Having become the 2 millionth Eagle Scout, a Lakeville teenager will travel the nation over the next 14 months as an ambassador for scouting.
Eagle Scout Anthony Thomas already knows what it means to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful and kind. He is about to find out what it's like to travel the country like a rock star.
With the distinction of becoming the 2 millionth Eagle Scout in the nearly 100-year history of the Boy Scouts of America will come the chance to wave to the crowd from a float in the Rose Bowl Parade, ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and chat up the president of the United States.
Such will be life for Thomas, 16, of Lakeville, over the next 14 months as he travels the country serving as a youth ambassador for the Scouts.
"I was speechless,'' Thomas said of learning of the historic designation. The same, he said, will not be true when he performs the honor of representing his organization across the country.
"It's an opportunity to show boys what a great experience scouting is and how fun it is,'' Thomas said. "And all the things you get to do in scouting that you couldn't do if you weren't in it.''
The Boy Scouts, which honored the 1 millionth Eagle Scout in 1982, made the announcement Wednesday at Fort Snelling. It coincided with the groundbreaking of the Northern Star Council Base Camp. The former Fort Snelling Hippodrome, a 27,000-square-foot building on six acres, will be transformed into a camp featuring high ropes courses, rock climbing walls and a learning center.
Thomas said he got into scouting when he was 7, following the lead of his friends. When he took part in the ceremonies honoring older scouts who reached Eagle Scout status, the organization's highest rank, he put his mind to joining their elite group one day.
26 merit badges
His celebration upon becoming an Eagle doubled with the news that he was the 2 millionth to do it. Keeping it secret for nearly a month -- he found out on May 14 -- didn't prove to be much of a problem.
"Code of honor,'' he said.
To reach Eagle status, Scouts must earn at least 21 merit badges (Thomas has 26), serve in a leadership position and pass muster in front of a review board. About 5 percent of Boy Scouts reach the Eagle Scout rank.
Now that he has done it, Thomas can't wait to hit the road.
"This really gives me the opportunity to use my skills to get people involved in scouting,'' Thomas said. "And to be a role model to everyone, especially Eagle Scouts.''
Thomas attends the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, where he lettered in service this year. Along with his dad, Jim, and his sister, Allison, Thomas will travel to New Orleans on Saturday to do some clean-up work relating to Hurricane Katrina. Later this summer he will volunteer at a Korean culture camp.
Being the ceremonial number 2 million wasn't just about numbers. The Boy Scouts' national office staff knew they would be crossing the milestone within a window of about 10 days, said John Andrews, CEO of the Scout's Northern Star Council. They took 1,378 Eagle Scouts during that period, and they looked at their ages, the nature of their service projects and other factors, then interviewed many of them.
Thomas was selected "as an ideal representation of the young men who earn this award," Thomas said.
Clearly, Thomas' young life has proved adventurous and rewarding even before he makes his way through the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. All of which may come as a surprise to those who don't consider being a Boy Scout a cool thing to do.
"There are some kids who would say that,'' Thomas said, "but when you reach a certain point, like Eagle, everyone recognizes that. They don't say that's not cool.''
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report. Dean Spiros • 952-882-9203