In the world of sports, serious athletes have their eyes on gold. In scouting, distinguished achievement for adult volunteers comes in the form of silver.

Fairfield resident Joyce Ference was one of seven people last month presented with the Silver Beaver award, the highest scouting honor for adults, by the Boy Scouts of America's Connecticut Yankee Council.

The peer-nominated award goes to the "cream of the crop," according to Jonathan Glassman, district director of the Connecticut Yankee Council. Nominees are selected by a committee of prior recipients for the honor. Glassman said Ference received the award because of her level of dedication, can-do attitude and determination.

"It's an amazing feeling. It's wonderful for the adult leaders to acknowledge all the hard work and dedication of the volunteers," Ference said.

Bill Ference said he is glad that the Boy Scouts recognizes women in leadership roles in the program. He said his wife has made "major contributions" to the Boy Scouts organization, and added, "I know what it takes. It takes decades of volunteering and dedication to scouting and youth to build the leaders of the next generation." Bill Ference is the district chairman of the Pomperaug scouting district and a 2011 recipient of the Silver Beaver.

At Troop 90's recent Court of Honor meeting at Greenfield Hill Congregational Church Memorial Hall, where scouts advanced to their next rank, Patti Salazar of Fairfield offered Joyce Ference a congratulatory hug.

"I can't think of anyone more deserving. She has been such an asset in the troop and she's had a major hand in developing this troop to where it is today," said Salazar, whose son Josh Salazar, 16, has worked with Ference for three years.

"She shows really good leadership skills and she's very active in Boy Scouts," Josh said. Her involvement in the program "makes it easier for me and others to be more active in the troop and to advance in rank," he said.

Nick Bloch, 16, of Fairfield, said Ference serves as an advisor to scouts working to earn Eagle rank. He said she is organized and a great person, someone who "always has time to help."

The Silver Beaver award recognizes those individuals who have given continued, distinguished and unselfish service to youth. Since it was introduced in 1931, fewer than 750 adults in the Connecticut Yankee Council's service area have been recognized.

Ference's involvement in Boy Scouts of America began when her three sons Will, Brian and Bob, were young and she volunteered as a Tiger Leader and Den Leader, "and I kept going and going." She celebrated 25 years of volunteer service to the program last September.

Ference said it's the boys and the program that motivate her to stay involved. "They are the future of our country. We're building leaders," she said.

Ference has served in a number of roles including Troop Committee member for Troop 90 for the last 17 years, while simultaneously holding key positions, among them Troop Eagle coordinator, where she has helped guide 25 Scouts through their Eagle projects and write-ups.

"We did the trails projects at the Audubon (Society on Burr Street). We built bluebird birdhouses and put them in an open space area on the corner of Congress and Morehouse Highway, and we built cages so the Audubon Society could bring their birds of prey to schools for presentations," Ference said.

Ference is currently serving as the Pomperaug District Friends of Scouting co-chairwoman as well as assistant advisor for Crew 90, and she will serve as the crew advisor for one of the Council's Venture Crews to the 2013 National Jamboree. It will mark her first trip to a National Jamboree.

The Silver Beaver is not Ference's first scouting honor. She has received the Key Three Award, the District Award of Merit, the Venturing Leadership Award and the First Class Scouter Award, and is a member of the Order of the Arrow.

In addition to her scouting activities, Ference is also on the board of the Fairfield Garden Club and Darien Cotillion, and is a eucharistic minister at St. Luke's Roman Catholic Church in Westport.

The other 2013 recipients of the council's Silver Beaver Award are: David Barrett of Sandy Hook, Bruce Bowlus of Ridgefield, Michael Card of Bridgeport, Carolyn Dubey Jagielski of Guilford, David Lyons of Meriden and David Mestre of Stratford.