Brashinger: Mokena man overcomes blindness to become Eagle Scout
By Ginger Brashinger Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org December 12, 2013 1:50PM
Mokena resident Jordan Brooks, 21, with the awards and certificates he received for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout with Boy Scout Troop 40 in the village. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 16, 2014 6:10AM
Jordan Brooks, 21, may have come late to the game, but he hit it out of the park once he decided he wanted to be a player.
The Mokena resident recently achieved the highest rank of Eagle Scout with Boy Scout Troop 40 after less than seven years as a Scout. Under Boy Scout regulations, Brooks was allowed an extension from age 18 to 21 to complete the requirements because of his disabilities.
Brooks was diagnosed as an infant with sporadic aniradia, a medical condition that affects the iris of the eye, leaving him legally blind. His parents, Mike and Karen Brooks, said their son’s disability didn’t stop him from an active life, even as a toddler.
“He was a social butterfly,” Karen said. “But then the seizures came.”
At 3 years old, Brooks began experiencing seizures and was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy.
Mike Brooks said it became “very challenging” to educate his son because when he had a seizure, he seemed to forget what he had learned and had to start over.
The Brookses decided to home-school Jordan so he would receive the individual attention that educating him required, but his social life took a hit.
Brooks said that by the time he was a teenager, he knew his socialization was in a “bad state.” His disabilities had caused some withdrawal, and he always declined to join organizations with other kids his age.
That changed when he was 14 and a family friend and Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 40, Dr. Tim Toepke, asked the family, “Why don’t you let Jordan come to a Boy Scout meeting?”
Mike Brooks said he and his wife had never considered Scouting as a possibility for Jordan and had always been “overly protective” of him, but when Jordan said he would go to the meeting — the first activity with kids his age to which he had ever said “yes” — a life-changing event occurred.
“For some reason, I accepted,” Brooks said.
At the meeting, Brooks volunteered to put on firemen’s gear at a fire safety demonstration.
“My mom said when I came home, she could tell I fell in love with it (Scouting),” he said.
Brooks has spent the last seven years earning nearly two dozen merit badges and awards as a member of Troop 40. His crowning achievement was becoming an Eagle Scout through a project close to his heart — collecting eyeglasses for the visually impaired.
Brooks was required to plan the project from beginning to end, design the collection boxes and contact nearly a dozen locations to place the collection boxes. He completed his project with the cooperation of the Mokena Lions Club, his fellow Scouts, adults and his family.
When the four-month collection ended, Brooks gave 1,270 donated eyeglasses to Dr. Derrald Taylor, a Mokena Lions Club member, who said it was the “largest number of eyeglasses anyone ever collected in all the time (he had) been a member.”
Brooks drew some positive attention for his accomplishments, as many people recognized what he had achieved under more difficult circumstances than the average Boy Scout would encounter. He received a standing ovation from the Mokena Lions Club and an invitation to join the club following his presentation on his Eagle project.
Brooks also received an award recognizing his achievements from Frankfort Township officials.
“Jordan is another example of the many fine young people in our area,” township supervisor Jim Moustis said. “He is truly striving for excellence.”
Brooks said he will remain with Troop 40 as an adult leader, something he did not think possible seven years ago.
He encourages others who may feel that they cannot join the Scouts because of disabilities to give it a try.
“I think seeing the other Scouts and how productive they were and how generous and loving the leaders were and seeing this world that is open to endless possibilities for teens all over the country showed me that I have an opportunity to learn things that I never thought possible in the past,” Brooks said. “Now, I think it was worth taking the chance.”