AP NEWS

Scout builds ramp to help special needs children

December 31, 2018

CLEVELAND, Tenn. (AP) — When Garrett Saylors was deciding on an Eagle Scout project, he wanted it to be “impactful and help kids.”

That’s why Saylors, a member of Boy Scout Troop 96 in Tunnel Hill, built a ramp at Mending Arrow Ranch in Cleveland, Tennessee. The nonprofit organization provides free horseback riding for special needs students and at-risk teen girls in Bradley and Hamilton counties in Tennessee and Catoosa, Murray and Whitfield counties in Georgia.

“We have children in wheelchairs and walkers,” said Kayla Davis, the founder and president of Mending Arrow Ranch. “Garrett called me last December and asked if we needed help with any projects.”

Davis told him she needed a ramp for the children who come to ride at the ranch. It was a request Saylors said was close to his heart.

“In 2013 I was very sick with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis,” he said. Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis is described as “characterized by a brief but widespread attack of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that damages myelin — the protective covering of nerve fibers” by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Saylors said he was in a coma for seven days and had to learn to walk again. Shortly after being released from the hospital he joined the Boy Scouts.

“Dogs and horseback riding really helped with my therapy,” he said. “It makes me happy to make a difference in children’s lives.”

After getting approval from troop leader Jason Gentry and his wife Dawn, who is Saylors’ Eagle Scout adviser, he and fellow troop members started work on the ramp.

“We really wanted to build something as large as much as possible,” he said.

The group started on the project on May 15 and completed it on Sept. 8. Saylors said 18 students from Lee University in Cleveland helped paint the arena at the ranch. Ace Hardware, Beaty Hardware (Cleveland, Tennessee), Cohutta Feed and Seed and Lowe’s donated materials for the ramp.

Saylors and troop members also built a sitting area near the ranch and painted a back fence. Davis said the ramp has been a great help for the 30-plus students she serves.

“It helps a lot because pretty much all of our children with special needs use the ramp to mount and dismount on the horse,” she said. “We operate solely off donations and grants so any type of help like this ramp is tremendous.”

Jason Gentry said he had not heard of the ranch until Saylors approached him with the project.

“He wanted to know if I thought it would be too much work,” Gentry said. “I assured him we’d make sure it wasn’t and everything would be fine.”

Jason Gentry said he’s proud of Saylors and the other scouts.

“Garrett is a really great kid and very enthusiastic,” he said. “The project was heartfelt and he did an awesome job giving back to people, especially children.”

Jason Gentry said Saylors had been “striving to get the goal of Eagle Scout.”

“He really wanted to do a big, impactful project to help somebody,” Jason Gentry said. “He found inspiration through horses and so Mending Arrow Ranch was perfect.”

Jason Gentry said he’d like for Saylors to continue in the Boy Scouts and possibly become a scoutmaster’s assistant.

“He has a passion for horses, which keeps him busy,” Jason Gentry said. “I don’t see Garrett abandoning the program. I believe he’s benefited a lot and put a lot into it.”

For more information on Mending Arrow Ranch or to donate, visit mendingarrowranch.org. The organization has Facebook and Instagram accounts under its name.

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Information from: The Daily Citizen, http://www.daltondailycitizen.com