The Club’s newest Eagle Scout explains how Scouting has prepared him for whatever life has in store.
Business executives, an FBI agent and the United States Ambassador to Japan. For one evening last month, 18-year-old Member Ryo Kamibayashi upstaged them all.
Wearing an Eagle Scout’s red, white and blue neckerchief for the first time, Kamibayashi reaffirmed his oath: “For physical fitness, wholesome character and devoted citizenship. To this I pledge my sacred honor.”
“At the end of the day, it’s just a piece of cloth,” he says of Scouting’s highest rank. “What being an Eagle Scout really means is [trying to] live as a Boy Scout for the rest of my life.”
The ceremony at the ambassador’s residence was the culmination of Kamibayashi’s seven-year journey with the Club-supported Troop 51. Elementary schoolers in Cub Scout Pack 51 are also based at the Club, but scoutmaster and Member Brian Shepard explains that older boys are expected to choose their own path.
“As the Scout, it’s up to you,” says Shepard, 50. “You need to set your own course.”
When Kamibayashi joined in 2012, he took those first meetings as seriously as the next overactive 11-year-old. Everything changed that first summer when he broke his wrist and gashed his knee coming off his bicycle while on a Troop 51 excursion.
“The Scouts got whatever they needed,” Kamibayashi recalls, “and I just lay there thinking, ‘If it was just with my friends, it could’ve been way worse.’”
Even the hospital staff marveled at how expertly the troop cleaned and dressed Kamibayashi’s knee.
“That made me want to really know more about what I could do if someone faces the same problem,” he says.
He earned his first aid merit badge soon after. Since 1912, only 2 percent of Scouts have earned the 21 badges necessary to become an Eagle. Weeks before his 18th birthday last November, Kamibayashi had acquired 23.
“What makes [badges] important is why I wanted to achieve them in the first place,” he says.
For his final requirement, the service project, Kamibayashi took a less obvious direction than most. Rather than maintaining a hiking trail or refurbishing park benches, he recruited fellow Scouts and musical theater classmates. He selected songs, wrote melodies and directed rehearsals.
One afternoon at a Tokyo retirement home, Kamibayashi and his castmates gave back to the community in a way his scoutmaster had never seen before.
“You could just see the senior citizens really come to life,” Shepard says. “They really appreciated that all these kids came out and put on such a fabulous concert for them.”
This fall, Kamibayashi leaves Tokyo for the University of Michigan. While he has already decided on a future in musical theater, Troop 51 will stay with him forever.
“It isn’t about rank or how many merit badges you have,” says Kamibayashi. “It’s about how you apply that to your daily life and do the best you can to make the people around you and your environment better.”
Words: Owen Ziegler
Image: Kayo Yamawaki
September 8 | Every first and third Sunday | 5–7pm
September 13 | Every second Friday | 7–9pm