Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Klondike Heroes

Over this past weekend, I ran our Boy Scout district’s Klondike Derby winter campout. While I have attended Klondike many times over the years, this is my third season heading up the event.

We were favored with a 24-hour window of very fine weather this time. While it rained in the valleys on Friday morning, our venue was getting new snow. That all stopped early in the afternoon. Unlike other years, a county crew came by and plowed the parking area before groups started arriving. The evening temperatures were nice, although, it did get quite chilly overnight. In the morning a few clouds moved in, but temperatures again became quite pleasant. There was nary a breath of wind throughout the event. You can’t hope for better than that on a winter campout.

This year’s event produced a record turnout. We had more than a one-third increase in attendance over last year. As has traditionally been the case, attendees included almost exactly two-thirds boys and one-third men. It is amazing to see so many fathers come and camp in the snow with their boys. Many of these guys are not in Scouting positions, and many of them aren’t real outdoorsmen. They are just there to support their sons.

My staff did a wonderful job. We have a great district Scout executive that attended the event and handled registration. The Order of the Arrow took care of our opening ceremonies. Leaders from eight of the zones in our district came out and ran the Scoutcraft events. Our health and safety chairman managed unloading and parking along with a crew of volunteers.

The boys hardly pay any attention to all of these adult volunteers, unless they otherwise know them. The youth are still too callow to know or care about the sacrifices these people are making to provide this adventure for them. I know this, because I was once one of those boys that didn’t have a clue about such things.

I’m grateful for the volunteers that staff these events. But in my mind, the real heroes are the scoutmasters. Having been a scoutmaster, I know what these guys do. They work directly with the boys week after week. They train the boys, try to make sure they have adequate gear, get them to the event, keep them safe and on task during the event, and get them home again.

It is the scoutmasters that do the hard work of helping boys construct safe snow shelters. I have learned over the years that one winter camp overnighter takes as much work — preparation, setup, teardown, cleanup, etc — as does going to a weeklong summer camp. Winter camping is hard work for a scoutmaster.

When a boy is crying during the night that he’s cold and wants to go home, it’s the scoutmaster that is out of his warm sleeping bag and handling the situation. When a boy is having troubles cooking his dinner in the winter conditions, it’s the scoutmaster that painstakingly helps the boy learn what to do. When a boy is out wandering around camp in the dark throwing snowballs, it’s the scoutmaster that worries about getting him safely back to the campsite. They are the ones that get up periodically during the night to make sure that the boys are safe in their shelters.

Most of the scoutmasters in my district wear many hats. Regardless of what the manual says about it, these guys store and haul the troop gear. They are the ones that mostly handle advancement issues. They arrange for transportation and manage the troop finances. Here and there you occasionally find a functioning unit committee that takes care of some of these matters. But that’s a rarity.

I salute these scoutmaster heroes. I personally know a number of the scoutmasters in my district. I think of my friend Ken, who still manages to do a great job in his position, although, his wife is currently struggling with breast cancer treatments. I think of my friend Vince, who has a houseful of little kids at home; none of which are yet old enough to attend Scouting events. I think of my friend Mike, who is in a PTA-sponsored unit and deals with many issues that his colleagues in LDS-sponsored units don’t face. I think of my friend Lloyd, who keeps on doing this job 100%+ year after year after year. I think of my friend Kent, who continues to serve as scoutmaster, even after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis last year.

These men, and many more like them, are my heroes. And so are their wives. Many of them do a load of work to support their husband scoutmasters. Then they take care of the home and family while their husbands are out providing adventures and learning experiences for boys. These people that demonstrate happiness in unselfish service to others are my heroes. Thank God that there are such people in the world today.

No comments: