HOPKINTON — In Washington D.C., marching alongside Eagle Scouts from all over the country in celebration of the Boy Scouts’ 100-year anniversary, Alan Whittaker developed a passion nearly 10 years in the making: a Rhode Island license plate that celebrated Scouting.
After a conversation with Scout leaders from other parts of the country during that 2010 trip, Whittaker — an Eagle Scout, troop leader, advancement chairman and mentor — learned that several states had specialty license plates that added a little style to one’s car while supporting a worthy cause.
He returned home with a fire to create a Narragansett Council BSA plate of his own, envisioning drivers all over the state sporting a plate that he had designed.
After nine years of trying to bring the plate to fruition and failing, Whittaker, who now resides in Hope Valley with his wife, Gail, finally came upon two legislators who would work on his behalf. That's when state Rep. Steve Ucci, D-Johnston, a former Eagle Scout himself, and state Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey, D-Warwick, formerly of Whittaker’s troop, joined the effort.
The two lawmakers were eager to help because of their own involvement with the Narragansett Council.
“The Boy Scouts were a major part of my life," Ucci said. "Thanks to the persistence and perseverance of Alan Whittaker and the Narragansett Council, Sen. Lombardo and I were able to pass legislation which allows for the Boy Scout plate, and that plate will be available for purchase with proceeds to go to the Narragansett Council," Ucci said.
“Alan really proved himself to deserve the credit for getting this done and I’m happy to have worked with him on it,” he said.
The seemingly simple plate, which Whittaker designed by hand, displays some complex symbolism.
“I wanted to keep it simple, but wanted to keep it for all scouting,” he said.
The design, a chevron of sorts, he said, represents the colors of his Scout badge and pays homage to Sea Scouts and the Boy Scouts of America's signature neckerchief, while working in other symbolism dear to Scouts.
When asked if he had considered other designs, he tapped his forehead and said, “only up here.”
The plates, which will be pressed after 600 requests have been made, is the only specialty plate in Rhode Island approved for passenger, commercial, and combination vehicles, as well as campers. The plates will cost $41.50 each, a one-time fee, half of which will directly benefit the Narragansett Council.
When Whittaker was asked where he gets his passion to lead and mentor Scouts in Rhode Island and around the world, he simply said, “From being an Eagle Scout.”
“Wherever I was stationed,” he explained, “I was always involved with the Scouting program.”
This devotion extended all the way to Vietnam, where he started a troop during his tour. Upon his return home, he began leading Troop 1 in Conimicut, and hasn’t looked back.
Whittaker is somewhat of a celebrity with the Narragansett Council BSA, having won the coveted Silver Beaver award in 2016, an award granted to Scouts who have made an impact on the lives of youth through their service to the council.
He has been sharing his passion for this plate both in his own troop, Troop 1 in Conimicut, and at meetings of Scouting leaders all over the state.
The plate can be ordered at narragansettbsa.org/plate.