Cub Scout comes through with rescue

Quick-thinking youngster pulls cousin out of pool


Because of the ideals that have been ingrained in him through his participation in Cub Scouts, Ben Cooper is not an ordinary boy.

On a muggy afternoon over the Independence Day weekend, Ben, 8, summoned his scouting skills in response to a crisis at a family gathering.

Ben was near the backyard pool at his grandmother’s house on Killington Drive, Howell, when his 3-year-old cousin, Jami Van Orden, pushed her poolside chair back too far and flipped over backward into the water.

Ben, who recently moved up to the rank of Bear with Howell Cub Scout Pack 258, was the first person to respond to the incident and quickly pulled Jami out of the pool.

“He just reacted immediately and scooped her up calmly and handed her over to her mother,” said Ben’s mother, Heather Cooper.

Cooper said that while several adults were present in the yard at the July 5 gathering, none of the adults were as close to Jami as Ben was when the youngster fell into the pool.

“This really reinforces to people that even when adults are around, things can still happen. It’s always a scary situation, but Ben handled it wonderfully. Any other 8- year-old would have panicked,” she said.

His calm demeanor during a crisis could in part be attributed to Ben’s involvement in Cub Scouts, the precursor program to Boy Scouts.

As a Scout, Ben has learned how to be a pillar of the community through training in character development, spiritual growth, good citizenship, sportsmanship, friendly service, personal achievement, family understanding and respectful relationships.

“We’re teaching these boys how to be responsible through helping others,” said Ben’s den leader, Annette Cross. “It’s a great organization. It’s not instantaneous, like video games or sports, but it’s a slow process of accomplishment. The kids feel so good about themselves over time.”

Ben attends weekly meetings and performs activities with his pack and at home with his family in order to earn badges, Cross said. In the past year, the pack has donated clothes to Lakewood Red Cross, been trained in home safety, practiced customer service at Chik-fil-A, performed activities related to President Barack Obama’s inauguration and taken a trip to Monmouth Battlefield in Manalapan.

Ben’s pack has also thoroughly addressed conservation and ecology. The boys’ lessons culminated in a cleanup of the wooded area behind the Church of the Master on Salem Hill Road, which is a volunteer activity many children and organizations in Howell are currently pursuing.

“We try to tie our activities into topical things. We try to make it fun, but the point is that they are walking away knowing something they did not know before,” Cross said.

Cross was not surprised when she heard about Ben’s heroic deed.

“He’s a great, responsible kid,” she said. “If there was anyone who was the ideal Cub Scout, it would be him.”

Cooper believes the Cub Scout program has been a positive influence on her son.

“I think it’s helped him be empathetic to people. It’s given him a background to be a good helper and taught him what to do in an emergency situation,” she said.

Cooper said she felt that if it had not been for Ben’s quick response, his cousin would have been traumatized. However, she was happy to report that while Jami was initially hesitant, she has returned to the water.

Although family and friends have lauded Ben for his heroism, Cooper said it has not affected Ben.

“He doesn’t think anything of what he did,” she said. “He’s very unimpressed with himself.”

In fact, Ben felt that it was his responsibility to act on the situation. When asked what went through his mind when Jami fell into the pool, he simply replied: “I was scared for her. I needed to help her and I’m a good swimmer, so I just jumped in. She was crying, but I told her everything was OK.”

Due to Ben and his Cub Scout training, everything is indeed OK.