Scout Saturday - BSA's Torch of Gold Award

April 1, 2023

Scoutmaster Bucky

Scout Saturday - BSA's Torch of Gold Award

SCOUT SATURDAY – Highlighting Scouting each Saturday of the <360 Awareness Project.

Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has had fully participating members with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. Even the Boy Scouts of America's first Chief Scout Executive, James E. West, had a disability. He was born May 16, 1876, never knew his father and his mother died when he was six. He spent most of his youth in a Washington, D.C. orphanage. At the age eight he spent two years in a hospital where he was treated for tuberculosis, which left one leg crippled.

No foolin', I am honored to have received the BSA's Torch of Gold Award today, April 1, 2023 at the Northern Star Council's Annual Adult Volunteer Recognition Event. While this post to some may seem self promoting, most will understand that I am sharing the receipt of this award to help bring awareness and NOT brag. Most of life's recognitions are not those that we seek but rather those that find us; the BSA's Torch of Gold Award is definitely one that found me.

The Torch of Gold is a rare and unique recognition, limited to one registered Adult Scout Leader per Scouting Council per year. As the award certificate states, "'for outstanding service and leadership in Scouting for youth with special needs and disabilities'". Many people think that serving youth with special needs and/or disabilities is a ton of extra work. It's easy to dismiss or avoid serving these youth as a result of this mindset and misinformation.

As any good leader knows, knowledge is power and attitude is everything. Arm yourself with a positive attitude to serve each youth as an equatable individual, and build your knowledge through conversation, publications, and training. A number of Scouting councils have a DisABILITIES / Special Needs Committee. This is a great starting point to find out what resources, partnerships, and training might be available to Scouts, Scouters, and Scouting Families in your local area.

Both National and Local Scouting organizations have resources that include but are not limited to newsletters, toolkits, guides, seminars, and trainings online and in-person. The BSA's Guide to Advancement has an entire section dedicated to Advancement for Members with Special Needs that defines such things as Individual Scout Advancement Plans, Request for Registration Beyond the Age of Eligibility, and processes for approval for Alternative Rank Requirements including the Eagle Rank.

Scouting has always provided a safe haven for youth to grow. Today the need is greater than ever with many Scouts having a diagnosis and even more that are undiagnosed. While there are units that are composed exclusively of Scouts with disabilities, analysis has shown that whether a Scout's challenge is visible or invisible, Scouting works best when these youth are mainstreamed – placed in a regular patrol in a regular troop. Even better, my experience has found that the basic premise of Scouting for ALL youth is that every youth wants to participate fully and be treated and respected like every other member of the troop.

Need a starting point?

Introduction to Working with Scouts with Special Needs and Disabilities – find it here.

Chair of the Boy Scouts of America National Special Needs and Disabilities Committee – Warren Wenner, CNP (

Co-Chairs of the Northern Star Scouting Special Needs and Disabilities Committee – Mary Wangerin ( or Donna Larson

Check out today's video here.

Today's T-Shirt is available here.

<360 Awareness Project