After nearly 10 years as a Boy Scout, Chad Dominguez stood in front of more than 200 people on Sunday to receive the highest rank in Scouting — Eagle Scout.
Becoming an Eagle Scout is no easy task, but for Dominguez and his family, the recognition that came with this Eagle Court of Honor ceremony was extra special.
Dominguez, who is 25, has Down syndrome.
His Scoutmaster, Dennis Moder, said the tear-filled celebration held added importance because it is rare for a Scout with special needs to reach the rank of Eagle.
According to the Boy Scouts of America website, only 7% of Scouts achieved the Eagle rank in 2012.
Leslie Dominguez said her son — who is nonverbal — enjoyed the ceremony and "was blowing kisses to people he would see out in the audience."
"I was enormously proud," his mother said. "He's worked very hard. He's been very serious about it."
The younger Dominguez was recognized with two of his Scouting mates from the Huntington Beach-based Troop 226 and walked the stage with pride, his mother said.
Dominguez joined the Boy Scouts to spend more time with kids who do not have special needs, his mother said.
Moder, who has been his Scoutmaster for seven years, speaks with great affection about Dominguez and his time in the troop.
"Chad has mastered his method of leadership," he said, "which is smiles, hugs and kisses."
Dominguez used this signature leadership style while completing the most intensive part of the Eagle Scout requirements — the community service project.
For his project, Dominguez made 'plarn' — plastic yarn — sleeping mats for the homeless.
He collected plastic bags and weaved them together and even got his sisters to help. He then took the yarn to crochet clubs, whose members would turn the waterproof material into the sleeping mats.
"It was double-pronged," his mother said of the goal. "It was helping the homeless as well as getting plastic bags out of the environment."
The mats, which are meant to add extra comfort and warmth, take about 20 hours of work each, Moder said.
Dominguez started the project hoping to make one plarn mat but has since donated nearly 50 to local shelters.
Though Dominguez has completed his project, the Lion's Club in Pomona and local crochet clubs have taken up the cause and started monthly "plarn-fests" to continue his work.
Even with a successful project behind him and with the Eagle rank, Dominguez is far from finished with Scouting. Troop 226 is now dissolved, but Dominguez and Moder plan to merge with another troop.
Though Moder's sons are finished with Scouting — his youngest, Devin, was recognized along with Dominguez — he said he will continue in order to keep getting his "Chad time"