For one week in July, Boy Scouts from Troop 174 in Stanardsville offered its members a summer camp experience to make up for the opportunities missed this summer due to camp closures resulting from COVID-19 restrictions.
According to Scoutmaster John Ensor, “the BSA (Boy Scouts of America) summer camp program is a premier event in the scouting experience.” Each summer, Boy Scouts around the country flock to summer camps to learn lifelong skills or to engage in high adventure, multi-day treks via boating, ATV, and horseback, among others.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, summer camps nationwide were cancelled or forced to provide virtual or modified options. Since camps are often scheduled as long as 18 months in advance, troops like Troop 174 were simply out of luck for the summer. Younger scouts in Troop 174 missed out on the opportunity to complete rank requirements or to earn as many as six merit badges, while older scouts missed out on the chance to participate in a sailing adventure at Florida Sea Base after months of preparation.
In response, the leaders of Troop 174 attempted to recreate the spirit of the summer camp experience.
“In an effort to get the scouts out of the house,” said Ensor, “the troop elected to put something together to replicate some events.”
Planning for the event took several weeks, leaning on the skills of older scouts and taking into account safety considerations such as masks and physical distancing.
Beginning on Sunday, July 12, after nearly four months without the ability to practice their skills as a troop, the camp provided scouts with opportunities to learn and teach scout safety and rank skills, to hike at Preddy Creek Trail Park, to kayak at Greene Mountain Lake, and even for some light-hearted competition in the form of a Highland Games, which included events such as axe throwing and a caber toss. Finally, on Saturday, July 18, the troop held a campfire and Court of Honor to recognize all of the scouts’ efforts.
Scouts like Josef Sjordal loved “just being active in the outdoors” and Andrew Schlict liked “not being stuck in the house.”
According to Jeffrey Wallace, the Senior Patrol Leader, the camp was necessary because “it is important to get the scouts, particularly the new scouts, back into a scouting mindset as we move into the fall.”