By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
With the courage and determination to soar like his upcoming award’s namesake, Asher Kogutt spread his own wingspan far and wide to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.
Asher, who lives with special needs, has been a Boy Scout since he was just 6 years old, has completed his Eagle Scout project and is in the midst of earning his last merit badge — gardening. Once complete, Asher will go before the Eagle Board of Review — and be so honored.
“Boy Scouts is fun and I like the camping and being outside and sleeping in tents,” said Asher, the son of Judy and Jeff and brother to Benjamin and Elan. He follows his father and brothers in his quest to become an Eagle Scout; all three have accomplished and respected scouting histories.
“I like wearing my uniform with my sash and badges. I am proud of my badges; I have 30 of them and my favorite badge to earn was the fishing badge,” said Asher. He has many memories of the sport thanks to his grandfather Sam Kogutt, also a former Boy Scout and an avid fisherman for most of his life. “I like going out on the boat and being outside.”
For his Eagle Scout project, Asher directed and led a team in building four large wooden mounting blocks for riders at Equest, where he was a client from age 5 to 13. The blocks facilitate riders getting onto their horses.
“To have a former client come back to us and serve this way is incredible and it means so much to us,” said Lili Kellogg, interim CEO at Equest, who has known Asher since he was a young rider there, recalling a time when she was even his teacher. “Asher has achieved so much in his scouting and he should be so proud — we certainly are.”
Learning with horses
Equest, which provides therapeutic horsemanship activities and therapies to children and adults with physical, cognitive, sensory, coping and learning disabilities, has locations at the Wylie Center in Wylie and The Texas Horse Park in Dallas. The latter, which received Asher’s donations, services 200 weekly clients in addition to between 50 and 75 participants in a veteran’s program with one-time experiential opportunities — a “horsemanship 101” — and many others through community outreach events with schools and other groups.
“Asher really has come full circle, returning as a donor in this manner, and his gift will help a lot of people for a very long time,” said Kellogg. She noted that the mounting blocks will be used for clients in veteran programs, physical and occupational therapy, equine facilitated counseling, therapeutic carriage driving, therapeutic sports riding and competition.
Troop 263, a troop for special needs members, is a part of Circle Ten Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Boys or men can join this troop as young as 11 years old and into adulthood, and remain scouts indefinitely. Troop 263 has 18 members and hosts weekly meetings at the Bachman Recreation Center, monthly outings, four campouts each year and a summer camp program.
“I’m so honored to be here with and for Asher — it’s quite an effort and I’m so impressed with his abilities and drive to move forward,” said Ben Burns, Asher’s scoutmaster. “He’s created a great project and worked so very hard.
“Asher has held every leadership role in our troop including Troop Guide and Senior Patrol Leader,” said Burns. “He’s a top scout and a great young man.”
Asher’s parents have long supported him in his efforts and been there to watch him succeed. “This is a continuance of all Asher has worked for and it allows him something to really look forward to each week, to work toward, and to be interested in,” said Jeff, who serves on the troop’s committee to help those advancing to Eagle Scout. “He’s worked very hard and come very far.”
“He’s a pretty cool guy,” Judy says of her son. “He really had to supervise the project, bring together a team to help out — which is required — and from teaching his helpers to use the power drill, to getting it all together, he really came through.”
“I like doing things for other people and I’m happy that people riding at Equest will be able to have more fun,” said Asher, who grew up in Troop 729, at Temple Emanu-El, and spends much of his life doing for others. He works at Mosaic, a special needs workshop, where he enjoys “shredding paper and making money.”
A CHAI (Community Homes for Adults, Inc.) resident, Asher is a member of the Maccabees Special Olympics basketball team and, as a Dallas Yachad (National Jewish Council for Disabilities) member, he recently went on a Birthright trip, his first time to Israel.
Asher is a graduate of DISD’s Special Needs Transition Program, an Honorary AkibaKid and Yavneh Bulldog, and former Habima Theatre and Points 4 Peace Basketball Tournament Special Event participant. There are few areas of the Jewish community where he hasn’t left his mark.
“Asher has learned a lot from scouting that he’s taken into the many programs he’s been a part of,” said Judy. “There’s been an emphasis on respect and self-control, and scouting really turns our young men into well-rounded citizens, with tools they’ll be able to use all of their lives.”
As the Boy Scout oath says: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
Words that describe Asher Kogutt, who ranks up among the best and most proud — one to always be prepared!
Anyone interested in joining Troop 263 can email email@example.com.