Two developmentally disabled men receive Eagle Scout badges

Since 1912, more than two million Boy Scouts nationwide have earned Eagle Scout, the highest rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.

Count Derrick Keith Hairston and Richard Thomas Jacobs among the ranks. The only difference is that they aren't boys.


Jacobs, of Carney, is 44. Hairston, of Towson, is 45. Both are developmentally disabled and are longtime members of Boy Scout Troop 730, a troop for men with special needs, based at the White Oak School in Parkville. Troop members are considered "Scouts for life."

Jacobs and Hairston became Boy Scouts in 1981 and have earned dozens of required merit badges.


Thirty three years later, wearing their green and tan Scout khakis and wide smiles, they were honored for having earned their Eagle badges in a special ceremony at Arnolia United Methodist Church in Parkville. The ceremony took place before a standing-room-only audience of 80 supporters, family members, Boy Scout officials and fellow Scouts.

"Yeah!" Jacobs yelled, pumping his fist onstage in the church hall.

They also received Baltimore County Council proclamations, through the efforts of 5th District County Councilman David Marks, who had a family obligation and sent a representative to the ceremony.

Hairston held his proclamation against his chest for all to see.


"Good," he said, when asked how he felt.

"It's nice to see him smile. He's been talking about this for years," said Hairston's cousin, Kena Norris, of Overlea, who attended Saturday's ceremony with their aunt, Shirley Blackston, of Edgewood, Harford County.

Hairston lives in a group home and has no immediate family. His mother, Barbara, died of a heart attack in 2011, Norris said.

Hairston has worked at the McDonald's restaurant on York Road in Towson for 24 years.

"I do the tables and the bathrooms and take out the trash," Hairston said.

He won Employee of the Year in 2009, Norris said.

"My job gave me a party," Hairston said. "They gave me a plaque with my picture on it."

Hairston was there with his girlfriend, Christina Adams, 51. They met during a speed dating event sponsored by The ARC Baltimore, which provides services for the developmentally disabled.

Jacobs, who was a longtime employee of the former Woolworth's store in Perring Plaza, lives at home with his father, Richard Joseph Jacobs, and stepmother, Wanda Jacobs.

The elder Jacobs, 75, couldn't be prouder.

"I feel great," he said, adding that his son dedicated his Eagle Scout badge to his late mother, Nancy Jacobs, who died of cancer in 1998.

He said his son told him, "I did this for her."

As their special required project to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, Hairston and Jacobs worked at Victor's Vittle's, a food pantry located in Christus Victor Lutheran Church on Harford Road that serves the northern Baltimore County area.

"I did my food drive," Hairston said proudly.

Jacobs showed a scrapbook that his stepmother made for him, with photos of him working in the pantry.

"Nobody has worked harder than these guys," said Assistant Scoutmaster Joe Tewey, who has worked closely with Hairston and Jacobs in the past two years to push them over the hump for their Eagle Scout badges. Tewey said Boy Scouts in Troop 730 must complete all of the standard requirements that any Boy Scout would have to complete, going camping and learning skills ranging from pitching a tent to first aid.

"It just takes them, like, 10 times longer," Tewey said.

The two Eagle Scouts have earned more than 50 merit badges, he said.

Troop 730 is sponsored by the Towson-based Civitan International Club of Baltimore, part of the Civitan service organization. Civitan helps fund the troop and has sponsored several trips to DisneyWorld, said Scoutmaster Bill Fleck, 80, a retired hydrogeologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. The troop also holds an annual bull and oyster roast as a fundraiser, Fleck said.

Fleck's son, Carl, and Assistant Scoutmaster Richard Shine's son, also Richard, are Boy Scouts, too. Shine's son is an Eagle Scout.

The Scouts sat patiently through a 45-minute ceremony that included remarks by Richard Shaw, advancement chairman for the Dulaney District of the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Several Scouts, including Shine's son, start the proceedings by carrying the U.S., State of Maryland and troop flags to the front of the hall.

The audience burst into applause as Fleck said, "They have earned their Eagle."

A reception followed with two giant cakes frosted in red, white and blue frosting in the shape of Eagle badges.

Taking it all in with interest was troop member Lee Levinson, 35, who is only four merit badges short of attaining Eagle rank. But Levinson was a little nervous at the prospect.

"I don't known if I want that responsibility," he said.

"You're so close," Tewey reassured him. "We'll work it."