As a salesman, he's popping
by Kathryn Dobies
March 13, 2010 01:00 AM | 16845 views | 51 51 comments | 1330 1330 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alexander Cuthrell, 10, has been one of the top popcorn sellers in Atlanta for the past few years. This past year he sold almost $7,000 in popcorn while also raising $575 in donations for U.S. Troops.  <br>Photo by Laura Moon
Alexander Cuthrell, 10, has been one of the top popcorn sellers in Atlanta for the past few years. This past year he sold almost $7,000 in popcorn while also raising $575 in donations for U.S. Troops.
Photo by Laura Moon
EAST COBB - At the tender age of 10, Alexander Cuthrell may have found his calling in sales. The Cub Scout and Mt. Bethel Elementary School fifth-grader has been one of the Atlanta area's top Scout sellers of popcorn for the past three years - and he's not stopping any time soon.

But selling hasn't always come naturally to Alexander, mainly because he has had to overcome the social barriers of Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism that is characterized by difficulty with language and communications skills as well as repetitive or restrictive patterns of thought and behavior.

According to his father, Brian Cuthrell, Alexander functions at a high level of intellect, but has trouble with certain social and communication skills that sometimes impair him from understanding the underlying meaning of written and spoken language.

Because of his communication issues, the first few years of door-to-door popcorn selling were a bit of a challenge for Alexander.

"The first couple years, mommy would take him out, and you'd knock on a door and they'd answer the door and he'd just stand there and look at you - wouldn't say a word. So we'd have to do the pitch for him," Brian said.

Through time and practice Alexander became more comfortable with the neighbors and his own sales pitch, and by his third year of selling he was inspired by another scout in his pack to break his record by selling more than $1,700.

That's when selling became fun for Alexander.

"What happened was all of a sudden when we added a few extra doors, he started running into kids, so he started playing with the kids," Brian said. "And then we'd run into a few more doors and started running into the dogs. And found out that the more doors we knocked on the more dogs we found and the more kids. And so it became play dates."

In fact, Brian said, at some houses Alexander would spend up to a half hour playing with customers' kids and dogs. And now, the Scout's calling card has become bringing treats for the furry friends.

Alexander says that meeting people and making new friends has become his favorite part of door-to-door sales.

"I get to meet a lot of people, see the animals, and I really love dogs. Sometimes they have games that I like, (Nintendo) Wii games especially. We have lots of fun. It's so fun meeting people and meeting the dogs!" Alexander said.

As he discovered this love for meeting new people, Alexander's sales took off.

In the 2007 season, when Alexander was in third grade, he sold a total of $2,800 during the six-week popcorn sale season which begins in early September and ends mid-October. The following year, Alexander sold more than $6,400 worth of popcorn, more than doubling his previous year's sales record and becoming the second-highest popcorn salesman in the Atlanta area.

After being honored with the other top sales Scouts at an Atlanta Hawks basketball game following the 2008 popcorn season, Alexander decided he wanted to rule the Atlanta area and set his sights on becoming the highest selling Boy Scout in the metro area.

"I was so excited. I was second place. The top two leaders get to be seen on TV and you get an autographed basketball," Alexander said. "And when I saw that Harrison (the Atlanta area's first place selling Boy Scout) was in first place, and I saw that Harrison got all the prizes, I thought, hmm, would I get all the prizes? I actually got into curious mode."

And so his goal was set: Alexander not only wanted to become the highest-selling Boy Scout in Atlanta, he also pledged to break his last four years of sales combined by selling $10,000 worth of popcorn.

While he did become the Atlanta area's bestseller, unfortunately, because of the fall rains, Alexander came up shy on the $10,000 goal, selling $6,800 in 2009.

But that doesn't seem to faze the Cub Scout, who will graduate to become a Boy Scout today. Still, Alexander is poised to hit the $10,000 mark in fall 2010.

Along the way, Brian and Jeanne, Alexander's parents, said they have seen a significant change in how their son communicates with people. Since children and adults with Asperger's syndrome are very literal thinkers and communicators, Brian and Jeanne, who are active in the Autism Support Group of Cobb County, have to work especially hard with their son to get him to understand many typical phrases that people use on a daily basis. They knew they were making progress when Alexander would ask them for clarification on what someone said, as opposed to just ignoring it and not understanding the communication.

"It's almost like therapy," Jeanne says of the interaction with neighbors.

"It really is, we do use it for social skills training," Brian chimes in. "Adults are a lot more tolerant than kids. And the kids he gets to play with, usually, he'll hit it off right away with the kids with the popcorn or they'll have a dog and it just kind of happens."

Jeanne says it's easier for Alexander to approach people when he's selling popcorn because it's his way of breaking the ice.

"He's like the star," Jeanne said. "He really does this well. He shines, and a lot of people notice it, and it's almost if they're looking a bit beyond the Asperger's - that's not the focus of him. The focus is that he's a Cub Scout and he's selling and he is excited."

Overall, the Cuthrells and Alexander say they are most grateful for the support he has received from his family, friends, neighbors and his Cub Scout Pack 795 at Mt. Zion Church.

"It's fun to see him get excited about something," Jeanne said. "So we'll keep it going and we'll support him."
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September 24, 2012
This was nice to read. We just found out our son of 3 1/2 has autism. We have been freaked out and started doing research and found this article. What a relief. By the way, how is this kid doing now? Does anyone know?
January 20, 2014
This scout is still going strong and is one that will be recognized this coming Saturday January 25th at the 727 Club down at the Braves Stadium. We just thought you may be interested.

Alexander was just starting as a Freshman in High School and because school is very important the only days of the week he could focus on selling is on Saturday & Sunday. Toward the end of the sale he did commit to a few Friday & Saturday evenings to make his goal. Alexander knows about all the Popcorn offered and has sampled all of them. Alexander has had a $10,000 goal for 5 Years and though he has done well each year he never made his goal until this year. He sells it all "Face to Face" with very little online sales. He hasn't mastered the Online Selling yet. This year he REALLY calculated and set his "Season" goal; then broke it down to daily goals; then how many hours in a day he needed to work to achieve his goal. Alexander likes the recognition and prizes he receives and watching his Trails-End Scholarship grow. As a Boy Scout he also gets to Earn His Way in Scouting by working hard and selling popcorn where all his hard work is deposited into his Scout Account which pays for his scouting activities (example this past years 2013 National Jamboree and he even sent a couple of other scouts to camp). Alexander receives very little credit for his efforts and hard work from his peers but he loves the challenge involved, that is what drives him among other things. Our entire family makes sacrifices during the season. Mom gives up the time with him on the weekends, as well as the Dining Room  and his sisters Karli & Olivia give up their brother and father all weekend as well. However when it comes time to deliver "Everyone" chips in to make sure every customer gets their Delicious Popcorn in a timely fashion. With $7000 - $8000 - $10,000 worth of popcorn sold that is one huge undertaking. He has qualified for the Atlanta Area Hall of Fame $2500 Club 7 Times now. He qualified for the $3500 since the beginning and now the $4000 Club. Alexander truly loves popcorn and it has made him a better person, has helped him build confidence and he cannot understand why every scout doesn't sell at least one bag, even if it is to themselves. He loves all the dogs he meets along the way and all the mini hang-out sessions he gets to have when he meets and sees kids out having fun. The real amazing part of all of this is that selling doesn't come naturally to Alexander, mainly because he has had to overcome the social barriers of Asperger's Syndrome, which is a mild form of Autism that is characterized by difficulty with language and communications skills as well as repetitive or restrictive patterns of thought and behavior. We use Popcorn as a teaching tool to help Alexander learn and understand Neuro-Typical human behavior & communication styles and as his father, I go with him every step of the way to help translate and coach. At an average of $90 per hour we invest a lot of time to assist Alexander in becoming the amazing man he is growing up to become.
Mary OHA
August 05, 2012
Wow! Young charging rhino!!!!!!!!
September 24, 2012
He does have thick rhino skin built in because he does not understand a lot of comments thrown at him. Makes him strong. Thanks
June 13, 2012
Very good, very good. I love it!
October 12, 2011
You did awesome my friend.
September 22, 2011
I am so proud of you Alexander! I love the Boy Scout Popcorn, it's the best. Keep up the good work.
September 08, 2011
I have read this a couple of times and it always brings a smile to my face. Just happened to see this again in the East Cobb Neighbor and thought I would say bravo to Alexander.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - As a salesman he s popping
Muhammad Ali
April 08, 2011
Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them... a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.
Edgar Anon
April 08, 2011
Pessimist is a person who says that O is the last letter of ZERO, instead of the first letter in word OPPORTUNITY. Go Alexander Go!!!
April 08, 2011
Kudos for the Kid who Makes Things Happen instead of Letting Things Happen. We can learn something good here. FANTASTIC
Linda Rutledge
April 08, 2011
This is an incredible kid!! Smart, kind and a go getter! Everyone should learn from him!!!
April 07, 2011
It means a great deal to all of us that are supporting Alexander and his efforts in Scouting and in Life. Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring news. Congrats on your Honorary Team Captain... Go Braves!
April 06, 2011
WOW!! How inspiring! I must say, this article brought tears to my eyes. As a salesman he is popping!!!
April 02, 2011
I hear he is going to be Honorary Team Captain for the Atlanta Braves game on April 19th. Super news I must say.
April 02, 2011
Wow! That’s so impressive.
April 02, 2011
Love this story.
April 02, 2011
This would make a great “Positively Georgia” segment.
March 29, 2011
Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful - Congratulations Alexander
March 26, 2011
He is making it happen rather than letting it happen. We need more people like him to get us out of the mess we are in. Great job Alexander!
November 05, 2010
Very well written article and a great change of pace. Most news clips about Autistic children shows extreme cases. It is nice to read about these kids that are making a difference. Way to go Alexander.
September 11, 2010
I found this great article when doing a search for Cub Scouts. This story is wonderful and I would like my son to be a part of scouting. What an amazing kid.
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