For the first time in the 107-year history of the Boy Scouts of America, blind triplets from Virginia earned the rank of Eagle Scout.
Leo, Nick, and Steven Cantos met every requirement “under the same conditions as their sighted peers, with no extensions or special considerations,” according to WTTG-TV. Among the requirements they accomplished are zip lining, whitewater rafting, knot-tying, first aid and archery skills.
It's an achievement only about 4 percent of Scouts accomplish, WTTG reported.
"The different merit badges that we earned, that was to become better people," Leo Cantos said during the ceremony Wednesday in Alexandria, Virginia.
The 18-year-old boys, born prematurely and weighing about a pound each, are blind from a condition called retinopathy of prematurity. It's a disease that occurs in premature babies and causes blindness, People reported.
Their adoptive father, Ollie Cantos, who is also blind, pinned the 18-year-old brothers' Eagle Scout emblems on them. He also received a pin from them.
Ollie Cantos, a former lawyer with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., heard about the triplets from a friend at church who said the boys were being bullied.
He experienced bullying as a child, too, Ollie Cantos told the Washingtonian.
“There were kids who would literally put their hands right in front of my face and say, 'How many fingers am I holding up?'” Ollie Cantos told People. “Or they would put their foot in my way while I was walking down the hallway and I would trip.'”
The triplets, living in fear, rarely went outside when Ollie Cantos met them.
"A person who shows courage in times of fear can achieve anything," Leo Cantos said during the ceremony.
He met the boys in 2010, started mentoring them and eventually adopted the brothers, according to the Washingtonian.
"They have recognized the fact, that contrary to their earlier years when they were bullied when they were told that they weren't worth anything by other kids," Ollie Cantos told WTOP-FM. "They now know with an absolute certainty — not only do they have inherent priceless value but so does everybody else."
Community service was their favorite accomplishment "because they were able to help people who are less fortunate than they are," all three told WTOP.
Where are the triplets' biological parents?
The triplets were born in Colombia and were being raised by their mother and grandmother in south Arlington, Virginia. Their father, who had come to the U.S. to work for the Colombian Embassy, had moved back home when the boys were 4, the Washingtonian reported. They hadn’t seen him since.