Scouting for Life

Doug Cuthbertson is four generations older than the average Eagle Scout.

"With special needs, you can be a scout from 11 years old until the day you pass away," said Gene Richards, a third generation scoutmaster for Special Needs Boy Scout Troop 117 and Troop 33. "I think we have the top two oldest Eagle Scouts ever to receive their awards in the nation".

61-year-old Cuthbertson is among 20 or so Genesee County scouts with special needs that meet every Tuesday at the Messiah Lutheran Church in Swartz Creek. About 90 percent of those scouts live in assisted living.

“It’s important to keep it going,” 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.”

Troop 33 was started by Gene’s grandfather, Elmer Richards, in 1961 to include young men with special needs with the Boy Scouts of America.

But the tradition is in jeopardy. As the scouts grow older, so do their leaders. Many of them have died or fallen ill and can no longer keep up with taking care of scouts with special needs.

“I’m always looking for more adults to get involved, take over, like I said we’re not getting young,” Richards said. “If we don’t get anymore (leaders) after me, I don’t know what we’ll do.”

Doug Cuthbertson, 61, takes a sip of coffee while eating breakfast before church. His bible sits next to him on the dining room table of his assisted living home in Clio.

Cuthbertson laughs with his roommate, Jim Dake, left, and Brother Ron Falkenstein, right, at the Thetford Senior Center on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, the day before his Eagle Scout Court of Honor.

Cuthbertson and his roommate, Donna Cummins, 69, watch out the front door for the minibus that transports them to the Thetford Senior Center. Doug and his four roommates spend time at the center Monday through Friday every week.

Cuthbertson exits the Bentley Manor transportation bus before Troop 33 and Troop 117's weekly meeting at Messiah Lutheran Church on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 in Swartz Creek

Special needs Boy Scout Troops 117 and 33 enjoy their last bonfire before winter.

Don Clark, a close friend from church, helps Cuthbertson fix the collar of his jacket before his Eagle Scout Court of Honor on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019 at Community Church of God in Clio.

A.J. Smith, the 76-year-old former scoutmaster for Troop 33, helps Cuthbertson with his Eagle Scout pin. Smith stepped down in December after being diagnosed with cancer. He led the troop for 15 years.

Cuthbertson recites the Boy Scout Oath during his Eagle Scout ceremony.

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