Scouts experience the best and worst of humanity

Troop-57There’s evil in the world. There’s goodness, too.

On a recent camping trip to the California coast, the Scouts of Troop 57 encountered both. In their story you’ll find a life lesson with a happy ending.

The group from Orinda, near San Francisco, was two hours into its trip when the Scouts decided they wanted to stop to see the ocean. A while later, they returned to the Suburban and felt their stomachs sink.

The SUV had been broken into. Windows were shattered. All of the boys’ backpacks and duffel bags were gone. One of the Scout victims had joined Troop 57 only days earlier and was on his first campout.

Assistant Scoutmaster Gary Peterson is the Suburban’s owner, and he happened to be the last to arrive at the parking lot. The boys, like true Scouts, had already started cleaning up.

“The boys had found some work gloves and were already cleaning up the glass from the seats and the windows, sweeping it into a box and then the trash,” Peterson says.

Worried that glass still stuck in the door might blow into the SUV, the Scouts used duct tape to keep the window safer.

“Very clever,” Peterson says.

By the time Peterson had finished making calls, the vehicle was clean and safe enough to drive to the campsite.

Picking up the pieces

Troop 57 pressed on. Scouts from the other cars shared gear and food, meaning there was enough to cover what was stolen.

“Remarkably, the Scouts remained in good spirits and had a fun weekend,” says Steve Tennant, troop committee chairman.

Despite the dreadful start, the trip was a success. The Scouts were handed a hardship but handled it in a cheerful way.

On Monday, the story took a turn.

The mom of the new Scout — the one on his first Troop 57 trip — received a call.

A man and his wife had come across a pile of backpacking gear on the side of the road, about a mile from the scene of the crime. There wasn’t any identifying information on the gear, but the couple did some detective work. Inside one of the backpacks was a paper copy of the new Scout’s medical form.

On the form: Mom’s phone number. The mystery man called the number; the mom called an assistant Scoutmaster.

Safe and sound

The mystery man turned out to be Kenny Hill, who owns a guitar company in Ben Lomond, Calif. He offered to ship the gear back to Troop 57, but assistant Scoutmaster Peterson refused. He would drive to pick up the gear.

Somehow, almost all of the gear was there. Boy Scout handbooks, pocketknives, a baseball glove, clothes, sleeping bags and the backpacks themselves were accounted for. All that was missing was one of the boys’ smartphones.

Peterson toured the shop where Hill makes guitars by hand. Then he gathered up the gear and thanked the troop’s new hero.

“He was happy to help and extremely glad he was able to return the gear,” Peterson says. “Our troop is thinking of some appropriate way to thank him.”

Lessons learned

Committee chairman Tennant says there’s another hero here: the new Scout who had a hard copy of his medical form. Without that, returning the gear would’ve been next-to impossible. The other medical forms were on a flash drive in the assistant Scoutmaster’s pocket.

Tennant sent me these five takeaways from the story, and I wanted to share them with you:

  • Put your name and phone number on your gear.
  • Don’t leave your gear unattended.
  • Medical forms sometimes help in ways you wouldn’t imagine.
  • If you need an awesome custom-made guitar, Troop 57 knows a great guy in Santa Cruz.
  • Sometimes the new Scout is the hero.


Peterson took his Suburban to get the window fixed, and the repairman was surprised at what he saw.

Usually, the repairman told him, broken glass is left for the shop to clean up. Some people even drive with glass still on the seat.

Peterson explained that the incident happened on a Scout trip and that the Scouts had cleaned up the mess.

“Wow,” Peterson remembers the repairman saying. “Impressive boys.”

“They are,” Peterson replied.


  1. this story is an awesome account of scouting and over coming, and even the boys attitude in the face of this situation. Please do not take from it though that we are allowed to digitized the medical forms and carry them on a flash drive. Please see the official BSA site below that explicitly bans the digital storage of medical forms.

    Although I personally disagree with this policy, this is the policy and we are not allowed to do so. I would rather see teh policy to allowed digitally secured flash drives that only hold the medical forms and are labeled as such, as I do see the practical ways this helps the unit. This is one of those things I would like to see a change from in National, but it hasn’t changed yet and this article reads as if this is an allowed policy.

    • Hey Avery and Rob!!

      There is a more practical reason other than the possible HIPPA violations which may form from a digitized version of the health and safety forms.

      Many medical facilities, hospitals, and clinics won’t even take the flash drive because they cannot insert them into their network, potentially causing damage and taking their entire network off-line. This is the reason our federal offices don’t allow us to insert flash drives, say from our homes or personal computer into the workplace’s networked computers.

      The paper copies are much better as they can be controlled better and they don’t carry electronic nasties….of course, they may carry biological nasties…*smiling*

      Just wanted to offer more than just the “HIPPA” explaination as to “why not?” Over in two other forums, the BSA’s health and safety professional lead weighed in and provided this, and it’s kept with me as I’ve answered similar questions to both of yours since.

      • Let’s not continue to perpetuate the HIPAA myth, please! A scout medical form in the possession of a BSA unit or a registered leader (paper copy or electronic, even if the BSA doesn’t want us to use electronic copies) does NOT fall within the scope of HIPAA.

        HIPAA is between healthcare providers and a patient, ref: Under HIPAA the rules only apply to “Covered Entities and Business Associates” and neither the BSA, BSA units, registered leaders, or scouts fall into any of the covered categories.

        From a privacy perspective, paper copies are no more secure than electronic versions. As in this example paper copies can and will fall into the wrong hands.

        From a technology perspective medical facilities are still firmly rooted in the 1980’s and gladly accept faxed documents. The most secure method of controlling BSA medical forms is to actually keep them back home with someone who has access to a fax machine that can transmit the med form to a medical provider when needed.

        • What’s a fax machine? Seriously, are there any of these left? Haven’t seen one in years. And they depend on analog phone lines, those are getting few and far between also.
          Here’s my thought for a more secure solution. Put scanned copies of the forms in an encrypted file, put the encrypted files on a drop box account with a serious password on it. Make the encryption password different from the Dropbox password. Now you can retrieve the information from any computer or cell phone in an emergency.
          Also, any hospital SHOULD have a computer and printer that are not attached to their network. Then they could safely take flash drive data without endangering their network. Simple solution. By the way, the information on that data key should be encrypted in case it is lost.
          Passwords should be easily to recover using an non-obvious method. For instance, take a phrase that is easy to remember.
          May you live in interesting times. A Chinese curse.
          Now remove every third letter and all spaces
          Now remove every other letter.
          Hope I got that right, the iPad’s spell checking was helping me out. But you get the idea. Knowing the easy to remember phrase and a easy method, you can easily reproduce a password that is very hard to break given a pencil and paper to work it thru.

        • Dropbox? You mean that source where a colleague of mine infected his workstation and nearly our entire network with a bitcoin virus?
          Sounds like a plan!

        • Gary: I work for a law office and we send/receive faxes all of the time. Not every client can scan a document in to their computer to get it to us. Hospitals often have closed systems where only certain computers have an outside line. Faxes are not dinosaurs.

    • Medical information should only be shared between a doctor and patient, and that pact should be strictly observed. Scoutmasters who are not doctors don’t have a need to know others’ medical information — unless there’s an emergency. Because nonprofessionals (Scout leaders) aren’t compelled to abide by a strict code of ethics like doctors or lawyers, they are free to jump to conclusions or gossip using other people’s personal information. I’m not saying it’s done; what I’m saying is that it can be done. A flash drive on a necklace like dog tags is a reasonable solution to the paper dilemma.

  2. I have to agree with Avery Moore. The policy needs to be changed to allow parents to sign a waiver allowing for digital medical forms. But the current policy doesn’t allow it.

  3. The purpose of the policy against digital storage is to protect the privacy of each scout, as required by HIPPA. Medical forms are supposed to be returned to individuals at the end of an activity that requires them, pretty much impossible when they’re digitized. Same thing applies to adults participating in summer camp or NCS events.

    • From my understanding on the topic, I don’t think HIPAA applies here and doesn’t in a lot of the cases where “required by HIPAA” is used in an argument. Unless you are providing healthcare, paying for healthcare (insurance company), or act as a clearinghouse between the two, then HIPAA does not apply.

      Basic concepts of protecting PII (personal identifiable information) certainly should be used, but not for HIPAA reasons or requirements.

      In my troop, we keep all the med forms in binders that are given to drivers at the beginning of the event and collected at the end.

      I’ve never thought about carrying my binder with me at a troop meeting, but that actually is a really good idea. In case of an emergency I would be calling the parent but the medical form might be useful to EMS. After all, as Scouts and Scouters, we are always prepared.

  4. except you should be keeping a copy of all scout’s medical forms on hand, even for weekly meetings. If your scout gets hurt or sick at a meeting, or a “go and see”, you need that form if mom or dad is not there. Doctors will be delayed treating the scout till mom or dad is found without these medical forms. Hard copies are needed because EMS may not have the laptop or program to open your forms on a flash drive.

  5. I have not heard of a prohibition from having one adult leader to keep general emergency information on an electronic device, but not an entire Part B of the medical form. For years, we always had a phone-contact number in case of injury or medication problem, but other data could be retained at the Troop level. Adults who visit Camps or Summer programs are allowed a 72 hour period after which they must leave the property. Some medical plans do not pay for Scout-related visits such as for Part C. Medication requirements should accompany Scouts on any outing more than an overnight or two. Most scout leaders will assure that the kids will take meds as prescribed. In the schools, the licensed teachers acted ‘in loco parentis’ as part of the concern for health and safety.
    It is my belief that no one should leave the Trailhead without having a ‘grab and go’ day pack on his person in order to be certain that medications and other Ten Essential items are in-possession. The small Day Pack is one’s life support in case you return to your vehicle and your gear is stolen, as per your report in this article.

  6. While I appreciate the commentary over the policy regarding digitized med form info, that one tiny little line – unnecessary to the bigger story – mentioning a flash drive in an ASM’s pocket has detracted from the point of the article: Scouting Spirit at its finest! Well done, Troop 57! Pulling together to make the best of a sour situation demonstrates to others that you have embraced the Scout Law, risen above adversity, and come through the experience stronger as a Troop. I say again, well done!

  7. While this is a great story, and a hearty congratulations to Troop 57, I find the commentary pretty funny as well.

    It’s ironic that all this talk about how it’s against the rules to digitize medical records because that’s somehow risking the privacy of the Scouts, but in the end the “Hero” was the boy who left his copy where it was found by a stranger.

    I’m sure on that paper copy of the form there was all kinds of private, personal information, and here some stranger is reading through it. What does that say about the BSA’s medical records policy?

    My Troop violates the rules. We scan copies of all the medical forms and I carry them on my phone all the time. If you think that is somehow unsecure please reference the fight between Apple and the FBI regarding accessing that specific phone. My phone has a password that comes up in 5 minutes, and it will wipe itself with 10 incorrect tries. Please explain to me how that is less secure than the Hero’s piece of paper.

    And why do I carry all of this on my cell phone? Because of things like last weekend when my Troop was at a ski hill and I get a call on my cell phone that one of my Scouts is in the Ski Patrol’s lodge. So I ski over there and sure enough he get’s to go to the ER with a probable broken collarbone. So on my phone I pull up all of his medical records, make sure he has no allergies or other medical issues that could be problematic, and then call his parents to let them know, (we were about 2.5 hours from home on a 3 day campout).

    I have to say, that was a LOT better than having to carry 35 medical forms with me while skiing. Or having all of the Scouts carrying their own medical forms (please don’t make me laugh). Or should I have left them in my suburban? The one that is probably very much like the one in the story above that got broke into and everything stolen?

    At some point the BSA needs to get with the 21st century and update this silly policy that a LOT of leaders are just ignoring because if anything, it just increases the risk of loss of data as well as risk to the Scouts of not having said data when it’s needed.

    • Which other rules does your troop purposefully violate? As a self-congratulatory hypocrite, how do you handle it when a scout violates a rule he finds silly or inconvenient?

  8. I love the story and I’m glad for this troop that the med form allowed the return of the gear. Have to agree with their Comm Chair that the gear should be labelled w/ name and contact info anyway (some of mine is and some isn’t, have to admit). I don’t think its irrelevant to discuss the paper vs electronic issue, if we were sitting around chatting of course the discussion would take that turn – thats what good Blogs do (like Bryan’s!), help us to keep discussions going like we would face-to-face.

    So Mr Wendell: is it truly a policy of BSA that medical records are not allowed to be kept in an electronic form? In past you’ve turned to the BSA experts for feedback and some “backstory”, could you do that for this topic?

  9. I can’t and won’t answer for Bryan; but here’s some information from another forum along with the BSA’s Health and Safety programs lead’s response. Hope this helps….

    On LinkedIn(tm), the following was asked by Adam:

    “Hello everyone. In this day of age of technology, we are looking at scanning the completed medical form into an electronic format for easier access anywhere, and the originals would be kept at our Charter Organization in a locked file cabinet. Any privacy issues with doing this? Does the parents need to know about this before doing? Any other ideas on how to handle medical forms? Our troop is on the large side, having about 90 scouts, so it’s sometimes difficult to keep handing the health binder around for each adult needing copies.”

    Which was answered by Settummanque (Mike Walton):

    “How would you get the scanned copy into the hands of the medical professionals?

    How would you insure the safety of the CD/DVD/stick that you’re using to store and carry around everyone’s health records with?

    Here’s a simpler solution to carrying around the various bundles of paper:

    – First, insure that the medical office that your Scouts got their health form signed *has a copy of the Health Record*. That way, when an emergency occurs, you have a list of medical treatment places where that Scout or Scouter *normally gets his or her medical care from* and *that medical facility can electronically transmit whatever they need* to the hospital or other medical care facility along with *other information* not covered on the health form in order to treat the Scout or Scouter faster

    – Second, do continue to keep the paper copies because some medical facilities WILL NOT TAKE your electronic copies handed to them for privacy and insurance reasons. They WILL take the paper copies but they will “go back to the above step” frequently to verify the information. Remember — when you share electronics, you’re also sharing the source of those electronics. If it hasn’t been “cleaned” or “protected from viruses”, you’ve now accidently injected the entire medical facility with whatever was on the stick or DVD or CD.

    – Finally, have someone back home keep copies of everyone’s paper copies and make sure that they know how to access or use a fax machine. In the event that the entire stack of forms are burned or destroyed in some manner, you now have a back-up copy along with a point of contact to get that backed-up copy to the medical facility.

    Technology is wonderful…but even though WE want things to move faster than the speed of light, doesn’t mean that EVERYONE is on the same sheet of music and playing the same tune. In a unit like yours, it makes much more sense to know where you or other adults can *have copies of Jonathan Appleseed’s medical records” sent; and it makes much more sense to have a copy of “Abigail Appleseed’s” signed permission on a piece of paper as opposed to “I have it here on the emergency stick…um… I’ll have to get back with you as I thought I had it…doesn’t seem like anyone’s medical forms are on here….” ”

    Richard Bourlon, the BSA’s national health and safety programs lead, responded a bit clearer than I did:

    “Do not scan. Do not digitize. Asked and answered in a medical FAQ already circa 2008. Reasons are multiple, but the FAQ is there at the advice of auditors specializing in HIPAA compliance as well as meeting ARRA requirements for CHI, and PII standards. Volunteers need to keep it paper and not assume we aren’t looking for better solutions.

    Q. Can I keep a record of my Annual Health and Medical Record somewhere at my council’s office or online?
    A. Districts and councils are discouraged from keeping any medical records, whether digital or paper, unless required by local or state ordinances. However, the electronic version of the Annual Health and Medical Record is intended to be filled out and saved by individual Scouts and Scouters. The electronic Annual Health and Medical Record should not be transmitted via e-mail or stored by units, districts, or councils. Units are encouraged to keep paper copies of their participants’ Annual Health and Medical Records in a confidential medical file for quick access in an emergency and to be prepared for all adventures. ” for additional questions….

  10. Interesting story. The electronic vs. paper backstory is a tricky one. Personally I’d say paper records are much less secure than electronic ones kept properly – in a way the story highlights this – the electronic one’s remained safe. The paper one ended up in the hands of a stranger – even if it did then mean a happy ending! Generally standard contact details are kept electronically (in the UK), medical forms for a camp I must admit we do still keep on paper and then destroy after the camp. However there’s a move to request these once now in electronic form to cover all camping trips for the year.

  11. Good end to bad start. The one thing that was not mentioned was the SUV was a crime scene and the local law enforcement should have been called before any glass was cleaned up. A police report should have been filed as this may not have been an isolated instance. As for medical forms follow the rules. Maybe do both ways

  12. Good time for a SMMinute. ” Here we have 35 Scouts. I know each of you by your face and name. And I also know your neckerchief , because it is JUST LIKE MINE!! Except mine has my NAME in it! (show the name) When you boys take off the necker or your hat to play GahGah Ball, how do we know whose necker or hat is whose? How about these that were left last week? (hold ’em up) Jesse, here’s yours , got your name in it. Who’s missing one? This one’s got no name in it… See me after we break! May the Great Scoutmaster….”

    Time was, there was an inspection before we left for summer camp. Name, Troop number and/or phone number in EVERYTHING… pack, sox, u-trou, hats, necker, cookset, everything… Gotta go back in time, I guess.
    Thanks to Scout with med form in his pack…

  13. I just did a little research and faxes are laughably insecure. Anyone who can eves drop on the line can fairly easily reproduce the transmitted document. The data is unencrypted and the delivery point had better be secured since the result is a plain text document sitting in a tray. In addition, many fax machines retain copies of documents sent or received on their internal hard drives. (Same is true for copiers by the way).
    That said you should follow you organizations rules to cover yourself legally. But don’t fool yourself that because it’s old and familiar it’s secure.

    • Completely agree and as hard as it may be to believe fax IS the technology medical providers continue to prefer to use over all the other far more readily available and secure technology out there.

      In terms of HIPAA it is the medical providers responsibility to safeguard the patients medical information, not ours. If the medical provider chooses to receive information in an insecure manner and the patients medical information gets into the wrong hands the medical provider owns the problem not the person transmitting the information to them. For once the law is actually on our side in such a situation!

      Yes, medical providers do electronically transmit electronic medical records among themselves. Some systems are and some systems are not compatible with each other. When they are not compatible it is common practice for a medical provider to fax the entire medical record over to the other provider. Most medical record departments have multiple high speed fax machines just for this very purpose.

  14. I think that whoever broke into the truck must have looked at all the stuff and realized that it was Boy Scouts and had a conscience and decided to leave all the stuff where someone would find it. It is a shame that there is bad out there, but the boys made the best out of a bad situation and look how it turned out. Good for those boys and their parents and leaders.

  15. Fax machines are still used…all providers offices or hospitals will have them so, yes, the suggestion to leave with someone who could fax to the appropriate location is a good idea.

  16. 2015 NOAC HEALTH FORMS were submitted electronic! My guess, the national and world Events at Betchel will be submitted electronic as well and likely stored in a cloud drive somewhere!
    Good job scouts

  17. A great example of what Scouting does for young men. Teaches them to pitch-in, use their resources and solve problems. Impressive young men, indeed!

  18. Great job Scouts who cleaned up the glass on the seats, etc & duct taped the exposed edges/portions of the broken window. That was amazing! So glad your gear was found & returned, too! What a life lesson….to keep on keeping on….and learning while enjoying a unique adventure. Kudos to the parents who are raising these fine young men!

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