FAIRBORN — As the Boy Scouts of America gear up for another year of outdoor activity, the coronavirus pandemic has changed how the 110-year-old institution operates. For Troop 162 in Fairborn, the Scout motto “be prepared” has never been more applicable than now, as the organization looks to restart its normal activities this fall.
Based at Abiding Christ Lutheran Church, the troop shut down operations in the spring. Regular meetings went from in-person affairs at the church to being held over Zoom. While the Scouts and Scouts’ leadership were able to make these changes quickly and effectively, it wasn’t the same, according to Troop 162 Committee Chair Erik Oberg.
“Our April meetings felt a little too academic,” Oberg said. “That being said, for the future, virtual meetings are a new tool in our pocket. We pivoted quickly and kept connected with one another, which is probably the most anyone could ask for.”
The troop started up in-person activities again in July with summer camp at Camp Birch. In addition to standard safety protocols, Scouts were grouped into “pods” that moved around the campsite for various activities. In the seven weeks of summer camp, no one got sick.
Though it looked a little different this year, the success of Camp Birch is a bright spot for many children, especially with so many other events being cancelled or postponed.
“The kids were so happy,” Oberg said. “I’d see them and they were just beaming.”
Regular Scout meetings began again in August, and will continue throughout the school year.
“If we can do it with summer camp, we can do it in normal meetings,” Oberg said of the restarting process. “Let’s go outside. Let’s get some lawn chairs, spread them out. At the moment, it feels like something that hasn’t changed as much. Other than masks, checking temperatures and using hand sanitizer, it’s something that feels normal again.”
Currently, Troop 162 is preparing for its annual camp-out on Sept. 12-13. That weekend, the Scouts will plan what activities they want to participate in for the rest of the year, whether it’s canoeing, fishing, ziplining, rock climbing, etc. The self-direction that these scouts have in the planning stages is a fast track to developing leadership skills that will last a lifetime.
“As adults, we’re there to guide, mentor, provide ideas, support, and to keep an eye on safety,” Oberg said. “But the boys lead themselves in planning these activities.”
Troop 162 is holding a recruiting event on Monday, Oct. 5 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Abiding Christ Lutheran Church. Oberg said he is encouraging kids in grades 6-10 to come, especially those that have never done Scouting before.
“Things that I did in Scouts are things that I would never otherwise have done,” Oberg said. “Scouting will give you these opportunities for adventure that you may not have during your entire childhood, and they will do it while at the same time teaching you to be a good citizen of this country and the world.”