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Devils celebrate 12-year-old lifesaver on Scout Night

by Gordy Stillman / New Jersey Devils
Saving his mother's life by using the Heimlich maneuver earned 12-year-old Thomas McNally the Boy Scouts of America's prestigious Medal of Merit and recognition as the New Jersey Devils' Hero of the Game on Scout Night. McNally was one of 300 scouts in attendance as the Devils defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in overtime. Photo by Joe Marte

As the New Jersey Devils took on the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, November 8 at Prudential Center, the team celebrated Scout Night by inviting hundreds of regional Boy Scouts to the game and recognizing 12-year-old Massapequa, NY resident Thomas McNally, a Boy Scout who saved his mother’s life in September 2014, as the team’s Hero of the Game.

Just over one year ago, as his family was eating dinner, McNally saw his mother start to choke. McNally put the skills he learned in the Scouts to work by helping his mother dislodge her food and recover. At the time, McNally said he was focused on staying calm and “just trying to get her to stop choking.”

“We were just sitting down to eat,” Thomas’ mother, Valerie McNally, recalled. In a rush because of after-school activities, Valerie said she began to choke and Thomas immediately jumped into action. “He came right behind me, did about five thrusts and dislodged the food…then he panicked.” After keeping focus while performing the Heimlich maneuver, Thomas allowed himself to worry as he realized “the intensity of the situation,” Valerie said.

For his actions, McNally was awarded the Medal of Merit by the Boy Scouts of America, joining an exclusive group of Scouts. “Only two percent of Boy Scouts get the Medal of Merit,” McNally said. Since it was first awarded in 1945, the Boy Scouts of America has given scouts and their leaders the medal on 6,478 occasions, awarding the medal for “a youth member or adult leader who has performed some outstanding act of service of a rare or exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the well-being of others.”

McNally first joined the Boy Scouts in 2010, having previously been a Cub Scout. He said the best part of being a Scout is the camping trips. “They teach you a lot of stuff about the wilderness…that’s what I really like.”

McNally humbly said he’s not often a fan of being recognized for his actions, but he enjoyed attending an NHL hockey game and being saluted by an arena full of Devils fans. His mother said it was an unbelievable experience to see her son celebrated at the game. “He loves hockey, and when we got the call that he’d be Hero, I could not believe it.”

Before the doors opened to the public, approximately 300 Scouts and their families were treated to a special presentation by the team, learning about the many things that go into creating the game presentation. After previewing the night’s in-game promos, such as the Devils’ mascot NJ Devil doing sketches of “Will it Bounce?” and “So You Think You Can Dance?” the Scouts saw an early screening of the team’s pre-game ice show.

The team also welcomed the boys of Troop 132 from East Brunswick, who served as the color guard, presenting the flags as Max DeFrancesco performed the American and Canadian national anthems.

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