FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — As a kid growing up in New Orleans, Marshall Faulk wasn't able to be a Boy Scout.
"Scouts was something I always wanted to be a part of," the former NFL football star Faulk said. "But growing up in the inner city, a poverty-stricken area, we couldn't even afford the uniform."
That's one reason Faulk joined Madison County Chief Justice Ann Callis as a guest at the annual Distinguished Citizens Award Dinner on Wednesday in Fairview Heights.
The Lewis & Clark Council of Boy Scouts of America holds the fundraiser dinner every year to honor people who demonstrate leadership and good citizenship in the area, and raises the money to help Scouts whose families cannot afford the often-high price of participating in Scouting events, and to fund Scouting programs in financially challenged communities like East St. Louis, Madison, Alton and Venice.
"For a lot of them, there is a financial barrier, or the parents don't have the resources to participate," said council CEO Alicia Lifrak.
This year's honorees were David Oates of the Oates Associates engineering firm, and business leaders Rich and Judee Sauget. All three demonstrate the values of Scouting in their personal and professional lives, Lifrak said.
"They use their time and talents to give back to the community," she said.
While Oates was never a Scout, he has a long history in volunteerism. Oates moved to Edwardsville at age 27 to open a branch office for an engineering firm, which he eventually turned into his own firm. Oates Associates has designed many public, corporate and commercial projects.
Oates, 60, serves on the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Foundation board and leadership roles for Eden Village Retirement Center, Eden United Church of Christ, the Leadership Council of Southwestern Illinois and multiple engineering organizations.
However, he said he is slowly stepping down from boards and foundations. "I'm working my way toward retirement," he said.
Sauget, 68, was a Scout for several years as a boy, and fondly remembers nearly burning down his den leader's house as they learned to bake cookies. He credits his time as a Scout with some of the lessons he learned in preparing for his life as a business leader.
His company, East County Enterprises, has managed real estate in the metro-east for 35 years. He is the managing partner of the Gateway Grizzlies, following a career in professional baseball, and president of the Frontier League.
"Be prepared," he said, practicing the Scout salute. "I did, oh, 15 merit badges ... I learned that awareness of what you need to do to get the job done."
Sauget, who lives in the small town that bears his family name, has also been board chairman for Touchette Regional Hospital, St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association and St. Clair County Building Commission; and a member of the Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital board, Lambert Airport board, U.S. Bank board of directors, Leadership Council of Southwestern Illinois and many others.
He is married to high school sweetheart Judee Sauget, founder of Zingraff Motion Pictures, which has produced eight movies as well as documentaries and commercials. For 16 years she has sponsored the St. Louis International Film Festival and has twice screened films at the Cannes Film Festival.
Among her volunteer work: Epilepsy Foundation of Southern Illinois, Althoff High School Mother's Club, People Project of St. Louis, Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, Cahokia Mounds Historic Site, Voices of Illinois Children, Catholic Urban Programs with the Diocese of Belleville and many more.
It is that focus on community and youth that makes Scouting important, Faulk said, especially in the tough neighborhoods that the council's programs serve.
"You're battling street gangs and drugs, and that sense of belonging in a Scout group combats that," Faulk said. "It allows the values that they teach to grow ... You wouldn't believe how many guys will tell me to this day, 'Scout's honor.'"
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at email@example.com or 239-2501.