Unsung Hero: Scoutmaster saves coworker from choking, shares story with Scouts

This is Unsung Heroes, a Bryan on Scouting blog series celebrating under-reported acts of Scouting heroism. These are stories that don’t make national headlines — but should. That’s doubly true in this world that can always use more good news. Read the latest story below, and find instructions for sharing your own Unsung Heroes story at the end of the post.


It was a normal workday at the Los Angeles law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher when attorney Jesse Cripps heard a coworker yelling for help.

Cripps, an Eagle Scout, raced down the hallway toward the woman who had shouted.

“There was panic and urgency in her voice,” Cripps says. “I immediately knew it was serious.”

Cripps arrived to see a coworker who was choking and another coworker attempting to deliver abdominal thrusts (a technique sometimes called the Heimlich maneuver).

The coworker asked Cripps whether he knew what to do. Cripps said yes, and the rescuer stepped aside to let Cripps take over.

“I remember that, in a matter of seconds, I was behind my coworker, and my training just kicked in. It was all very instinctive,” Cripps says. “I felt like I was on autopilot.”

After three or four abdominal thrusts, the coworker began coughing — a good sign in a choking victim. A piece of chicken had become dislodged from the woman’s throat.

Cripps and his coworkers stayed with the woman until they were sure she was OK. She soon made a full recovery.

Deeply impacted by this experience, Cripps decided to research choking and discovered how shockingly common it is.

“So I decided to use my experience as a teaching moment with my Scouts,” he says. “It’s not often we get to relay such an important lesson to our Scouts in such a tangible, real, serious and interesting way. It was an amazing teaching experience.”

More about Scoutmaster Cripps

Jesse Cripps earned the Eagle Scout award as a member of Troop 309 of Exeter, Calif., now part of the BSA’s Sequoia Council.

These days, he’s a Scoutmaster for his son’s troop (Troop 501 of La Canada, Calif., part of the Greater Los Angeles Area Council) and a den leader for his daughter’s pack (Pack 515, also of La Canada, Calif.).

Cripps says he remembers learning how to save someone from choking when he was a Scout.

“But I had never had to use it before,” Cripps says.

That’s the thing about first aid skills. You don’t need them — until you do.

“It could be this week, or it could be years from now,” Cripps says. “The skills we learn we carry with us for the rest of our lives. They allow us to be prepared when and if we find ourselves in a situation like this.”

A teaching moment

Cripps turned his moment of heroism into a lesson at the very next troop meeting.

He told the Scouts that kids are the most common victims of choking. And because kids are often around other kids, they’re “most likely to find themselves in a situation where they may need these skills,” Cripps says.

Cripps didn’t share the details of his heroic act because he wanted a round of applause. He did it to add gravitas to a lifesaving lesson.

“It’s fun to learn new skills,” Cripps told the Scouts, “but the skills we learn are so very important.”

(Review the first aid for choking here.)

Helpful, through and through

The story actually gets a little better still.

I was hoping to share this tale of Cripps’ heroism even sooner, but he was unavailable to talk when I first contacted him.

I’d say he had a pretty valid excuse. He was in Kenya volunteering with Lawyers Without Borders, a nonprofit that sends skilled, service-minded lawyers to areas of great need.

Serving others — especially when no recognition is given or expected? That’s in a Scout’s DNA.

Share your Unsung Heroes story

Stories like these brighten my day — especially because I know this kind of thing happens regularly in Scouting.

Here’s how to share the news of an Unsung Hero in your pack, troop or crew:

  1. Send an email to me with the subject line “Unsung Heroes.”
  2. Include a detailed summary of the heroic act.
  3. Include any “supporting documentation” you can. Examples include links to a story in your local newspaper, paperwork for a Scouting heroism award nomination or eyewitness accounts.
  4. Include high-res photos of the Unsung Hero.

Thanks to Troop 501’s Michael Hwang for the tip.

About Bryan Wendell 2906 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.