ISLE OF PALMS – Among all the bald teens in Troop 502, it’s hard to tell who is most inspirational. The dedicated local group of 18 scouts and leaders certainly has Dawson Bourne outnumbered.
But he’s the 15-year-old Wando High School student battling bone cancer.
“To sit thinking about it and realizing your friend is going through chemotherapy, I just don’t know how he does it,” Dawson’s fellow scout Eric van Overeem said. “Dawson has been such a strong person, and he’s such a great guy.”
Dawson is amazed, too. He appreciates that the other guys in the troop, knowing how crushing it is for a cancer patient to lose hair, shaved their heads in unison last week. It was a shiny show of support just as Dawson buzzed his own head right before starting a three-week stretch of chemo.
“It’s really special,” Dawson said. “Just so cool.”
Stefan Arnaud, 14, hatched the idea. Scouts and troop leaders bought in immediately. Together they scripted a production worthy of a merit badge. A typical Isle of Palms troop meeting turned into a makeshift barbershop.
An oblivious Dawson was invited to watch via Skype.
“A lot of the kids had been bringing meals to me and my family,” said Dawson, the son of Charlie and Sheryl Bourne. “But when they turned the camera on and I saw what they were doing, it was a big surprise.”
Dawson was “tremendously touched,” said Charlie Bourne.
Just as designed.
“It felt so good for all of us,” Stefan said. “Dawson is one of our best friends and any support we can give him, we try to do it. We don’t want him to go through this alone.”
There is no hiding Dawson’s daily struggle.
“It takes your appetite away,” he said. “Then it’s always wearing down your body. I don’t really have any strength. I mostly play X-Box or watch TV. But it’s fun to have friends come over to do things with me that I can do while sitting down.”
Those in the Dawson support crew are easily recognizable. The lack of hair, of course. They wear dark blue rubber wrist bands that read “Bourne Faith” and “Isaiah 41-10.”
The old testament verse:
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Moms are inspired, too.
“The day after the guys shaved their heads, people would come up and ask, ‘What happened to you?’” said Shelly van Overeem, Eric’s mother. “It was like, ‘I shaved my head to support my friend.’ Cancer is so hard to deal with but it’s great to see them do something to help.”
Dawson fights on.
“He talks to us about planning camping trips,” Stefan said. “He’s the one who lifts us up.”
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff