Blind World Magazine

There is a way to get around anything.

December 16, 2005.
Sea Coast Online, New Hampshire.

Karl Belanger has traveled most of the country, toured the Black Forest in Germany, swum the Barrier Reef in Australia and lived for a time in France.

In the top 5 percent of his class at Dover High School, this 18-year-old senior plays saxophone in the concert band and piano in the jazz band; he also did a stint on the wrestling team. He's an avid Red Sox fan, enjoys biking and swimming, the action and suspense of Tom Clancy novels, and is a self-professed computer maven who tests new products for software developers.

In addition, he recently was awarded Boy Scouting's highest rank - Eagle Scout - capping seven years of involvement in Dover Troop 173 with a community-related service project, an audio walking tour of Dover's historic sites, to which he and his fellow scouts devoted more than 179 man hours.

His list of accomplishments may seem standard for many teens, but for Belanger, who has been blind since birth, each endeavor posed a challenge he met with enthusiasm, and each helped mold him into the fervent, upbeat young man he is today.

"Nothing holds him down," said his mom.

When he speaks about his life, the Scouts and his community service project, Belanger is matter-of-fact about his vision impairment and appreciative of the organization that provided him an opportunity to experience camaraderie, camping and community.

"I've been away to Scout camp; I have a riflery merit badge. In Scouts I've gotten to do things I might not have been able to; it's been a great experience." Belanger said.

Because he accomplishes so much using audio and Braille and is a history buff, it's no surprise that Belanger chose to create an audio walking tour of Dover to fulfill the community service portion of the Eagle Scout requirements.

"I've been blind since birth," he said. "I've lived my whole life having to do a lot more by audio or Braille. This will help blind people, people who are new to Dover, and those who don't know a lot about Dover's history."

"He's really into detail and learning facts about the past," added his mom.

Once the decision was made, Belanger wrote a proposal, engaged his family and recruited volunteers. Members of Troop 173, the National Honor Society, Dover Main Street and the Dover Public Library helped him coordinate the walking tour, and Dover Mayor Scott Myers recorded an introduction.

"My troop members helped get the text organized and recorded," Belanger said. "Then we had to double check things and make sure we walked it - that it all made sense"

Even then Belanger's work was not finished. To ensure the tour is available to everyone, he contacted local merchants to request money to purchase CD players and CDs.

"Circuit City, Nicole's Hallmark, the Historical Society and others all donated," Belanger said.

Belanger is applying to colleges for admission next fall. He hopes to study computer science and parlay his love of playing computer games into a career creating them. He's confident his Scouting experience will prove valuable as he moves along his path in life.

"I encourage Scouting to anyone - disabled or not," he said. "It helps you learn there is a way to get around anything."

Karl Belanger's Historical Walking Tour of Dover is available at the Dover Chamber of Commerce and the Dover Public Library.

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