Man with Special Needs Earns Eagle Scout at 52 Years Old

man with special needs earns eagle scout
Jeff Rice in Scout uniform with his merit badges. (Photo credit: Clay Rice)

Would you believe a Scout worked toward earning the Eagle Scout rank for 18 years?

While traditionally only awarded before a Scout’s 18th birthday, one Scout with special needs ascended to the honorable Eagle ranks at age 52.

A Scout from the Northern New Jersey Council, Jeff Rice has a neurological disability. And despite the challenges in his way, he was empowered to take on Scouting’s highest distinction.

Rice wanted his project to honor veterans so he organized a patriotic tribute for 325 members of the Veterans Memorial Home in Paramus, N.J. He contributed more than 174 hours to the Eagle Scout project.

“It was nice,” Rice shared with “It was fun.”

And Jeff’s parents, Clay and Jan Rice are delighted at their son’s accomplishments.

“We’re very proud of him, he did a good job,” Clay Rice said.

Scouting introduced Jeff to new experiences and opportunities shared Clay. He built lasting friendships in his community and traveled to places he never visited.

Marianne Bergamini served as committee chairperson for Jeff’s troop for 37 years and supported him throughout his experience. She beamed at his accomplishment and praised his compassionate and caring nature over the years.

“He was very proud to be able to do something for our veterans,” said Bergamini. 

What’s next for this Eagle? Jeff says he plans to stay involved in Scouting as much as he can.

Get the full story on this Eagle Scout’s inspiring ascension to Scouting’s highest rank on and learn more about how he was able to earn the rank as an adult on the BSA’s Advancement for Members with Special Needs page.


Avatar photo


Hayley Cordaro is a communications specialist at the Boy Scouts of America. She loves sharing inspiring success stories and uncovering new ways volunteers and employees can make the most of their Scouting experience. If you have story ideas or questions, reach out to us at