In an area where military uniforms are the norm, young people and some adults in uniforms of the Boy Scouts of America prevailed this weekend, as the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond hosted a Boy Scout camporee.
More than 300 scouts, along with about 125 adult leaders, from as far away as Pikeville, set up camp Friday night, readying the area for a host of activities that fostered education, love of the outdoors and camaraderie on Saturday.
The scouts, and their adult mentors, braved the chill early autumn weather, setting up tents and building campfires to stave off the cold.
Each troop took turns participating in a number of activities, including one-handed fire building, first aid competitions, disc golf and navigating an obstacle course blindfolded, to mention a few. There were even educational opportunities such as a dessert cook-off and a look at the profession of journalism.
Martin Koca, program director for the Blue Grass Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said the scouts participate in a campout every year, and this was the largest of its kind in about five years. The Blue Grass Council encompasses troops in 55 counties in Kentucky, although not every county was represented at Saturday’s event.
Scott Seitz, assistant scoutmaster of Troop 707 and scoutmaster for the event, said some of the activities, such as building fires one-handed, not only made the scouts aware of dealing with disabilities, but also fostered a spirit of cooperation. Indeed, it proved surprisingly challenging for the youthful participants to build a fire, each using only one hand, even with matches to help.
Fourteen-year-old T.J. Melton, a senior patrol leader with Troop 529, was one of those evaluating the performances of his fellow scouts on the first aid relay, where some played victims who had been injured in a fall, while others “rescued” them, evaluating their conditions, “treating” them for broken bones with makeshift splints, and transporting them in stretchers built from blankets and poles.
“Everybody’s doing pretty good,” said Melton, surveying the action and filling out his evaluation sheet on each entry.
Asked how well he fared in the evening campout the night before, with temperatures that dipped into the 40s, Melton dismissed the cold.
“I think snow camping is really fun,” he said, revealing he has done this sort of thing in eight inches of snow.
Each troop set up their individual campsites in the woods behind the main staging area for the event, using portable stoves and campfires to cook their meals.
Roger Lane, council-wide activities chair, said the event not only gives the scouts the chance to sharpen their survival skills, but also gives members of he individual troops a chance to work and play with each other, creating an atmosphere of fellowship among them.
In addition to the scout-sponsored activities, there was a midway, where organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Madison County Department of Emergency Services and fire departments from Madison County, Lexington and the depot, among others, set up information tables that leaders said not only familiarized the scouts with services available, but gave them the opportunity to explore volunteer possibilities and provided potential for future field trips.
As for their hosts, the Blue Grass Army Depot was as happy to host the event as the scouts were participating in it.
“The depot is proud and honored to have the Boy Scouts here,” said Samuel G. Hudson, public affairs officer for the depot, adding that a similar event, for Webelos and Cub Scouts, the junior branches of the Boy Scouts, is planned at the depot for next week.
He said the depot is looking forward to similar events, and hopes to host both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the future.