(Updated 12 p.m.) As elementary school students, blind triplets Leo, Nick and Steven Cantos were bullied, had few friends and no role models.
But that changed when, at the age of 10, blind attorney and Crystal City resident Ollie Cantos became their mentor after learning about them through a friend at church. He legally adopted them two years ago, and turned their lives around.
“I didn’t have friends, my brothers were the only people, that was it,” Nick Cantos said. “I was essentially shut in for seven years, and I was a violent kid. I got into fights with people, because I was being bullied in school. It ended up getting so bad that I wanted to end [my life]. Dad really saved my life.”
A ceremony on Wednesday night marked how far they have come, having also graduated from Wakefield High School earlier this year. At The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Alexandria, the brothers became the first ever blind triplets to be honored as Eagle Scouts in the history of Boy Scouts of America.
To become Eagle Scouts, the highest honor in scouting, candidates must complete a slew of assignments, including tasks like first aid, knot-tying, leadership and orientation. It also requires community service, and six months or more spent in leadership positions at their troop.
Each also had to lead a community service project. Steven Cantos collected school supplies for low-income schoolchildren for nonprofit Aspire! Afterschool. He already volunteered with the organization, which helps children improve their reading, and had intended to collect enough supplies for 90 students.
When the supply drive was over, he had collected enough for 130 students.
“They go in and help kids read in a more advanced way, since they feel that reading is the first thing that kids need to learn, and then they learn other things if they can read better,” Steven Cantos said. “The project stemmed from the fact that I’d already volunteered a bit of time to them, so I wanted to give some more time… I decided that education is important, so let’s give them school supplies.”
Leo Cantos collected blood and blankets for INOVA Fairfax Hospital, a children’s hospital where he spent a month re-learning how to walk. He finished with 88 units of blood and 77 blankets, all donated by local people he had recruited.
“I wanted to give back to the kids, because I saw the kids there and I saw how they were not doing too well,” Leo Cantos said. “I wanted to give them a better experience, kind of like the one I had in the hospital but extended to them as well.”
And Nick Cantos collected donations of hygiene supplies for nonprofit Doorways for Women and Families, which helps people out of homelessness and away from domestic violence and sexual assault. He collected about $2,000 worth of supplies to donate to the organization.
“It took a lot of planning, it took a lot of work and papers,” Nick Cantos said. “The craziest part was seeing all my scout friends and leaders and brothers helping me to do this, and me managing this thing.”
Car Crashes Into Construction Equipment — A vehicle crashed into some parked construction equipment in Courthouse during the evening rush hour yesterday. The crash happened on Wilson Blvd, just down the hill from the Wendy’s. Wilson Blvd was closed for a short period of time as a result. [Twitter]
Five Achieve Eagle Scout Status — Five members of the local Boy Scout Troup 106 achieved Eagle Scout status during a recent ceremony in north Arlington. [InsideNoVa]
Happy Hour for a Good Cause Thursday — Guarapo in Courthouse (2039 Wilson Blvd) will be hosting a happy hour to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on Thursday. [Clarendon Nights]
Group Seeks Prom Dress Donations — The annual “Formals for Five” initiative is seeking donations of dresses, jewelry, shoes and accessories. The donated items will then be sold for $5 apiece to students at Washington-Lee and Wakefield high schools. [InsideNoVa]
Saturday is the Boy Scouts’ annual “Scouting for Food” drive in the D.C. area, and Boy Scouts will be tying plastic bags to the doors of Arlington houses tomorrow. The following Saturday, Nov. 9, they will return to collect the bag, which they hope the residents will fill with nonperishable food items.
Last year, the drive collected 825,000 pounds of food, according to the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Once the bags are collected, the food collected in Arlington will be distributed by the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Boy Scouts will also be at Safeway grocery stores Nov. 9 encouraging shoppers to buy additional items to be donated to AFAC.
The scouts will stop at homes in a number of neighborhoods to collect food donations to benefit Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). They will directly visit residents who received bags and fliers last week explaining the drive. Out of courtesy for residents, scouts don’t knock on doors; instead residents are asked to leave food donations in plain sight near their front doors, by 9:00 a.m. All donations are expected to be collected by noon.
Residents who didn’t receive a bag on their door will not be visited by the scouts. These residents can still participate, however, by taking food donations to the Cherrydale or Harrison Street Safeway stores.
Suggested foods for donation include pasta, peanut butter, breakfast food, tuna, soup, fruit and beans. AFAC and the scouts both ask that items in glass jars are not donated.
The goal is to exceed last year’s total of 60,000 pounds of donated food.
Right now, AFAC serves about 1,400 people each week, but that may increase as temperatures grow colder.
A total of 27 decorative flags were burned overnight on a quiet couple of blocks between Quantico Street and Sycamore Street, near Bishop O’Connell High School and Tuckahoe Elementary, according to fire department spokesman Lt. Gregg Karl. Neighbors say the plastic flags were recently placed in yards by the Boy Scouts, an annual Flag Day tradition.
Investigators believe whoever burned the flags did so just before 5:30 a.m. The fires caused the plastic flags to melt onto plants, yards and walkways. No word on a motive, but one neighbor on 27th Street theorized that the vandal or vandals were trying to send a message.
“There are some people who object to the flags for political reasons,” she said. “There are ways to protest if you don’t believe in something, but destructive protests like this do not accomplish goals. It does not accomplish anything.”
The resident acknowledged, however, that the flag burnings could also be a random act of “pure vandalism,” adding that said she could not remember anything like this happening in the 11 years she has lived in the neighborhood.
“It’s dangerous,” she said. “It could have caused a real fire.”
Anyone with information about the burnings is asked to call Deputy Fire Marshal Paul Frank at 703-228-4644. More photos, after the jump.
Hat tip to Colleen Creighton