Life Scout takes second place in surfing at Special Olympics

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Photo of Mackenzie Clark for the 2022 Special Olympics USA

We were thrilled last summer when Isaiah Vargas, then a Star Scout, was selected to compete in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida.

We are thrilled to report that Isaiah, now a Life Scout, won a silver medal from the Games this summer.

Isaiah, of Troop 210 in Winter Garden, Florida, was diagnosed with high-functioning autism when he was 3 years old. He joined the Cubs a few years later, and a few years later he discovered a love for surfing.

Competing on a giant stage like the Special Olympics didn’t bother him at all.

“Special Olympics was awesome,” he says. “I had a lot of fun. I wasn’t nervous. I was brave.

The joy Isaiah derives from surfing is pretty clear to see. Photo of Milea Verock for Special Olympics USA 2022

The opportunity of a lifetime

The competition took place at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, a water park located at the Walt Disney Resort.

Isaiah competed in the Level 2 surfing division. Level 1 is for athletes who can surf on their own without any assistance. For Level 2, athletes are pushed into the wave by their surf coach but are on their own as they attempt to catch the wave and stand on the board.

Judges score athletes based on the distance covered, their stability on the board and their maneuver when standing.

There are multiple heats, each consisting of four to ten waves that an athlete can attempt to ride. Isaiah clocked 11.66 in his final run, good enough to earn him the silver medal.

“I did a good job and I will do my best for the next time,” he said.

As soon as the Games were over, Isaiah went to summer camp with his scout troop.

Isaiah’s other favorite activity? Scouting, of course. Photo courtesy of the Vargas family

Scouts and sports a winning combination

Isaiah’s parents noticed a drastic change in Isaiah shortly after his first Cub Scout meeting all those years ago. The combination of scouting and competitive sports, they say, was just what their family needed.

“The Special Olympics and Scouting provided an opportunity as parents with special needs that we hadn’t anticipated,” says Rolando, Isaiah’s father. “That is, Isaiah becomes self-sufficient and independent through the skills he learned from Scouting, and we – my wife and I – learn to let go.”

An event like the Special Olympics can be difficult for a child with autism. Isaiah says all the activity caused her autism to “work overtime.” But there’s a reason Isaiah’s favorite point in Scout Law is “brave.”

“It was different and challenging, but I had fun,” he says. “The food was great and I met new people.”

Isaiah joins other medal-winning Scout Olympians like Ryan Held, Steven Holcomb and Chris Fogt, and David Blair.

Isaiah with a special medal, flanked by his proud parents Lisa and Rolando. Photo courtesy of the Vargas family

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