Is this your Cub Scout uniform that washed ashore after Hurricane Irma? [Update: Found him!]

We found him, you guys! Read the happy ending to this story here

The original post follows …


Nikki Presley and her husband, Dustin, were walking on the beach in Jacksonville, Fla., less than a week after Hurricane Irma had passed through.

They were picking up debris — doing their part to help with the clean-up efforts — when Dustin abruptly stopped.

“We were just walking, picking up debris, and he spotted the Progress Toward Ranks beads,” Nikki told me by phone. “And he said, ‘I know what that is.'”

Those beads, Dustin knew, had to be part of a Cub Scout uniform. Sure enough, when he brushed away the sand, that’s just what he saw.

“We picked it up, and he said, ‘this is a Cub Scout uniform,'” Nikki said.

Of course, it’s no surprise Dustin knew what it was. Dustin is an Eagle Scout.

The odds of an Eagle Scout finding a Cub Scout uniform that washed ashore after a hurricane? About like the odds of finding a specific grain of sand on a beach.

Tracking down the uniform’s owner

Once they realized what they had found, the investigation began.

Nikki and Dustin saw the council shoulder patch on the left sleeve. It read “Arrowhead Council, Illinois.” Below that, they could see the shirt belonged to a member of Pack 121.

They quickly realized that the Arrowhead Council no longer exists. In 1991, the Arrowhead and Piankeshaw councils merged to form the Prairielands Council, headquartered in Champaign, Ill.

(Important note: Though the Arrowhead Council didn’t exist after 1991, the owner of the uniform might not have bothered to update his council shoulder patch. In other words, this uniform might have been actively worn after 1991.)

Nikki and Dustin started with a 21st-century approach to finding the uniform’s owner. They shared the photo on Twitter, hoping the power of social media would help them return this lost treasure.

They haven’t had any success so far.

Kate Jacobs, marketing and communications director at the Pathway to Adventure Council, spotted the post on Twitter and sent the idea to the BSA’s National Service Center.

Clues/updates so far

  • Sept. 21
    • Based on the color scheme of the Honor Unit patch on the right sleeve, the uniform might be from 1985. (Thanks, Brian Wolfe!) Nikki sent me a closer shot of the sleeve, and it is a 1985 patch!
    • The medal is a Catholic religious emblem. (Thanks, Melissa!)
    • The owner is likely about 42 or 43 years old. (Thanks, Nahila Nakne!)
    • 3:30 p.m.: I’ve heard from Chris, the Cubmaster of St. Matthew School Pack 121 in the Prairielands Council. He’s going to ask around to see if anyone knows who owns/owned the uniform.
    • 3:42 p.m.: Just got an email from Linda, the chartered organization representative for Pack 121. She has a spreadsheet with data back to 1995, which isn’t far back enough. “The records farther back than that are stored by the archivist for the Diocese of Peoria. I am trying to obtain access to them,” she writes. “We are also comparing recharter lists with the memories of our older parishioners to see if one ‘pops’ as a kid whose family now lives in Florida. There are quite a few St. Matthew’s parishioners who have moved to Florida.” Thanks, Linda!

One uniform, infinite possibilities

It’s impossible to look at this misplaced uniform and not daydream a little bit about my own time in a Cub Scout uniform. I had so many great memories in a blue shirt just like this one. (OK, mine had short sleeves, but still.) I remember holding up the letters in “CUBS” at the pack blue and gold banquet, running around the gym at the elementary school after a monthly meeting, and racing the Pinewood Derby car I had built with my dad.

You can read stories about the uniform that washed ashore in Florida just by looking at it.

We know its wearer was part of an honor unit. We know he earned a religious emblem. We know he worked his way through each of Cub Scouting’s ranks — Bobcat, Wolf, Bear and Webelos — and earned the requisite gold and silver arrow points along the way. (The arrow points are no longer used — giving moms and dads one less tiny thing to sew!)

But even more tantalizing is what we don’t know about this uniform.

What inspired its owner to make his way from Illinois to Florida? Perhaps he fell in love with Florida’s warm weather and salty air on a trek at the BSA’s Florida Sea Base. Maybe he moved southeast for work but brought with him a blue-and-gold memento from childhood. Or maybe he stayed in Illinois but sent the uniform to a nephew in Florida, hoping to inspire a future-generation Cub Scout to experience what Scouting has to offer.

Scouting can take your life in a million directions, and there are an equal number of stories this uniform could tell. What’s your guess? And what stories does your Cub Scout uniform hold?

What to do if you recognize this uniform

Does this uniform look familiar? If you recognize this pack number or uniform, please email me.

Nikki and Dustin are eager to do a big Good Turn for the uniform’s owner.

Me? I’m eager to find out just how a potentially decades-old uniform from a council more than 1,000 miles away in Illinois ended up on a beach in Florida.

Additional photos

32 Comments

  1. Found my shirt from 1982 in my parents’ home a while back & noticed the flad on the front like this one. When did it move to the sleeve?

    • Approximately 1989. They made a lot of uniform changes that year. I know when I was a Cub 1982-85, flag was worn above the pocket. My 1991 printing of the Wolf Handbook shows the flag on the sleeve.

  2. the medal is a Catholic Religious Emblem. You may want to check with Catholic churches in the area to see if someone who has retired to the area recognizes it? good luck!

    • Would the Catholic Committee on Scouting have records from the possible years of this and from that area of Illinois? Maybe another way to investigate.

  3. That is a 1985 Honor Unit patch. With no World Crest (had to be earned pre-1989) and US flag above the pocket, that is definitely circa 1980s

    If 1985 was the last year the gentleman earned Honor Unit with the pack he got a somewhat better profile. He was Catholic at the time (Parvuli Dei Catholic Religious Award for Cub Scouts), and it looks like since there is no Tiger Cub Graduate Patch or orange backing service star, he joined Cub Scouts in fall 1982,

    Gentleman in question is approximately 42 – 43 years of age, and probably saving the uniform to show his kids or keep for the memories. I know Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of my stuff from the time period. I know the gentlemen will be excited to retrieve this.

  4. There is I think only one Catholic Church large enough to have a scout troop out of.,.,st Pauls in Jax beach and they also have a school yes just checked and they have a scout pack. Call them and they should be able. To find the owner. We were cub scouts in Ponte Vedra

    • Depending on how strong the Catholic Committee on Scouting was locally in the old council, they may be of some help as to who received the award.

    • You are correct. The Pack met at Carey Busey elementary school, but included several dens from St. Matthew’s. This scout would have been a few years older than me (I started in like ’86), but I would bet there’s a good chance they went to the Catholic school attached to the church.

  5. Start by going too the current council…all for records concerning the pack#. At the point find out if the pack is still chartered. Contact current leadership if possible to state intentions. Find out if they have records of who was in the pack during that time. See if records revile who earned those awards. The Webelos ribbons are missing from the pin on the sleeve. Narrow down awards earned on shirt compared to records if available. The national database ONLY keeps info on Eagle Scouts not cub scouts.

  6. if the local council does not exist anymore then records might not be available but if it does see if you can find the Cubmaster. He or she might know who the Den
    Leader was for Den 4. That is a Parvuli Dei Medal. The diocese might have a record as the emblems have to be ordered through the diocese. Do not give up. The oner will show. Maybe the Cub went on to a Scout Troop. Who were the leaders of a Troop that might have been connected with the Pack. Ask them if they remember or can put out the word. God bless

  7. vallaro@aol.com I am still in the scout movement since I was a cub in the late 4os early 50s getting my Eagle in 1956. I volunteer to be on staff at the jamborees to provide my back ground as a retired electrician. The persons that found the cub shirt should check with National Scouting Headquarters in
    Irving Tx. would be a good start .Good luck and thanks for finding the shirt .I think I still have mine after
    67 years. My mother was always a keep sake person.I think maybe she thought her grandson might wear it In Scouting Don Kearney

  8. If the parent kept the shirt, I would post to the Catholic area churches in Florida and ask to put this on their bulletin board or Catholic newsletters. If parent kept it all these years the scout might not at her 40ish age remember all the finer details of the patches. Parent would easier remember the Illinois of the council shoulder patch rather than the finer details especially if they are in the 80’s and 90’s.

  9. Maybe check with P.R.A.Y. that gives out the religious emblems. Most of them are age specific.

    Check with Eagle Scouts from the same district that would be the same age for membership in that pack.

    Chartering organization may have records

  10. After seeing the “Headline” in my email, I hope that they are able to identify the family or Scout, But I am most grateful that there wasn’t a body associated with the found uniform. I was initially afraid before I opened up the blog that this was a newer uniform…

  11. There’s a good chance that the owner of this cub scout uniform probably crossed over to Troop 121 at the same church. Perhaps the Troop has records that far back. Following that train of thought, if this boy earned his eagle rank, BSA National should have records of eagles from Troop 121 in that timeframe.

Join the conversation