More than a hundred past and present scouts and leaders are expected to attend the 50th-anniversary reunion of Red Deer’s 18th Scouts troop on Saturday.
They will share stories around a campfire in the parking lot, look at memorabilia displays, and watch videos of various Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Venturers, Rovers activities through the decades. Two post-secondary scholarships will also be awarded at the celebratory barbecue and “come-and-go tea” from 2 to 6 p.m. at the First Christian Reformed Church at 16 McVicar St.
Much has changed since Red Deer’s oldest still active Scout troop was formed in 1972. Bell-bottom jeans and Volkswagen Beetles are no longer trendy, but other things have remained as important now as a half-century ago. Section leader Bruce Schollie believes motivation is still a key strength in life.
“You have to show that you care and that you have the energy to be successful,” said Schollie, who feels Scouts programs instill basic leadership and life skills by teaching “how to be a responsible citizen, how to be active, how to show up and how to be more involved…
“Some kids are just really indifferent and we want to get them to move away from indifference” to make a positive difference, he added.
While enrolment in local scouting programs (there’s also a 21st Scouts troop in Red Deer ) isn’t as strong as in the past — there are about 60 members from age five to 25 in the 18th now, compared to 80 youths two decades ago, Schollie said this drop has been felt nationally.
Reasons for it are hard to pinpoint. Some parents may feel the focus is mostly on camping, said Schollie, but he feels Scouts is about more than outdoors expeditions. The program also teaches about the importance of community service through volunteering at the food bank and other agencies. It builds skills, self-confidence and independence through various indoor games and activities, he added.
Schollie knows many young people — girls can join as well as boys — who feel their time in Scouts helped prepare them for adulthood. Some former scouts have been praised for their knot-tying abilities when fastening tarps to move away to college or university, for example, said Schollie. “People will say, ‘Where did you learn to do that?’
He believes it’s valuable for all kids, including those with disabilities, to learn some self-reliance. Scouts from Red Deer’s 18th have seized international opportunities, including winning Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, participating in school building projects in Madagascar, attending Jamborees in Japan (where they climbed Mount Fuji) and many other countries.
Preparing for the reunion has taken organizers a lot of time and detective work in tracking down former scouts and leaders. Schollie said volunteers have sent out many emails and had a new commemorative group crest designed for the reunion.
The quest for adult volunteers is an ongoing one, and is usually the “bottleneck” to being able to expand programs, he added.
Organizers look forward to seeing many familiar faces on Saturday — and some vaguely familiar ones, with former kids returning for the celebration as adults.
Two Derrick Richards Memorial Scout Scholarships will be awarded to young people who are still in Scouts programs, have shown excellence in their pursuits, and are entering or continuing post-secondary studies.