Boy Scout with special needs helps community

FISHERS, Ind. - A Boy Scout with special needs is overcoming challenges in order to help the Fishers community. The teenager decided to take action after a shelter was vandalized at Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve. His commitment and determination were on display Saturday.

AJ Valerio, 16, took on the project about three months ago. He's working on becoming an Eagle Scout and wanted to do something that could help people in central Indiana.  He learned of a shelter at the park that was in very bad condition.

"It had holes on the side, raccoons had chewed through the side," said Jody Valerio, AJ's dad. "It was vandalized. It had painting all over it, graffiti. And, it was infested with mice."

So, AJ began doing his research.

"I started drawing out a description of what it would be like to tear down, started taking measurements," AJ said.

As word of his plans spread, so did the support for him. His dad said this was a particularly touching project because AJ refused to let the obstacles he faces stop him from achieving his goal. The teen struggles with short term memory and emotional skills.

"I can't be any more proud," said Jody Valerio. "Every day, he surprises me with things with his disability."

Jody said his son designed the new shelter, did all the pricing and met with the city a couple of time.

On Saturday, AJ, members of his family and fellow troops got to work.

"He’s removed that hazard basically from the area," said Matt Best, Scout Master for the troop. "He wanted to do something where people in the community would be able to benefit and enjoy."

Now, AJ says he hopes the completion of the shelter will inspire other scouts with special needs to take on their projects.

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