (2011).
Last summer, Harding drove his adaptive vehicle to the Summit Bechtel Reserve so that he could explore ways to make the site more accessible to Scouts with disabilities. “We have a responsibility to cherish [the Summit], to grow it and to ensure that generations to come can enjoy a lifetime of friendships, skills and abilities.”