The Value of Scouting
Venturer Thomas Foust works as a lifeguard, but he was far from the water when he risked his life to save an elderly motorist. After the woman’s car stalled on railroad tracks, Foust and a friend pulled her to safety just seconds before an Amtrak train demolished her car.
Thomas Foust says he’s “just a regular guy.” Those who know him would probably disagree—especially the woman whose life he saved.
As the Glenview, Illinois, Venturer and two friends returned home from dinner that evening, they saw a Lexus sedan stuck on a set of railroad tracks. Rushing to the car, the teens yelled for the elderly driver to escape. When that effort failed, Foust pulled the woman from the car, dragged her to relative safety, and lay on top of her, shielding her body from debris as a southbound Amtrak train slammed into the car, sending it spinning into the path of a northbound train.
“I saw the car; it was just totally smashed,” said village president Kerry Cummings, who praised Foust for his quick action.
Foust credited Scouting with teaching him to react so quickly. “It gives you a sense of accomplishment and a sense of courage to go out and do things that not everybody would do,” he said.
For saving a life while putting his own life at risk, Foust received the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms, the BSA’s highest award for heroism.
Bob Gurule grew up in a Los Angeles neighborhood that was infiltrated by gangs. But he chose another kind of gang: the Cub Scout pack at his elementary school. Forty years later, as an Order of the Arrow adviser, Gurule works with young men who face similar choices every day on the streets of L.A.
At 49 years of age, Bob Gurule is lucky to be alive. Many of the kids he grew up with in Los Angeles are dead; many others—including his brother—are in prison.
Gurule took another path. In 1968, rather than join a street gang, he joined Scouting. Forty years later, he’s still involved in the program, serving in Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Venturing, and the Order of the Arrow.
“Everything I do in my life today stems from Scouting,” he said. “Everything that I know is from Scouting. In Scouting you learn how to be a leader. You learn how to take charge of your life.”
While Scouting gave Gurule a future, it also gave him a past. “I’m Native American, but I never knew anything about my people,” he said. It was only when he became an Order of the Arrow adviser that he began to learn about his heritage.
Gurule often works with former members of gangs, kids who face the same choices he once did. “I’m here to give back because without Scouting, who knows? Who really knows?” he said.
Although he was never a Scout himself, Phil Phillips discovered that Scouting was the perfect way for him to serve in his Texarkana, Texas, church. “Some want to preach, some want to teach, some want to be singers,” he said. “I want to affect young men. I think that’s a good place for me to be in the community.”
When he moved to Texarkana, Texas, Phil Phillips recognized the boys in his neighborhood. After all, he’d once been just like them: poor, fatherless, and headed for trouble.
Phillips, who’d never been a Scout, helped start Cub Scout Pack 226 at Mount Union Missionary Baptist Church. His shoulder patch read “Assistant Cubmaster,” but that was only because “Cheerleader-Disciplinarian-Father Figure-Role Model” wouldn’t fit.
“The majority of the young people the pack serves are from single-parent families,” said Marcal Young, Scout executive of the Caddo Area Council. “Phil has become quite a role model for these young people.”
“I’ve told my Scouts many a time that the stuff they see out on the street is not acceptable,” Phillips said. “We are going to treat each other decently. We are going to listen to each other. We are going to care about each other. All that other stuff? That’s out there. That doesn’t belong in here.”
Phillips has another, larger goal: persuading other area churches to embrace Scouting.
“If 10 churches in my community took care of 10 boys each, that’s a hundred boys that are thinking bigger, that are being wiser, that are making much better choices,” he said.
“It’s great seeing Boy Scout uniforms in the ’hood,” Phillips said.
Will Troppe’s Eagle Scout leadership service project took him far from his Arlington, Virginia home. Troppe led an expedition of 28 people from Troop 167 to the Guatemalan village of Vuelta Grande. They worked at a village school, fighting erosion, installing a water-filtration system, painting classrooms, and setting up a library.
At age 13, Boy Scout Will Troppe of Arlington, Virginia, traveled to Guatemala with his father to learn Spanish. But he ended up learning more than a language. He learned that poverty is rampant in Guatemala; he learned that kids his age have to leave school to work in the fields; he learned that community service is an unaffordable luxury.
Determined to make a difference, Troppe mobilized the families of Troop 167 to return with him to Guatemala. Last summer, 28 Scouts, leaders, and family members did just that. They spent a week in the country, living with local families, exploring a nearby volcano, learning about Mayan culture, and working at a school in the village of Vuelta Grande. Side by side with villagers, students, and Guatemalan Boy Scouts, they painted classrooms, set up a water-filtration system, and fixed a massive erosion problem.
“One of the things that we tried to do is demonstrate the value of working together and the things that it can accomplish,” Troppe said.
In Troppe, they certainly have a good example to follow.