12-year-old saves ducklings with his lacrosse stick in Arlington Heights

An enterprising 12-year-old boy rescued eight ducklings from a sewer and helped reunite them with their mother in Arlington Heights.

Nathaniel Bray, a sixth-grader from West Chester, Pennsylvania, performed the lifesaving act May 25 while he was visiting his grandparents in the Luther Village retirement community. He, his parents and two younger siblings were in town to attend a cousin's graduation from Buffalo Grove High School.

"Not many children 12 years old would do what Nathaniel did," Arlington Heights police animal welfare officer Vicki Geier said. "He was very resourceful with that net. He had that quick thinking. I was very impressed."

Nathaniel said his first duckling rescue made him very happy. "I feel like finally I had a chance of doing something good," he said.

The rescue also touched a chord for him because he was adopted as a baby from Guatemala, he said.

"I got separated from my birth mom and I don't want that to happen to anyone else," he said.

On May 25, Nathaniel recalled, he went outside with a ball and his lacrosse stick to show off his skills to his grandparents when he heard two women call out. "They said, 'Young man, could you come over here and help us?'" he said.

The women pointed to a sewer grate, saying ducklings had fallen in, and asked him to lift it. When he did, he saw eight ducklings swimming in water about a foot below ground, he said.

"They were so little, kind of like my sister. I didn't want to break them," he said.

How little were they? "Duckling size," he said.

Nathaniel said he gingerly got two of them out with his hands and then started to worry that ducklings might carry diabetes (they don't), so he used his lacrosse stick to get four more out. "I got six of them out. That's the when the professionals came. They had a much bigger net," he said.

Geier said that when she arrived, the mama duck stood nearby "quacking like crazy." The remaining stuck ducklings kept crawling out of reach into a tube opening inside the sewer, so she and Nathaniel worked as a team, she said.

"I pulled out my phone with a YouTube video of a mama duck calling her baby ducks. I kept playing it over and over," Geier said. "They would peep a lot, and as soon as they would pop out, he would close the opening of the tube with his lacrosse stick and I would scoop them up with my net."

After the rescue, the eight ducklings and their mom walked away unharmed.

"He is an impressive young man," Geier said. "I wish more 12-year-olds were like him."

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