Eagle Scout’s triathlon finish defined the heart of a champion

Spencer Zimmerman so badly wanted his friend with cerebral palsy to finish a triathlon that in 2010, the Arizona Eagle Scout pushed, pulled, and carried his buddy through a 500-meter swim, 3.2-mile run, and 12-mile bike ride.

Spencer, then 13 years old, and his friend Dayton Hayward trained relentlessly — Spencer pulled Dayton in a raft, pushed him in a jogger while running, and towed him on a bike — to prepare for the three-hour race that challenged the physical and mental stamina of both young men.

And yesterday, two years after the pair crossed the finish line, the Boy Scouts of America and the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation recognized the strength of Spencer’s heart in a big way. The organizations honored him with the American Spirit Award, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors for youth.

The award has thrust Spencer into the national spotlight, but the 15-year-old is quick to deflect its aim.

Spencer Zimmerman, an Eagle Scout from the Phoenix area.

“I’m honored to receive the American Spirit Award, but the credit goes to Dayton,” Spencer said. “Despite the challenges he faces, he has great spirit. Throughout the training and race, I was just his legs. I believe there’s no reason why Dayton shouldn’t have the opportunity to do what everyone else does.”

Impressive words from an Eagle Scout who impressed the BSA and the foundation with his feat.

“It is our privilege to present Spencer Zimmerman with the American Spirit Award,” said Gen. Silas Johnson, president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. “Our mission is to recognize the values of courage, sacrifice, service, and patriotism exemplified by a handful of extraordinary individuals. Spencer is a shining example of the incredible young people involved with the Boy Scouts of America, and his genuine act of selflessness is the epitome of the American Spirit Award.”

Next up: On Friday, March 23, Spencer and his parents, Shelly and David Zimmerman, will attend a special ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Congrats, Spencer, for being a shining example of what it means to live by the Scout Oath and Law.


Here’s a video produced by the LDS church:


Read about Jack Pape, who won 2011’s American Spirit Award for giving first aid to those injured in a tornado at Little Sioux Scout Ranch.

What do you think?

How can you use Spencer’s story to inspire acts of selflessness in your Scouts? Leave your thoughts below.

About Bryan Wendell 3271 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.