By Patrick Donachie

A student at Holy Cross High School has joined forces with a group of teens and adults with Down syndrome to organize a partnership between them and his Boy Scout troop, a teaming that has benefited both groups.

Lawrence Vodopivec was trying to earn his Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge for the Boy Scouts in 2013, and a scout leader suggested he investigate the work being done by the Association for Children with Down Syndrome.

There was a group of approximately 15 to 20 ACDS clients, from about 16 years old and up, who rowed canoes during the summer and played basketball and field hockey in the off-season. Lawrence agreed to work with the group by helping them with properly fastening their life vests.

“I always looked at it as I’m the new kid in the room, so I should try to make friends,” Lawrence, who is now a sophomore at Holy Cross, said.

He found that, despite the initial nervousness, he began bonding with the ACDS group through chatting about cooking and sports. When the canoeing season ended, Lawrence continued working with the ACDS team as they transitioned to playing floor hockey. Catherine Vodopivec, Lawrence’s mother and a teacher at Holy Cross, said Lawrence’s first visits to ACDS had grown into a strong partnership between the group and her son’s Boy Scout Troop 824.

Lawrence brought members of his troop to play in scrimmages and friendly games with the ACDS athletes, and the two groups bonded as Lawrence had with talk of food, the Yankees and other shared interests. Gradually, more and more joined the ACDS group in friendly competitions, including three other scout troops, the SUNY Farmingdale Hockey team, local fire departments and the Rink Rats at the Freeport Recreation Center.

According to Catherine Vodopivec, the troop is currently planning an outdoor hike with the ACDS team, and also wants to hold an overnight camping trip for both groups, and the ACDS is also fund-raising for sports equipment. Catherine said she had been constantly impressed by the impact that both groups had on each other, and was proud of the work Lawrence had done with the ACDS athletes.

“It just blossomed from one kids doing service hours,” she said. “It’s just been tremendous.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona[email protected]cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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