A Scout is brave, but what Lawrence D. Sellers did on Jan. 29, 2013, was something beyond bravery.
The Chicago Area Council Eagle Scout was shot in the leg while shielding a friend from gunfire during the Harsh Park attack that killed Hadiya Pendleton.
Pendleton’s death, which happened a mile from President Barack Obama’s South Side home, has become a national symbol of Chicago’s gang violence, which has spiked in recent years.
On Sunday, the Chicago Area Council will present Lawrence with the Honor Medal, given for “unusual heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save a life at considerable risk to self.”
Since 1923, fewer than 2,500 Honor Medals have been awarded. That’s a rate of about 28 a year, meaning Lawrence is in rare company.
“We’re very proud of Lawrence, as should be our entire national organization,” Chicago Area Council Commissioner Lou Sandoval wrote in an email to me this week. “Lawrence’s story needs to be told in hopes that it will inspire other youth in Chicago to seek an alternative path in life.”
Lawrence’s own life path has been one shaped positively by Scouting. His two older brothers are Eagle Scouts, his father was a Scoutmaster, and his mother and sister were involved in Girl Scouts. Lawrence says he can only imagine the impact if more of his Chicago-area peers were involved in Scouting.
“If most of the children that are out there now were in Scouting, they would know right from wrong better than they do now,” he said.
That’s true across the country (and around the world, really), but it’s especially relevant in Chicago, where the homicide rate was down in 2013 but still is much higher than comparably large cities.
Growing Scouting’s numbers in the Windy City would mean kids joining Cub Scout dens or Boy Scout patrols instead of joining gangs. And that would be a win for everyone.
Meanwhile, Lawrence’s leg wound has made a full recovery, allowing him to focus on selecting which college he’ll attend to pursue a degree in education and become a math teacher. I think I speak for the Scouting family by wishing him the best of luck. Lawrence has a bright future ahead and will make a great Scoutmaster some day.
The original news release follows:
CHICAGO EAGLE SCOUT TO RECEIVE HONOR MEDAL FOR HIS HEROIC ACTIONS
Chicago, IL (February 17, 2014) — The Boy Scouts of America will award Eagle Scout Lawrence D. Sellers with the Honor Medal later this week. Sellers will be recognized for selflessly shielding a friend from gunfire in Chicago’s Harsh Park last year where he received non-life-threatening wounds. Sellers was shot in the leg during the attack that killed his King College Prep classmate, Hadiya Pendleton, who has become a national symbol of Chicago’s violence.
“We are very proud of Lawrence,” said Council Commissioner Lou Sandoval. “His actions represent one of the many ways that Scouting impacts the many young men and women who participate: servant leadership.”
Sellers maintains a humble perspective on his heroic actions. He credits his instinct and upbringing. “I did what I needed to do,” Sellers said. “I didn’t think I would receive an award, but I’m honored.”
Sellers grew up in a Scouting family. His two older brothers both became Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in Boy Scouts; his father was a Scoutmaster; and his mother and sister were involved in Girl Scouts. When asked what might be possible if more of Chicago’s youth were involved in Scouting, Sellers said: “If most of the children that are out there now were in Scouting, they would know right from wrong better than they do now.”
Chicago has been challenged with a spike in gang violence over the past few years. The 104-year-old Scouting movement has been working behind the scenes with proven results in the development of character and core leadership skills. When Sellers was asked what he envisions as a solution for youth violence, he responded: “I don’t think there’s a simple solution, not simple enough for me to come up with, at least.”
Sellers’ leg wound has healed and he is now focused on selecting a college where he will work toward a degree in education so he can become a math teacher.
The Boy Scouts will present Sellers with the Honor Medal on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at the Chicago Area Council Annual Dinner.
The Honor Medal recognizes individuals who have demonstrated unusual heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save a life at considerable risk to self. The award has been given to 2,354 people since it’s inception in 1923.
Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America serves thousands of youth across Chicagoland through traditional Scouting programs, Learning for Life and Exploring. The principal purpose of all Chicago Area Council programs is to instill positive values and prepare youth for life. To learn more, visit www.chicagobsa.org.