Meet Darrell White, a 65-year-old brand-new Eagle Scout

Darrell White stands between his Scoutmaster and a youth member of Troop 77
Darrell White, middle, flanked by Troop 77 Scoutmaster Darrin Hill on one side and a fellow Scout on the other. Photo courtesy of Troop 77

More than a decade ago, the leadership of Troop 77 in Edmond, Oklahoma, was contacted by a social worker in their area. One of their clients, a 50-something-year-old man with special needs, wanted to join the troop.

It was a request that Troop 77 was happy to accept. That man, now a 65-year-old Eagle Scout, has been a vital part of their Scout family ever since.

Three Scoutmasters later, Troop 77 has turned over its roster multiple times, but Darrell White has remained.

“I would say that Darrell was one of the reasons we joined the troop,” says Trina Nondorf, assistant Scoutmaster and mom of a Troop 77 Eagle Scout. “He is the one who makes others feel included. I consider it a privilege and honor to have served with Darrell and to count him as a friend.”

Because of his developmental disability and a diminished ability to communicate, many of the details of White’s past are a mystery to everyone but himself.

This much we do know: White has been involved in Scouting ever since he joined a Cub Scout pack in Enid, Oklahoma, in the 1960s. Though efforts to track down official records have been unsuccessful, White still remembers the names of many of his former Cub Scout friends.

Over the years, he moved from city to city, and from state schools to institutions to group homes. It is believed that he lost his father at a young age; his mother died in a nursing home just a few years ago.

Scouting was the one constant through it all.

A true love of Scouting

White is registered with Troop 77 under the BSA’s Guide to Advancement section 10.1.0.0: Registering Qualified Members Beyond Age of Eligibility.

The rule reads:

A disability, to qualify an individual for registration beyond the age of eligibility, must be permanent and so severe that it precludes advancement even at a rate significantly slower than considered typical. … Registration beyond the age of eligibility is intended as a permanent arrangement to allow ongoing participation as a youth member.

Darrin Hill, Troop 77’s Scoutmaster and the assistant Scoutmaster for linked Troop 6077, says White functions at around the level of a 14- or 15-year-old. He is under 24-hour supervision with other residents at his current home and must visit his doctor once per week. He does not drive; Hill or another Troop 77 adult drives him to and from every Scout meeting and outing.

He sometimes has a hard time walking, so Troop 77 will assign someone to walk alongside him during hikes.

None of this has stopped him from participating in Scouting. He loves everything they do, especially the activities that get him outdoors.

“What he loves about Scouting is parallel with what most members love about Scouting,” says Hill. “It’s being with his friends and all the fun stuff they get to do together.

“A lot of times he’s just begging … When am I gonna get to go camping again?”

His advancement in Scouting has required a lot of patience — something both he and the leaders of Troop 77 have excelled at over the years.

Darrell White reads a merit badge pamphlet
White is known for his love of reading BSA materials, always hungry for new knowledge. Photo courtesy of Troop 77

A new goal

Some years ago, White expressed a desire to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

The Guide to Advancement section 10.2.2.4 Approval for Special Needs Eagle Candidates Over Age 18 reads:

Individuals age 18 and older, properly approved by the council executive board to register beyond the age of eligibility, may apply for the Eagle Scout rank. Since they are considered youth members for as long as they are so registered, they do not need a time extension; nor is special permission needed for an Eagle Scout board of review that is held more than 24 months after the 18th birthday.

“We had to meet with him and think a lot about what he can and can’t do,” says Hill. “He wouldn’t necessarily be able to sit through a merit badge class with 30 other kids. That would be a big challenge for him.”

Instead, the troop’s leaders and merit badge counselors worked individually with White over the years to help him achieve the ranks and merit badges required for Eagle. Only occasionally did they have to use alternative requirements and merit badges, as specified in sections 10.2.2.2 and 10.2.2.3 of the Guide to Advancement:

Though individual requirements for merit badges may not be modified or substituted, youth with special needs may request approval for alternative badges they can complete.

“He’s never going to be able to swim, for example,” says Hill. “We had to meet him at his ability level. We had to recognize what he could and couldn’t do and meet him where he’s at.”

White’s Eagle Scout project was overseeing the installation of benches at a historic cemetery established for Edmond’s Black community in 1889. Upon arriving at the site, White expanded the scope of his project to include cleaning more of the property than originally planned.

An infectious attitude

Perhaps the requirement White has been most capable of fulfilling is demonstrating Scout spirit.

That seems to come naturally for him.

Whenever a new Scout shows up at meeting, or any youth is visiting for the first time, White serves as Troop 77’s one-man welcoming committee.

“Darrell is an ambassador for Scouting,” says Steve Morey, committee chair for both Troop 77 and 6077. “He is a recruiter who is a friend to all.”

Whenever an adult or Scout needs help with anything, White is the first to volunteer.

“There’s times that, you know, for all of us, maybe we have a week where we have to say we were not the best Scout we could be, and we can recognize that,” says Hill. “But, you know, Darrell’s Scout spirit is always 1,000 percent.”

The attitude is infectious.

“Darrell exudes the Scout spirit without even trying,” says Troop 6077 Scoutmaster Lynn Farnsley. “He welcomes all youth and adults to meetings and activities with a friendly smile and a heartfelt hello. Darrell is a leader and encourager who helps Scouts who are reluctant or too tired to try their best.”

White wants to help other people, and other people want to help him. Young Scouts over the years join Troop 77, they interact with White, then they age out of the program, and more young Scouts come in.

“For the other Scouts, it’s a way for them to show humility and be able to be helpful to somebody else and to see what that takes,” says Hill. “Ultimately, we are family. Darrell is always giving back to others and showing other Scouts how to give back.”

Darrell White in the outdoors
White is known for his positive attitude at any Scout event he attends. Photo courtesy of Troop 77

A happy Scouting family

It’s hard to say which is more significant: what White gets from being a member of Troop 77, or what Troop 77 gets from having White as a member.

When White’s mom died, he said rather matter-of-factly: “Well, I need a new mom now.”

He began calling Hill’s wife “Mama Hill,” and she was fine with that.

But Hill was resistant when White first started calling him “Dad.”

“I was like, ‘Darrell, you know you’re kind of blurring the lines here.’” Hill says. “‘I’m your Scoutmaster, you know.’”

But over time, Hill softened, as do most people who know White. Hill’s family was already regularly bringing White along with them to church and other functions and events.

“Darrell is just very friendly and very nice,” says Hill’s 12-year-old daughter Evie, “and he loves Scouting very much.”

Darrin Hill has come to realize that White is simply an extension of his already large Scouting family.

“We recognize that Scouting is just a big family,” Hill says. “Without Scouting, we never would have met Darrell. He’s part of our family group now.”

“I adopted the whole Hill family,” White told Edmond Outlook magazine. “Now I have a little brother and a little sister and a big sis and two dogs.”


About Aaron Derr 457 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.