Why this award-winning TV host still makes time to volunteer with local Scouting

Zach Damon: Cub Scout, Eagle Scout, TV host. (All photos courtesy of Zach Damon)

Eagle Scout Zach Damon is a busy man.

He’s a freelance voice actor whose smooth sound can be heard on iHeartMedia radio stations across the United States and Canada. He’s the host and producer of Ann Arbor Tonight, an award-winning late-night variety series that invites local actors, musicians, business leaders, civil servants and others to share their talents with the viewing audience.

And somehow, despite all those commitments, he still makes time to give back to the Scouting movement. He serves as a consultant on the Michigan Crossroads Council’s marketing committee, helping identify and tell positive Scouting stories to the people of the Great Lakes State.

Why take on that extra unpaid responsibility? For a reason any volunteer will appreciate: because Damon believes in the value of Scouting and wants to use his abilities, in whatever way he can, to give back.

“I believe it’s important for Scouting alumni to use their professional skills to give back to Scouting,” he says. “We were young once, and there are young Scouts who deserve a great youth experience.”

That kind of commitment is cause for celebration, says Denver Laabs, director of development for the Michigan Crossroads Council.

“Few in Scouting exhibit the amount of enthusiasm, creativity and willingness to go the extra mile that Zach does on an ongoing basis,” Laabs says. “His commitment to our mission is immensely appreciated.”

Entertaining and inspiring the community

Ann Arbor Tonight began in 2016 with Damon behind the desk in a tan suit and black tie. His guests that night included a local theater actor, a pair of local comedians and an a cappella group called Three Men and a Tenor.

Five years later, the monthly series is still going strong. And last month, the show received a pair of Philo Media Awards, which recognize TV innovators across Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan.

If the name “Philo” sounds familiar in the context of Scouting, you must have tuned in to this blog before. Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of modern television and the award’s namesake, was an Eagle Scout.

It’s impossible for voters to watch every episode of every TV show being considered for awards like Emmys, Golden Globes or Philos. So creators choose their best episode and submit it for consideration.

Zach and the Ann Arbor Tonight team entered Episode 26, which featured an interview with Greg Harden, a motivational coach who has worked with athletes like Tom Brady, Michael Phelps and 1991 Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard.

“I’m excited about what you’ve done and created,” Harden told Damon during the show. “I’m so impressed with what you’ve done in creating the show and being a guy who understood the medium.”

Ann Arbor Tonight earned additional praise for adapting to challenges during COVID. The show, previously filmed in a TV studio with a live audience, has moved to Damon’s apartment during the pandemic. Ann Arbor Tonight: At Home keeps the jokes and interesting guests but brings a more informal, relaxed tone. (No more black tie.)

And even though it’s his name on the title card, Damon knows from Scouting that nobody gets very far alone.

“When you’re working on a project, your crew is similar to a Scout troop,” he says. “Everyone has their position and responsibilities.”

It started in Scouting

Damon’s Scouting journey began in Cub Scout Pack 131 of Ann Arbor, Mich.

He spent time in Troop 131 before moving to Troop 27 of Ann Arbor. There he served in a range of leadership positions, including senior patrol leader, quartermaster and chaplain, and earned dozens of merit badges, including his personal favorites, Communication, Citizenship in the Nation and Citizenship in the World.

Damon became an Eagle Scout in June 2005.

For Damon, earning Eagle was the continuation of a long tradition of Scouting within his family. Five of his six uncles on his mom’s side earned Scouting’s highest rank as members of Troop 194, which was founded in 1922 and calls itself Detroit’s oldest Scout troop.

Zach Damon works on his Eagle project.

Giving back

Damon was born with cerebral palsy, which causes severe muscle stiffness. As a boy, he used a walker to help him get around and today uses forearm crutches to help with mobility.

But he’s never wanted his condition to be the story — even when completing an Eagle Scout service project designed to help people with disabilities.

For his project, Damon coordinated a wheelchair drive to benefit Wheels for the World, which delivers essential mobility devices to people in need around the globe.

“I learned the importance of preparation and problem solving,” Damon says, “but most importantly, I saw the impact Scouting service has on the community and world around us.”

Thanks to Brandon Kathman of the Michigan Crossroads Council for the story idea!

About Bryan Wendell 3220 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.