Saving lives runs in Charlie Schneider’s family.With a father who’s a 30-year member of the Hampton Bays Fire Department and an older sister who volunteers with the Hampton Bays Volunteer Ambulance, the 16-year-old aspiring paramedic knew the first aid certification he earned last November would come in handy one day.
He just didn’t realize how quickly that day would come.
The Hampton Bays native was one of more than 180 Suffolk County Boy Scouts who attended the National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Mt. Hope, West Virginia, two weeks ago. The event, which is held once every four years and attracts tens of thousands of attendees from across the country, is a cause for celebration in the Scouting world.
But things nearly took a tragic turn on July 15, the jamboree’s opening day, when a 14-year-old Scout from Shirley began to choke on a cupcake, according to Charlie’s chaperon, Joanne Schaffer.
Despite his initial disbelief, Charlie said he rushed to the boy’s rescue, performing the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the cupcake from the boy’s airway while other Scouts sought out an adult.
“At first I was, like, ‘Wait, he’s not choking—he can’t be choking,’” said Charlie, whose 20-year-old sister, Julie, volunteers with the local ambulance company. “But then he did the international sign for choking, putting both hands around his throat, so I knew I had to do something.”
For Charlie, an energetic young man with an affinity for helping others, jumping to the aid of someone in need was instinctual.
For Charlie’s father and Scoutmaster, Allen Schneider, his son’s actions are a point of pride.
“It makes me feel proud that he kept his cool and remembered his training,” said Mr. Schneider, who leads Boy Scout Troop 483 but did not attend the jamboree.
The boy, whom Ms. Schaffer declined to identify, did not appear to be injured, though he was checked out by medical personnel after the incident.
Charlie will be a senior at the Hampton Bays High School in the fall, where he plays on the golf team and says his favorite class is “lunch,” although he admits, when pressed, to having a particular interest in history. In his spare time he enjoys a variety of outdoor activities including paintball, fishing and snowboarding.
Along with the story of his heroism, he returned from his 10-day trip with a temporary red henna tattoo sprawling from the back of his hand and up his wrist, and a pink cowboy hat with a light-up tiara, which he said he picked up in during a detour through Hershey Park in Pennsylvania just for the sake of pestering Ms. Schaffer.
Almost immediately after arriving home from the jamboree early last Thursday morning, having spent nearly a full day in the car, Charlie got ready and went to his job working in the warehouse at the Riverhead Building Supply in Hampton Bays, making it on time for his 7 a.m. shift. Then, after sleeping for 16 hours, Charlie said he got up, ate a cheeseburger and went right back to work the next day.
A Scout since first grade, Charlie is now working toward the organization’s highest honor: Eagle Scout. In order to do so he must complete a service project of his choosing. He said his plan is to repair the broken fence around Good Ground Cemetery in Hampton Bays and install a solar light to shine on the American flag that is in the middle of the graveyard. Additionally, he wants to digitally catalog the headstone of every veteran in the cemetery while making sure each is properly marked.
“We meet at the church, in front of the cemetery every week, and I saw that the veteran markers were getting old and were falling apart—some that were plastic were getting chopped up,” Charlie said. “It’s kind of a service to the cemetery and to the community.”
Some of the tombstones, particularly those dating from the Civil War, are not marked as such, so Charlie is eliciting help from the community to make sure every veteran is properly recognized.
Ms. Schaffer, who lives in East Hampton and has been a Scoutmaster for more than two decades, said she’s been friends with Charlie for a few years, getting to know him at their monthly gatherings. She said she was not surprised by how he reacted to save the choking teenager.
“Obviously, he knows how to jump into action,” Ms. Schaffer said. “He’s a good kid—he’s definitely good about helping others.”
Charlie’s troop goes on monthly camping trips, spending, on average, 30 days a year in the wilderness, Mr. Schneider explained. Because of the remoteness of the areas where they camp, the entire troop was certified in CPR by Hampton Bays Volunteer Ambulance members in case something goes wrong during an outing.
It was that training that likely allowed Charlie to save the other Scout’s life, Mr. Schneider said.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere, in places that it would be impossible for an ambulance to get to in time,” he said. “This could have happened to any of us.”