Tulane football head coach Curtis Johnson was just one of the big names that recently turned out to help the Southeast Louisiana Council of Boy Scouts of America honor two former Boy Scouts.

The council, which celebrates 90 years this year, held a special dinner and reception at Dillard University to present Kenneth Pickering and James Gray II with the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award.

Named for a famous civil rights activist and former head of the National Urban League, the award is given by Boy Scout councils around the nation to honor individuals or organizations that have made an outstanding contribution toward Scouting in low-income communities.

Other notable participants included WDSU Meteorologist Damon Singleton who served as master of ceremonies for the evening; Metro Service Group President and CEO Jimmie Woods Sr., who welcomed the crowd; First NBC Bank Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors Charles Teamer, who shared his experiences as a Scout; and Entergy President and CEO Charles Rice Jr.

Rice is serving as the council’s first African-American president.

When Johnson took the stage to give the keynote address, he looked into the audience in awe.

“This is a who’s who of New Orleans,” he said. “You guys are the people I watch on TV.”

Johnson stressed the importance of programs like the Boy Scouts when it comes to reaching out for area youths who have lost hope.

“We’re in a society that loves to give up, but you can never, ever give up. We gotta fight for these kids,” he said, adding that, “Boy Scouts is a plan — a great and dynamic plan.”

Following the keynote address, the first honoree of the evening was Kenneth Pickering.

A New Orleans native, Pickering serves as general counsel to the Crescent City Connection, a division of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. During a career covering all aspects of public, real estate and banking law, Pickering has served the council in several capacities, including as president.

He serves on the board, along with, he proudly noted, three other members who were Scouts with him as a youth in Troop 21.

“The Scouts is the best leadership organization for young men that I know of,” he said.

The second honoree, James Austin Gray II is a councilmember elected to the District “E” seat in 2012 and re-elected in February of this year.

A practicing attorney, Gray is a former LSU law professor, president of the Louisiana Law Institute and teaches trial practice at Tulane University.

During his speech, he shared that when he began Scouting, it was still segregated.

“I served as the chairman when we desegregated in Baton Rouge,” he said, noting that he remembered looking at the Scout masters and leaders as a boy and thinking, “They were symbols of what I wanted to be as a man.”

In addition to Pickering and Gray, special recognition was presented to Honorable Lambert Bossiere III, commissioner for District 3 of the Louisiana Public Service Commission.

Both an award reception and a fundraiser, the event raised more than $63,000 for Scouting.

From 2003 to 2013, the Southeast Louisiana Council registered 15,196 Scouts.

In 2013 alone, Scouts gave 32,589 service hours through the council’s Journey to Excellence service projects, which include conservation projects, food collection and distribution, litter cleanup/community beautification and military support and appreciation.

Although youths and volunteers are welcome to join the Boy Scouts at any time, the council is running a fall membership recruitment campaign sponsored by Entergy.

The campaign runs through October and offers any youth that joins a complementary pass to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.