Unsung Hero: Second Class Scout saves fellow Scout from choking on a grape

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.

Scarlett Hutchinson still remembers the sound — “that awful noise that happens when someone can’t breathe.”

Scarlett, who was then a 12-year-old Tenderfoot Scout, immediately recognized that a fellow Scout was choking.

“There was a lot of panicked talking and yelling,” Scarlett says. “I made my way over to the Scout and asked if he was choking. I got a nod.”

Thinking quickly, Scarlett shouted at a nearby Scout: “get the adults!”

Then she got to work, using the proper first aid for choking to perform a series of abdominal thrusts in an effort dislodge the item blocking the Scout’s airway.

“There was spit and half-chewed food on my arms, but I didn’t stop until he coughed out a grape and was breathing,” Scarlett says. “By then the adults had come, and they took him away to make sure he was OK.”

For her lightning-quick thinking in saving a fellow Scout, Scarlett Hutchinson, now a Second Class Scout from Troop 444 of Houston (Sam Houston Area Council), received the Medal of Merit.

Trained and ready

It all happened on May 30, 2021, at Garner State Park, about 90 miles west of San Antonio.

It was a trip involving two linked troops — one for girls and one for boys. Scarlett had finished eating lunch with her fellow Scouts from the girls troop when she and a friend decided to walk over to the boys troop to see if they were done eating.

That’s when everything suddenly turned chaotic. Scarlett can’t remember whether it all happened in five minutes or five seconds. But however long it took, everyone was grateful she was there.

After her heroic rescue, “everything was a blur,” Scarlett says. “But I did hear a faint ‘thank you’ as we moved away to let them have space.”

The rescued Scout expounded on that gratitude in a witness statement he wrote for Scarlett’s Medal of Merit nomination.

“The reason she should get the hero award is because she was quick thinking and resourceful,” he wrote.

Scout leader Jeffrey Phelps saw the aftermath. He was driving on the camp road when he saw Scarlett performing abdominal thrusts on another Scout.

“I jumped out of my vehicle and started running toward them. Just as I came to the area, [the rescued person] coughed up a chunk of food and then vomited,” Phelps writes in his witness statement. “I asked [the rescued person] if he was OK, and he replied, ‘yes, I couldn’t breathe.’ At that time, other adults were arriving. I looked at Scarlett, and she said, ‘good thing I took the First Aid merit badge.'”

The story of how Scarlett earned the First Aid merit badge is its own minor miracle.

In 2019, two of Scarlett’s Scout friends left Houston to move to Florida, where they formed a new troop with a similar culture to Scarlett’s Troop 444.

During the COVID-interrupted summer of 2020, when Scarlett’s week at summer camp was called off, the Hutchinsons traveled to Florida to visit those friends.

“While we were there, Scarlett took the First Aid merit badge class,” says Rachael Hutchinson, Troop 444 Scoutmaster and Scarlett’s mom. “Because of our connections and friendships in Scouting, Scarlett ended up taking the First Aid merit badge from two very skilled people, which led to her saving someone’s life.”

Scarlett is grateful that she did — not because of a medal or all the praise she’s gotten but because helping others is the Scouting way.

“Scouts prepared me, because I was taught what to do in an emergency situation and how to respond quickly and calmly when something serious happens,” she says. “I’m thankful Scouts has taught me these things.”

Scarlett and Scouting

Scarlett says she loves being a Scout because she does “so many fun things” and makes lifelong friends. She’s looking forward to taking a Philmont trek as soon as she can.

But she also loves being a Scout because she believes our country needs young people to step up and step in.

“I think America needs Scouting because the skills we are learning are skills that everyone needs,” she says. “People need to help each other, and in Scouts we learn how to help.”

From her perspective as Scoutmaster and mom, Rachael has watched her daughter gain confidence because of Scouting.

“She used to be a little on the shy side, but now she will get up and lead songs and skits at a district campfire program or speak to adults at roundtable,” Rachael says. “She wears her Scout uniform to school on picture day every year so she will be in uniform in the yearbook, and that takes a lot of confidence. Scouting has defintely helped with growing her confidence in many areas of her life.”

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 Matt Maranto for the blog post idea.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.