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By Douglas Morino Staff Writer 

 
It was the images of the homeless crouching under freeway overpasses and standing in soup lines across Los Angeles that inspired Daniel Ramos to action.  

 

Ramos, an 18-year-old Manhattan Beach resident, recently attained the distinction of Eagle Scout. No small feat, especially when you consider the senior at Mira Costa High School was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 3 years old.

 

For his leadership service project – a requirement for all Boy Scouts seeking to earn the prestigious distinction of Eagle Scout – Daniel worked to put together 81 “survival” backpacks, filled with essential items including food and clothing, for a homeless ministry in Long Beach.

 

There were nearly 52 million Boy Scouts in 2009 – only 5 percent earning the Eagle Scout title.

 
In working for the rank, Daniel galvanized a community.  

“They embraced him,” said his mother, Carmen, a periodontist in Manhattan Beach. “The project brought the community together.”

 
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, diagnosis rates for Asperger’s syndrome are not well established, but experts believe two out of every 10,000 children have the  autism spectrum disorder marked by difficulty in social interactions and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.  

 

Although they struggle socially, children with the disorder are often high-functioning, displaying average or higher-than-average intelligence.

 
Children with Asperger’s, Daniel’s parents knew, thrived on structure and routine. The rhythm of scouting life was a logical fit.  

 

“The Boy Scouts make you goal-oriented and help develop a mindset of `There’s something I want and this is how I’m going to get it,”‘ Carmen said. “It helped him keep his focus.”

 
Daniel began Cub Scouts when he was 7 and soon began to thrive, taking a quick interest in the scout-sponsored camping trips and outdoor excursions. He joined the Boy Scouts when he was 11. His progress was steady as he earned merit badges, learned the handshakes and how to tie a square knot. He learned how to balance the rigors of school and the duties of scouting life. He learned how to become a leader.  

 

“His mom once said she didn’t know if Daniel would ever ride a bike,” said Colleen Kaczmar, a special education and resource teacher at Mira Costa High School who has worked with Daniel throughout his high school years. “His growth has been amazing.”

 

Once he came up with the goal of helping the homeless to earn his Eagle Scout badge, Daniel quickly went to work to secure donations and volunteers, meeting one-on-one with local public school officials and speaking at local Rotary clubs. He organized a charity car wash to raise money, along with the rest of El Segundo Troop 773.

 
The hard work paid off, and the donations began pouring in.  

“The marketing he did was really good,” said Kaczmar. “So many kids would stop so much shorter of that. He did everything he could possibly think of to make it happen.”

 
Then, last year in October, under Daniel’s direction, the group of volunteers spent a day putting the backpacks, filled with clothing and food, together for members of the Christian Outreach in Action, a nondenominational organization that provides resources for the homeless.  

 

As they passed out sack lunches and the backpacks, Daniel spoke with the people he was helping. Once moved by the images of the homeless he saw from the passenger seat of his parents’ car, he was now inspired by the stories they shared.

 
“People seemed appreciative,” he said. “People were telling me how they got laid off and had to move into an apartment. They were telling me how much they appreciated my work.”  

 

Daniel said he’ll be going on to Marymount College or El Camino College before attending a four-year university, perhaps studying to become an engineer. In addition to the Boy Scouts, Daniel is on the Mira Costa varsity track and field and cross-country teams.

 

Daniel said his time in the Boy Scouts has taught him lessons he may have not picked up otherwise.

 
“It taught me how to be a leader,” he said. “It taught me that hard work pays off. 

 
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