Former Boy Scout leads New Canaan Troop
As a youth, Tom Peter was a Boy Scout.
Years later, when his son, now 21, first expressed interest in scouting, he began to reconnect his past as a young camper at peace with nothing more than a knife and a knapsack in the wilderness.
"I don't know of any other group that has done as much community service for this country," he said of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which celebrates 100 years of service this year. "I enjoyed it so much that when my son wanted to do it, I jumped back in with him."
Peter, a long-time resident of Norwalk, became assistant scoutmaster to New Canaan's Boy Scout Troop 70, one of three troops in town. And though his son graduated from the troop as an Eagle Scout two years ago, Peter remains a troop leader.
And for the last 10 summers, he has led Troop 70 scouts on a camping trip in Rhode Island. At camp, Peter supervises as the scouts construct a hut from bark and branches. The boys sleep in the structure, and Peter peeps in at the night to make sure they haven't sneaked out for a more comfortable slumber.
"It teach them how to deal with day-to-day stuff; like, if it's raining, you're still camping," he said. "They learn how to deal with all the comes from being in the wilderness. Boys love Boy Scouting because you're allowed to play with knives, axes and fire, but you do it in a safe manor. It's a lot of fun for them and it's a lot of fun for me."
Former Troop 70 scout Jake Aspinwall describes Peter as a chef by trade who taught him how to cook over an open-air fire and the importance of keeping a lifelong commitment to community service.
"[Peter] not only empowers us to be great scouts, but also shows us by example how to be great volunteers and citizens," Aspinwall said. "I know without his support and mentoring, I would not be standing here today as an Eagle Scout."
Peter is a graduate of the Culinary Institute in America. He has worked in kitchens of great scope, ranging from the Plaza Hotel to Greenwich High School. When he's not Scouting, he works as a chef at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in White Plains.
"It's been a great experience," he said of his second life with the BSA. "I learn a lot from the kids. I think I learn more from the kids than they learn from me. I just show up and have fun. It's easy. The kids always want to learn something, whether it's learning how to cook something new or whether we're going on a trail hike -- but honestly, I think I take more from them than they take from me."