It’s the kind of question every parent dreams of hearing: “Dad, do you know anywhere I can volunteer?”
Two years ago, Trenton Doherty directed that query to his father, and Rich Doherty had a ready answer.
Rich told Trenton about The Angelus, an assisted-living facility for people with disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.
As a Scout, Trenton welcomed any opportunity to help other people at all times — whether those times earned him service hours for rank advancement or not. To Trenton, The Angelus seemed like a place where he could do a lot of good.
One day while volunteering at The Angelus, Trenton met Chris, who has been a resident at the facility for 15 years. Through their conversations, Trenton learned that Chris had been a Scout in Hudson, Fla., in the early to mid-2000s. But that Scouting story ended in a cliffhanger: When Chris was a Life Scout, the troop “up and left,” Rich says.
“On the ride home, Trenton said, ‘It wasn’t right that Chris is so close and won’t get his chance to become Eagle!'” Rich remembers.
Not so fast, Rich thought.
Finding the best path
Sensing his son’s frustration, Rich had an idea. What if he registered Chris as a Lone Scout and served as his Lone Scout counselor?
Rich would largely work in the background — transportation, mentorship, approvals, supervision. Trenton, who was just 12 at the time, would be a buddy for Chris as he completed his outstanding merit badges and Eagle Scout rank requirements.
It would also be a two-way street. As a Scout in Troop 77 of New Port Richey, Fla. (Greater Tampa Bay Area Council), Trenton could work on his own rank advancement, too.
“It only made sense that we work alongside each other, since we shared the same goals and aspirations in Scouting,” Trenton says.
This went on for two years. Every Wednesday, Trenton’s mom dropped him off with a laptop and the pamphlet for whatever merit badge Chris was working on that week. When the pandemic hit, Trenton and Chris moved their meetings to Zoom and just kept going.
For merit badges that couldn’t be completed via Zoom or at The Angelus, Rich and Trenton picked up Chris in a special van Rich learned to drive for the occasion.
Chris’ final merit badge was his toughest: Hiking. Chris uses a wheelchair, so Trenton located a paved trail where they could complete requirement 5: “Take a hike of 20 continuous miles in one day following a hike plan you have prepared.”
“It was daunting at first, but having supported each other throughout the set of hikes we had done for the merit badge, we managed to get it done,” Trenton says.
After the hike, Rich couldn’t help but think of how far Chris and Trenton had traveled together.
“The two would feed off one another — Chris would give encouragement, and Trenton would assist as needed,” Rich says. “Honestly, Trenton is my hero. He has done some incredible things in his young life.”
A pair of Eagle Scouts
Incredible things like earning the Eagle Scout Award, which Trenton did in March of 2021. For his Eagle project, Trenton built and installed monofilament collectors on the Florida Gulf Coast for fishing line disposal.
Just nine months later, in December, Chris got his Eagle Scout medal, too. Chris’ project was also along the Gulf Coast: planting mangroves to help the local ecosystem, assisted by Trenton and a few Angelus residents.
Scouts with special needs can get extra time to complete rank requirements or have certain requirements modified. It’s part of the BSA’s commitment to welcoming and including everyone.
Before launching into their endeavor, Rich, Trenton and Chris researched these parameters and checked with their local council to make sure everything was in order. While Chris did use extra time to finish his journey to Eagle, he completed every requirement as written, Trenton says.
“Chris proved to have a profound motivation in reaching Eagle, and I am happy to have played somewhat of a minor role in his achievements,” Trenton says. “I’m also thankful to Chris and everyone at The Angelus for the inspiration they’ve provided me in my own Scouting endeavors and in life.”
You give and you get
That’s the thing about the Scout Oath’s charge to “help other people at all times.” Yes, it’s about being selfless.
But when you help others, you get a return on that investment. You become a stronger person — and can feel pretty good about the impact you’ve left on the world.
That’s Trenton Doherty, who two years ago asked his dad how he could help and then followed through in a big way.
Trenton, now 15, is just getting started. He now has three Eagle Palms and plans to continue serving others however he can.
“Participating in Scouting and working with The Angelus has taught me core principles that will undoubtedly continue to serve me well in the future,” Trenton says. “A philosophy I think everyone should follow is that whatever you’re doing, whether it be giving back to your community or working on important problems, if it makes a positive impact on others’ lives or contributes to something you care deeply about, it is ultimately worth it in the end.”