Boy Scout hopes gift will help children learn to walk

Andrew Chautin could realize his dream of becoming an Eagle Scout, thanks to a gift that will help children with disabilities learn to walk.

Chautin, 17, is a Life Scout with Boy Scout Troop 72 in St. Peters. After working three years on his Eagle Scout project, the St. Charles teen on Aug. 30 donated the finished product to therapists at United Services for Children in St. Peters.

The therapists received nine wooden balance beams, each 4 inches tall and 4-8 inches wide. Laura Muhr, a United Services physical therapist, said the beams would help children improve higher-level balance, core strengthening and coordination.

Chautin said he spent 40 hours planning and building the beams. He began raising money for the project three years ago, at the suggestion of Joyce Thompson, a United Services family service specialist.

Chautin’s 11-year-old brother, Eli Chautin, attended United Services from 2003 through 2008. During that time, Andrew Chautin attended United Services’ sibling support group, Sibshop.

“United Services taught Eli how to walk,” Andrew said.

He hoped the balance beams could help the agency do the same for other children, Andrew said. Also, he hoped the project would help him earn the rank of Eagle Scout. A Boy Scout board will make that decision later this year.

Therapy Manager Melissa Gagnepain said homemade balance beams were better than commercially-made beams. “These are exactly what we need,” she said. “They are made to meet our specific standards, and are more transportable and more durable than catalog beams.”

Gagnepain said one catalog beam would cost approximately $100, so Chautin’s donation saved United Services at least $900.

United Services for Children is a nonprofit organization that operates two pediatric therapy and developmental learning centers—United Services East in St. Peters and United Services West in Dardenne Prairie. For more information, visit www.unitedservicesforchildren.org.

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