By Rich Peck, UMNS…
TAMPA, Fla.—The 2012 General Conference marked the 100th birthday of the Girl Scouts, one of the youth-serving organizations supported by the Commission on United Methodist Men.
It was appropriate for the birthday celebration to be in Tampa because one of the first troops was organized in this city. In 1913, Jessamine Flowers Link started a troop at Hyde Park Methodist Church in Tampa.
Since those early days, more than 50 million girls have been part of a Girl Scout troop and there are troops in more than 92 countries.
The denomination is the largest sponsor of Girl Scouts with more than 127,000 girls meeting in 27,000 troops at United Methodist churches.
The denomination is also the second largest charter organization of Boy Scouts with more than 370,000 scouts meeting in United Methodist churches.
“Let me assure you, United Methodist Men is very committed to resourcing local congregations, districts and annual conferences in multiple ways to expand both men’s ministries and scouting ministries,” said Gil Hanke, top staff executive of the General Commission on United Methodist Men. “Across the connection more than 200 people are serving as scouting ministry specialists and more are added each month.”
The commission frequently honors youth who demonstrate the attributes of the Good Samaritan, and Mr. Hanke and Larry Coppock, commission staff executive for scouting, presented two awards.
Justin Jackson, then 17, was driving his mother home from church when a van ran a stop sign and slammed into their vehicle. Although Justin wasn’t hurt, his mother injured her wrist. As Justin went to help her, he noticed flames rising from under the hood of the van. Justin ran to the van and dragged the woman driver out just before flames engulfed the vehicle.
Mr. Hanke presented a Good Samaritan Award to Mr. Jackson, an Eagle Scout and a member of a troop chartered to First United Methodist Church of Seffner, Fla.
Mr. Coppock presented the award to Ryan Wilson, who is also an Eagle Scout, a rank achieved by only 5 percent of Scouts.
Mr. Wilson, 29, has Down syndrome. Because of a serious heart condition, doctors told his parents he would not live past the age of 10 and probably never would be able to speak.
They were wrong.
To become an Eagle Scout, a candidate must earn 21 merit badges; Mr. Wilson earned 28. He fired an arrow to pop a balloon 100 feet away for his archery badge and he hooked an 8-foot hammerhead shark while earning his fishing badge. For his Eagle project, he built outdoor bleachers for Faith United Methodist Church in Hudson, Fla.
The Rev. Peck, a retired clergy member of the New York Conference, is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.