Boy Scout Tells Leaders Why He Stayed 25 Years February 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. The leaders of a troop for Boy Scouts with special needs and one of their most dedicated Scouts reflect on their decades of camping and exploring together.
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Boy Scout Tells Leaders Why He Stayed 25 Years

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Boy Scout Tells Leaders Why He Stayed 25 Years

Boy Scout Tells Leaders Why He Stayed 25 Years

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The Boy Scouts of America celebrate their 100th anniversary next week, and today from StoryCorps, a conversation between members of one troupe in Pensacola, Florida.

Mr. DEREK CONNELL (Boy Scout, Troupe 409): My name is Derek Connell. My age is 54, and right next to our scout leader and his wife.

Mr. RICHARD COLEMAN (Scoutmaster, Boy Scout Troop 409): My name's Richard Coleman.

Ms. CLAUDIA COLEMAN (Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop 409): And I'm Claudia Coleman.

MONTAGNE: The Colemans are the leaders of Troop 409, a unit made up of scouts with special needs. Derek is one of the oldest members of the troop. He's an eagle - that's the highest rank a scout can earn.

While most kids have only until they're 18 to make eagle, there's no age limit for special needs scouts. Recently, Derek sat down with the Colemans to talk about their troop.

Mr. COLEMAN: Derek, I joined your troop in 1987. I had two daughters, so in a way this was a night out with the boys.

Ms. COLEMAN: I wanted to be part of the group too, and I became an assistant scoutmaster to Troop 409.

Mr. COLEMAN: And, Derek, why did you want to become a Boy Scout?

Mr. CONNELL: Because I saw it in the World Book. I've been doing scouting for almost 26 years and it's hard to believe that our troop's lasted that long.

Mr. COLEMAN: Well, Derek, when he was about 34, was about to make eagle and you were my first eagle, correct?

Mr. CONNELL: Um-hum.

Mr. COLEMAN: Why did you stay in the Boy Scouts all these years?

Mr. CONNELL: Because everybody needs my help. Because some of them are a little slow and some of them can't read and write.

Mr. COLEMAN: Now, these guys all work together. Do you remember Randy? He's on his wheelchair.

Mr. CONNELL: Um-hum.

Mr. COLEMAN: We took him to summer camp with us. And since we're in the panhandle of Florida there's a lot of soft sand. And trying to maneuver a wheelchair around was kind of hard. And this is how resourceful these scouts are: they came up with an idea that if they harness themselves to the wheelchair, Randy could sit back there and yell mush.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COLEMAN: It was like a dogsled. And they would drag him around camp like this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COLEMAN: So, we're the can-do troop. I try not to pay attention to what their problems are, 'cause when I've got them, they're all scouts.

Mr. CONNELL: The thing is, if we can't do something right they don't get mad about it. Some people, you know, if you can't do it right, that's it.

Ms. COLEMAN: We are so proud of this troop that it's become a huge part of our life.

Mr. COLEMAN: How would you describe Derek?

Ms. COLEMAN: Dedicated.

Mr. COLEMAN: And you're our troop historian, aren't you?

Mr. CONNELL: Yeah, um-hum.

Ms. COLEMAN: I'd just like to thank Derek for all of the help and all the encouragement you give the new scouts in the troop, Derek.

Mr. CONNELL: You're welcome.

Ms. COLEMAN: And I told your mom that you carried the spirit of Troop 409 in your heart, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart.

Mr. CONNELL: Thank you.

Ms. COLEMAN: Thank you, Derek.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: That's Derek Connell along with Richard and Claudia Coleman at StoryCorps in Pensacola.

Their conversation will be archived along with all the other StoryCorps interviews at the Library of Congress. And you can sign up for the podcast at

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