By JESSICA WILLIAMS
Local Boys Scouts of America troops and their leaders are finding some interesting ways to continue with the activities that define the mission of the organization:
“To prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”
Recently, I spoke with Brandon Kathman about the many ways Withlacoochee District Scouts are handling COVID-19. Kathman is the Withlacoochee District Executive of Boy Scouts of America, Greater Tampa Bay Council.
The Withlacoochee District includes Hernando, Citrus and Sumter counties.
“There are 1,019 kids in our district and it is one of the fastest growing districts, with over 40 units to include 4 active girl units,” Kathman said. “It truly is amazing how they have all come together and maintained a cheerful response during these unforeseen times.”
Scouts Virtual Car Show
A Virtual Car Show? Yes. You read that, correctly.
The Withlacoochee District Scouts have been participating in this one of a kind competition during these uncertain times. As mentioned on the Tampa Bay Scouting website, the car show was “open to all scouts, siblings, and parents who spent time making a Pinewood Derby car.” Winners are scheduled to be posted this Thursday, April 30th.
“I have been so privileged to work with the volunteers and youth leaders in this district; they have completely blown me away with their response to the pandemic,” he said. “The kids have worked really hard on their derby cars.”
In addition, the parents have even gone the extra mile and have created their own derby cars at home. “We refer to these at the ‘outlaw cars’ as they do not necessarily follow the guidelines but are still fun to build and show off,” Kathman said.
“A Scout is Kind”
Since the pandemic began with schools and business closings, the Withlacoochee District Scouts have also participated in activities such as “A Scout is Kind,” which is a social media challenge that encourages scouts to be creatively kind in their community. Recently, the local district hand-wrote and delivered 138 Easter cards to the Brooksville Healthcare Skilled Nursing Facility for long-term elderly patients who likely have no visitors at this time.
Emily Thomas, a committee member of the Withlacoochee District, spearheaded this challenge.
Virtual Merit Badges
Every evening scouts have the opportunity to earn 2 virtual merit badges.
“Currently we are teaching the personal management and coin collecting merit badges in these virtual meetings,” Kathman said, “I am also proud of the folks who have stepped up to teach merit badge lessons for the older kids and I feel confident we will be able to award over 100 badges by the end of April.”
Hannah Bryant, a scout with Troop 8681G commented, “I actually did Citizenship in the Community, Communication and Personal Management online through zoom.” She added, “I know a lot of people have a hard time staying active during this pandemic, but I feel like our family is definitely still active through scouting.”
Backyard camping is another activity scouts have participated in. An online backyard camping challenge was held through social media, which saw over 40 participants.
Even though social distancing has prevented scouts from routine group participation and many activities, it has not stopped them from being able to have fun and connect with each other, even if it’s through virtual communication.
"I think the Camp at Home Contest was ingenious," Holly Swenson, a parent with Troop 433 said. "It still gave the boys a way to feel a part of Scouting in this weird time. I thought it was cool. I thought it was different. It was BSA thinking outside of the box for the youth.
Parent Jill Migone remarked, “Scouting is a huge part of my kids daily lives, it seems everything we do revolves around scouting... with this pandemic everything came to a drastic halt and all of the activities and events we had planned over the next few months were canceled. My kids were so bummed out! So when I saw the idea for “Camp at home” I thought it would be absolutely perfect not only for my scouts, but for all our scouts! It was an absolute blast! My kids had so much fun! Our tent STILL has not come down and we are camping several times a week! It’s been such a great distraction!”
As well as serving as the Withlacoochee District Executive of Boy Scouts of America, Greater Tampa Bay Council, Kathman leads the S.T.E.M. Scouts for the Tampa Bay Area. (S.T.E.M. stands for ‘Science, Technology, Engineering and Math’ skills). Information found at stemscouts.org states, “We bring science, technology, engineering and math together in fun new ways. Learn, invent and discover new things while working with professionals in STEM fields.” The local STEM lab, for grades 3-5, is located in Spring Hill at the Westside Boys and Girls Club and meets on Fridays 7-9PM, but has been put on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.
While some activities have had to take a pause like the S.T.E.M Lab, there are still many opportunities for scouts in the area.
“Scouting is strong in Withlacoochee District,” District Chair John Coble said. “We have some very dedicated scout leaders in Citrus, Hernando and Sumter Counties who are coming up with very unique ways to keep the program going for our youth.”
More information can be found about the many current virtual events sponsored by Withlacoochee District Boy Scouts of America at TampaBayScouting.org or please contact Brandon Kathman (Withlacoochee District Executive) at [email protected]/contact: (352)459-9375.