Local scout heralded as life-saver - Republic-Times | News

Local scout heralded as life-saver

By on April 12, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Pictured, Waterloo Boy Scout Sam Thomas proudly displays the commendation he received from Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith. (Sean McGowan photo)

Waterloo Boy Scout Sam Thomas traveled to Galena last winter for a ski trip with some of the kids and scout leaders in his troop.

As with most kids his age, the 14-year-old sat around with friends in their hotel one day wondering what to do to pass the time.

“Let’s go to the pool,” someone in the group suggested.

Unbeknownst to them, such a mundane decision would change Sam’s life, who learned in his four years as a boy scout to pay attention to his surroundings, as well as the life of a toddler and her mother.

“I saw a few kids playing around the pool. Their parents were watching them,” he said. ‘OK, they’ll be fine,’ I thought. I was with a few of my buddies, and this little girl came walking over (by us).

“I saw this woman. I thought it must have been her mom. She kept talking to the little girl, telling her, ‘Don’t go in the deep end. Don’t go in the deep end.’ It was like nine feet deep.”

His buddies continued to relax in the water, but Sam couldn’t put his mind at ease watching the little girl wander around the edge of the pool. He didn’t need a crystal ball to know what would happen next.

“She jumped in the deep end and was treading at first. I was just watching her and eventually she kept getting faster with her movement. She started struggling to stay up, and then she was panicking and I heard her yell for help.

“I got out of the (shallow end), dove back in, got her and brought her up to the side of the pool. At this time, her parent wasn’t paying attention. She’s reading this magazine, and right when I brought her up, her mother looked up and she had no idea what happened.”

Unfortunately, this life-saving act didn’t earn him recognition from the Boy Scouts of America. Sam’s mom, Michelle, explained that he would have needed a witness statement from the mom.

But thanks to a community that appreciates heroism, Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith took the time to honor Sam with a commendation during a recent troop meeting.

“It’s always nice when we can do something like that,” Mayor Smith said.

Indeed, the Waterloo Junior High School student received a great deal of praise, not just from Smith and his scout leader, but also from his friends and the other boys in his troop.

“I was so excited. I told my scout leader after it happened,” Sam said. “He looked at me and he gave me a thumbs up, and after that it was more me being happy. And I told a bunch of my buddies, and they were like, ‘Oh, good job’ and they were high-fiving me.”

As any parent would, Michelle and Sam’s father, Jason, expressed a great deal of pride over their son’s achievement.

“I think it’s great. I’m glad he’s paying attention to other people,” Jason said.

Added Michelle, “We’re really proud of him that he was able to do that.”

John Durrer, another scout leader, was not present on the trip but noted that scouts are prepared to act in these situations.

“It’s part of the oath we recite at every meeting — to help other people at all times,” he said.

But Sam’s compassion goes beyond what he learned as a scout. During an interview with the Republic-Times, he recalled a challenge he raised to himself at an earlier time.

“I remember telling my mom all these things that I wanted to accomplish, and I said I wanted to save someone’s life,” he proudly reminisced.

Saving lives may even become Sam’s career as he considers entering into the Marines at age 17. He also hopes to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout before his next birthday.

“I want to make a record because I think the troop’s record is 15 years old,” Sam said.


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Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years. email:sean@republictimes.net