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