Some of my fondest memories revolve around the outdoors. When I was a child, my dad made sure to regularly take me camping.
We would sleep out in Kentucky pastures, waking to chill dew in the mornings. After moving to the Sunshine State, he took me canoeing through western Florida waterways bracketed by overhanging trees.
In a way, we shared our own little version of the Boy Scouts. It was only later that I would realize how important scouting can be to young men — and some who are not so young.
Consider Doug Cuthbertson from Swartz Creek, Michigan. Cuthbertson has worked for years at obtaining Scout badges.
Most recently, he has been working on his coin-collecting merit badge, an honor he has striven for over the span of a year. He also became an Eagle Scout in January.
But Cuthbertson is a little older than most Eagle Scouts. Youngsters typically achieve that rank by the age of 18.
However, Cuthbertson is 61 years old and has special needs. His weekly Boy Scout meetings stand out as a high point in his life.
Earning the rank of Eagle Scout isn’t an easy accomplishment. According to the Boy Scouts of America, it involves completing multiple requirements, preparing a special workbook, completing an application and submitting it to a review board.
“‘Eagle Scout’ is not just an award; it is a state of being,” the organization says. “Those who earned it as youth continue to earn it every day as adults.”
The Boy Scouts haven’t just paid lip service to the award’s importance. Wanting adults with special needs to participate, they’ve allowed them to decelerate the pace at which they can become Eagle Scouts.
Troops 33 and 117 are Michigan-based Scouting groups dedicated exclusively to Scouts like Cuthbertson. Former Troop 33 leader A.J. Smith explained, “Scouts help young men, especially special needs men, think better of themselves.”
And self-esteem isn’t the only reason for such specialized forms of Scouting. Unlike many, Cuthbertson leads a full life.
He works at McDonald’s two days a week. He visits friends at a nearby senior center.
He’s also a regular church attendee. But many men with similar deficits struggle to reach out socially, and that’s something that scouting can help with.
Troop 117 Scoutmaster Gene Richards said, “If it wasn’t for scouts some of these guys wouldn’t be coming out of their homes. This way, we know they’re getting out for an hour at least once a week.”
Sixty-three-year-old David Shultz, who is in Troop 117, thinks it’s wonderful, saying, “It’s a good program that builds good principles. I like just being able to find my way around, take hikes and being with the other Boy Scouts.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.