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Autism just another hurdle for soon-to-be Eagle Scout

Chad Gombar checks his neckerchief in the mirror.
(RICK CRIDER/Enquirer-Journal)

(The following is an article about Chad Gombar written by Enquirer Journal reporter Tiffany Jothen on Thursday, March 10, 2011).

He calls me “newspaper lady,” my favorite reference in three years with The E-J.

Chad Gombar wears a tan Boy Scout shirt with a red and yellow neckerchief. He sits in the living room, watching the weatherman on TV, but doesn’t argue when his mom turns it off so I can interview them.

Chad is 22 and has autism. He’s in his last year at Wolfe School, a school for people with developmental disabilities.

He knows graduation is coming up and hums “Pomp and Circumstance,” waving one finger in the air like a maestro.

Saturday marks another accomplishment.

It’s the day of his court of honors ceremony when he officially becomes an Eagle Scout.

Chad joined Boy Scouts eight years ago.

He’s part of Troop 601 in Mecklenburg County, a troop for boys like Chad. His sash boasts 33 patches, and he points to his favorite — swimming. He also likes eating, but doesn’t have a patch for that.

His mother, Troyanna Helms, is a committee chairwoman for the troop and has her own Boy Scouts uniform.

She goes camping with her son and guided him through 12 weeks of exercise to earn his physical fitness badge.

That was his least favorite, hence the final badge on his sash.

For Chad’s Eagle Scout project, he cleared leaves, brush and rocks from Emmanuel Baptist’s ball fields and fixed up the concession area.

About 35 people helped, spending Friday night and all day Saturday on the project.

“Write it down,” Chad tells me, pointing to my notepad.

I assure him I won’t forget.

Union County commissioners recently recognized Chad’s achievements at a board meeting. He later watched the broadcast and said he liked seeing himself on TV.

Chad also collects clocks and notices when our photographer arrives later in the evening as planned.

“He’s late,” he says.

Chad’s room is full of clocks, and he’ll ask his mom to change each one this weekend for Daylight Saving Time.

“He keeps everyone on schedule,” she said.

When I stand up to follow Chad’s parents into another room, he asks if I’m leaving. He asks me again when I start digging through my purse. It’s dinner time, and he’s ready to eat.

He’s patient, though, and waits until the photographer gets his gear together.

“Go ahead and take a picture,” Chad tells him, posing on the couch.

Chad hopes to work for Union Diversified Industries after graduation. He also wants a blue Mustang convertible one day.

--Reprinted with permission from The Enquirer Journal.

The video below is provided courtesy of WBTV Channel 3 by reporter Kristen Hampton

Written by: Tiffany Jothen - Reporter for The Enquirer Journal
Video by: WBTV Channel 3 News Reporter Kristen Hampton
Posted: Mar 10, 2011 by Don Mace

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