2017: A Scouting Year in Review

I have been a Boy Scout in Troop 123 since 2011, and looking back on this past year, it is clear that Troop 123 Scouts’ drive and motivation is at an all time high. Countless rank advancements saw the light of day for every Scout in the Troop, and we named the rank of Eagle Scout to both Sam Tsongalis and Ricky Cehon. The senior patrol leaders effectively led the Scout meetings, and the future of the Troop’s leadership looks bright. 2017 was also heavily saturated with fun and strong outings for the Troop, all of them with solid turnouts. The timeline of 2017 for Troop 123 is tremendous.
The first major event of Troop 123 was the Winterfest, a cold weather overnight campout that, despite the main event being cancelled, still served as a place to fulfill the cold weather camping requirement of the Eagle-required Camping merit badge. I battled a cold and managed to come out on top. The Klondike Derby was next, a winter sled romp around Treasure Valley across many intense challenges, such as the deadly swing and the incredibly fun barrel roll. In March, the Troop planned to hike ten miles across the Midstate Trail, but the trip was snowed out and replaced with an igloo-focused cold weather campout. The Troop would then go on to do the hike in early June, but not after April’s Treasure Valley Experience and May’s Memorial Day parade. In July, Troop 123 had a busy and unforgettable week at Treasure Valley’s summer camp at the Evergreen campsite.

After summer camp, I began work on my Eagle Scout Project, improving the navigation of Turn Back Time Farm. Meanwhile, the Harvest Fair and the Fall Can Can Drive took place in September, alongside new thematic changes to the Scout meetings, such as the format of the opening flag ceremonies. The new music themes included music, cooking, and communications, with inventive ways to explore these themes.

Near the end of the year, we had someone come in to improve our marching formation, with official two-statement commands, such as “Dress right, dress!” and “Troop, At ease!” By the end of just the first meeting, our formations looked worlds better and we felt better knowing it.

Our forward march skills will be far from the only thing that has improved or will improve from here on out. Our Troop has triumphantly proven itself to be a competitive, cooperative, leadership-oriented, successful Troop of the Boy Scouts of America. The Troop’s Scouts’ sense of the Scout Law and Oath in their day-to-day lives has been awakened, and we are sure to see this kind of success in the future as well.

Until then, this is Historian Joe, signing out!

A Historian’s Eagle Scout Project Completed!

In November of 2017, I celebrated the completion of my Eagle Scout Service Project, after hundreds of hours poured in, and numerous donations. The celebration event utilized the project for a scavenger hunt with prizes and an exploration factor.

The project took place at Turn Back Time Farm in Paxton, MA. This location runs classes for kids with special needs in its 58-acre series of trails throughout a forest. My project was to establish a navigation system in the farm by creating a map and building a structure on which to place a large copy of the map, as well as providing smaller copies for people to take with them through the trails.

The celebration welcomed any family interested in enjoying the map experience, and an unbelievable amount of families showed up for the scavenger hunt! Leicester Selectman Doug Belanger even attended to observe the project and congratulate me on a successful positive impact for the farm through the map and blazes. The hunt was a triumph and prizes were allotted accordingly. The closing event was short, but successful.

Troop 123 also had several other members show up, who helped set up the scavenger hunt along with Damien, a member of the family who runs the farm. The hunt involved going to, and collecting candy from, five points of interest along the map: playground, waterfall, pallet bridge, fort, and of course, Lion Rock! The object was to return to the starting point with all the candy pieces, uneaten. The initial prize was the candy itself, on top of goodies within a first-come-first-serve prize box. The hunt served as an effective closing celebration for an Eagle Scout project sure to positively influence the farm for years to come.

Seeing the project unfold the way it did was a blast. Watching everyone use the map I made for the farm, and be able to find locations with it, was incredible. A project of true Eagle Scout calibur allows for moments like this; I encourage all Life Scouts out there to get a start on their own Eagle projects as soon as they can. Until then, this is Historian Joe signing off!

The Ultimate Scout Camp Week – Treasure Valley, Summer 2017

Summer camp. For the average kid, it means a way to interact with others through an unconventional education; often it involves nature, but is never quite enveloped by it. For a Boy Scout, it means untamed nature casting its powers upon merit badge-bound boys, with their wits versus the wilderness itself. I had gone to Treasure Valley’s own summer camp in the past: 2012, 2013, and 2016, each year becoming more and more enjoyable. 2012 saw my victories over the First Aid, Orienteering, Geocaching, and Art merit badges. In 2013 I triumphed the Chemistry, Weather, and Painting badges. In 2016 I snagged the Model Design & Building and Swimming badges. This year, I sought out a string of badges that would determine the course of my career as a boy scout. With four eagle required merit badges remaining, and three available at camp, I signed up for all three and took on the challenge in full scale, which only meant one thing: I was going to stay overnight the whole six days, something I had never done before. Cooking, Camping, and Family Life stood in my way. If I went home with all three, Eagle would seem a mere step away. Two, and it would still absolutely be doable. One, and the situation becomes complicated. And if I struck out, the chances of achieving the most prestigious rank in Scouting would be nigh impossible. It was time to strap in for the most important week of my scouting career: Summer Camp of July 2017.

I arrived Sunday, and the sun was already blazing down on everyone, crisping the skin of the poor souls who spaced out on sunscreen. Once the Troop was assembled and ready to move on out, we experienced a relief from the heat of the sun in the form of shade provided by the massive trees encompassing the trails of Treasure Valley. However, this was merely jumping out of the deep-frying pan and into the open fire, as an onslaught of mosquitoes began to swarm in on a series of new prey items. Bug spray in Treasure Valley merely delays the inevitable, making campfires, thunderstorms, and the occasional swim at Waterfront the only ways to truly avoid taking dozens of bites in the span of a day. After taking our troop picture, we headed for the Waterfront to take the BSA swimmer test. After a refreshing dip in Browning Pond, it was time to set up camp.

Our campsite was located at a strategic point: Evergreen, just outside of East Lodge, the meal site, as well as being in between the two primary merit badge locations: Scoutcraft and Handicraft. With a mostly smooth surface and relatively well maintained hard shelter, it was hard to ask for a better site. At the site, we chose tent buddies and entered our tents to set up our sleeping bags, and more importantly, our mosquito nets. Every dinner, with the exception of Friday, was to be attended in our Class A uniforms, which meant going to Boonesville plains for the pre-meal flag ceremony, and eating dinner, in an extra layer of clothing. On the bright side, the choices of food at every meal were diverse and consistently delectable. After dinner, the patrols split up to meet at different chapels, to hear a prayer for the upcoming week. Together, all Scouts were united under the hope of a successful, lucrative week at Treasure Valley. Then, it was off to the shower houses and off to bed. The morning after would be awaiting us in anticipated.

Monday morning, we had our first merit badge classes. On top of the three Eagle-required merit badges I was taking, I filled in the other two slots with Chess and Game Design. Each of my five classes was hopeful; I had potential to at least come very close to completing every single badge. That night, our Troop participated in a trivia contest, which mainly focused on geography. Troop 123 scout Brady White demonstrated his prowess for this subject, which would lead to one of several victories of Troop 123 at Treasure Valley in 2017. On Tuesday, the Game Design merit badge Scouts were given their assignment to design their own game with specific established elements of design, such as genre, player format, story, and objective. Scouts Jacob Stolberg, Nate Keevan, Tim Dufresne, and I quickly began work on our games. My game combined the concepts of board and card games into a game I would call The Suitable Journey, a 100-space board game where players advanced based off of special dice and decks of cards. This game ranged in length depending on the luck of the draw. Nate’s game Shape Shifter, based off of a 1980 movie, would go on to be a staple of Troop 123’s outings, and still is to this day. My classes continued to be mostly hopeful; Game Design and Chess were coming along, Camping was projected to be earned, and Cooking was projected to give a partial excluding only one requirement. Family Life was looking relatively bleak, however, as several requirements did not seem possible under the week-long time frame. Wednesday continued these trends as our badges progressed together. Each day we would stop by the Trading Post to get a bit of an energy boost in the form of the post’s food supplies. Wednesday’s layout was definitely the most diverse and in turn the most helpful. Family Life, near the end of the day, began to look hopeful once more.

Thursday was the hottest day of the week by far. The Waterfront was mobbed all day long and the bathrooms were effectively saunas. By dinner time, everyone’s energy was drained from their systems. Thankfully, Sunday’s prayer began to manifest itself as the sun set and the temperature dropped considerably– from extremely hot to mildly hot. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Troop 123’s Scouts took their merit badge workbooks along with them to Boonesville to finish up their requirements while watching Treasure Valley’s movie night showcase: Pixar’s UP. That night, we slept with visions of earned merit badges dancing in our heads. Those visions were set to materialize on Friday, where Troop 123 saw a plethora of scouts earning Eagle-required and non-Eagle-required merit badges alike, and I joined the scene, successfully earning Family Life, Camping, Game Design, and Chess, with only one requirement left in Cooking. The rank of Eagle Scout was once again in sight. That evening we celebrated in the non-Class A dinner, after performing impressively at the Magee Day Games. That Saturday, awards were handed out to Troop 123 for winning 1st place in the Magee Day Games and the trivia contest, as well as honoring several new Troop 123 members of the Order of the Arrow.

For me, the journey did not end here. As soon as I returned home with four new merit badges in hand, I knew my Eagle Scout Service project was next. As for the week in whole, it was the quintessential week of summer camp any scout could have dreamed of, and I was proud to have braved every moment of it. I may have had to battle over seventy subsequent mosquito bites all over my body, but with only two merit badges left to earn, already having started both, it was hard to complain. Scout camp is now behind me as an unforgettable experience, even topping that of Troop 123’s outing in Philadelphia. I wish the best for Troop 123’s Scout Camp experiences to come. Until then, this is Historian Joe signing off.

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