It is a reassuring reality that we live in the most generous nation in the world. Our American generosity manifests itself in many ways. Some choose to make a quiet donation to a worthy cause while others give the gift of time or talent to service organizations and mentorship programs.
But of these many programs, one organization holds a special place in my heart: the Boy Scouts of America. Its mission is simple, yet timeless: Prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the valu
es of the Scout oath and law.
I love this mission. Not because it’s poetic or grandiose, but because it gets to the heart of what the Boy Scouts set out to accomplish, the shaping of tomorrow’s leaders by building character, and instilling positive values and a sense of responsibility in boys and young men.
For me, involvement in the Boy Scouts has always been a family affair. Put simply, I grew up in the Scouts. Throughout my involvement, both my mother and father guided me along the way. In fact, my mother was a den mother when I first joined the Cub Scouts, and directed me and my friends as we made our way through the ranks. One of the proudest days of my life came when I earned the rank Eagle Scout.
I am happy to say participation in the Boy Scouts remains a Toomey family tradition: my older son, Patrick, is an active member of a local troop and is benefiting from all the Boy Scouts have to offer. Additionally, my wife, Kris, and I recently teamed with Carole Neubauer to co-chair the annual Minsi Trails Council dinner, at which David Jaindl was honored for his commitment to Scouting and for his distinguished record of philanthropy and service to the Lehigh Valley. Happily, this event set a record for participation and funds raised.
The story of my family and the Boy Scouts is not unique. There are multiple generations of families across Pennsylvania that have been or are currently involved in Scouting. I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many of these Scouts and their families during my travels across the commonwealth. However, there is one meeting with a Scout that left a particularly deep impression.
In May, I met John Lahutsky at the Minsi Trails Council dinner. In 1990, John was born in Russia with cerebral palsy. Shortly after his birth, John’s parents gave both him and his sister up for adoption. For the next eight years, John suffered in the dehumanizing Russian orphanage system, receiving little education, support or love.
Fortunately, at age 10, John was adopted by his now mother, Paula, who brought him back to live in the Lehigh Valley. To get acclimated to the United States, John took an interest in sports, especially Penn State football. He also joined the Boy Scouts.
This young man, who as a child in the Russian orphanage was deemed incapable of learning, has since graduated from Freedom High School in Bethlehem and is now a student at Northampton Community College. He has remained actively involved in Scouting. Recently, he too made Eagle Scout. I had the good fortune of attending John’s Eagle Scout ceremony. I know and can tell you that the character, values, and a sense of responsibility the Boy Scouts instill in members have served John well.
Stories like John’s show the effect organizations like the Boy Scouts can make in shaping a young life. I have no doubt that the next generation of American leaders will include a large number of former Boy Scouts.