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Eagle Scout continues to go above and beyond

The 28-year-old scout, who has Down's syndrome, still participates with his troop and earns merit badges. He has at least 39.

Trustworthy, loyal, helpful and friendly aren't just a few of the 12 points of the Boy Scouts law. They are also just a few of the adjectives that describe Richard Keebler, a junior assistant scoutmaster for Troop 339.

It has been almost a year since the 28-year-old Beacon Meadows man appeared in the St. Petersburg Times for earning the distinction of Eagle Scout, a level achieved by 4 percent of Boy Scouts nationwide and even more rare given that Keebler has Down's syndrome.

"Initially, pretty much anywhere we'd go, people would say "I saw you in the paper,' " said Ray Keebler, Richard's father. "Richard's not shy. He loves to be popular, and he just ate it right up."

But fame did not go to Keebler's head, as he has continued to participate in his troop as any other member who has achieved the Eagle Scout award. "He works right along with the other adults, with whatever he can do to help out," Ray Keebler said.

A few weeks ago, Keebler was behind a hot grill, cooking sausages for a holiday fundraising breakfast to benefit the St. Vincent DePaul charity.

He is still an avid camper with his troop and continues to earn merit badges. At last count, he had 39, and a month ago he was awarded the Bronze Eagle Palm, signifying five merit badges over the required number for Eagle Scout along with continuous service.

When Keebler is not busy with scouting, he is still employed by Tampa Work Services, assigned to a variety of office tasks. He is a devoted bowler and has participated in volleyball and swimming events at the Special Olympics.

Although he has attained the highest level award through the Boy Scouts, Keebler's father says that there are no plans to quit.

"I've seen some of the other handicapped men at the summer camps, and they were in their 50s and 60s, and they were having a good ol time," said the senior Keebler. "As long as he's still enjoying it, we'll still continue to go."

_ SHERYL KAY

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