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.”
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.