Cancer, a tornado and a pandemic: Scouts endure along the trail to Eagle

Cade Womack, Alex Young, JP Baughman and Cade Taylor of Troop 50's Biohazard patrol.

Youth who earn the highest ranks Scouting has to offer deserve praise for achieving their goals, but the bigger prize comes from the skills they gain and experiences they have along the way — the leadership, the know-how and the camaraderie.

Take the boys of the Biohazard patrol, for example.

Before joining Troop 50 in Wetumpka, Ala., Cade Taylor and Cade Womack were Tigers in Pack 50. The following year, JP Baughman and Alex Young became part of the pack as Wolves. Alex was diagnosed with autism soon after joining the pack; social situations and activities were difficult and sometimes embarrassing, his mother says. Still, he was part of the pack, and his fellow den members helped him.

Jay Kujala joined the pack later, and together, the boys earned the Arrow of Light and crossed over into Troop 50, forming the Biohazard patrol because the patrol patch glowed in the dark. Kendall Buelman crossed over from a different pack to join the troop, too.

Like most Scouts, they earned ranks and merit badges together, went camping and volunteered in their community. But these Scouts faced other challenges — and they persevered thanks to the bonds formed in Scouting.

Alex Young, Jay Kujala, Cade Womack, Cade Taylor, Case Edwards, Christian Chapelle and JP Baughman.

Facing challenges together

Cade Womack, JP and Alex had planned to attend the National Jamboree together in 2017. During the required physical for the trip, a tumor was discovered on Alex’s thyroid. Biopsy results were inconclusive, so the decision was made for surgery. The tumor was removed and found to be cancerous. Doctors suggested Alex’s entire thyroid be removed to prevent any spread of the disease. He was still able to attend the Jamboree, and his friends were with him to keep his spirits high.

“His trip to the Jamboree literally saved his life,” Alex’s mother Diana says. “His friends stood by him during his diagnosis and treatment, often offering him jokes and kind words to ease his stress.”

Alex has been cancer-free ever since.

In January 2019, the troop’s meeting place was destroyed as an EF-2 tornado struck downtown Wetumpka. Most of the troop’s supplies and gear were also lost. Scouts went to the site to clean up, salvaging a plaque displaying the names of the troop’s past Eagle Scouts. Even after losing its Scout lodge, the troop continued to meet at its chartered organization, the First United Methodist Church in Wetumpka.

The boys worked as staff at Camp Tukabatchee‘s summer camp and were elected to the Order of the Arrow, all reaching the membership level of Brotherhood. Cade Womack and Alex got to attend the World Scout Jamboree last year, too.

Kendall earned the Eagle Scout Award in October 2017. Cade Womack achieved the rank in February 2018. Jay got the top rank in March 2019, while Alex earned Eagle that July. JP and Cade Taylor completed all of the Eagle rank requirements in February this year.

Jay, Alex, JP and Cade Taylor were honored in a joint Eagle Scout court of honor in March. Because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was livestreamed.

Cade Womack, Jay Kujala, Cade Taylor, Kendall Buelman, Alex Young and JP Baughman at Kendall’s Eagle court of honor.

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About Michael Freeman 445 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.