June 25, 2011 8:59:00 PM
Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]
Monday was almost unbearably hot and humid. Tuesday, it rained and the power went out. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, more of the same.
Welcome to Cub Scout Challenge 2011, the Pushmataha Area Council''s annual weeklong summer day camp, which concluded Friday at Camp Seminole in Starkville.
This year''s theme focused on character development, and even the weather played a role in teaching the 44 boys -- first through fifth graders -- a lesson about life, perseverance and being your best under the worst of conditions.
The lesson didn''t bypass organizers either.
In years past, more than 500 Scouts would have been tromping through the woods, said Melanie Green, director of the day camp. But these days, the 10-county Pushmataha Council has a scant 1,000 members.
Things have changed. Money and time are tighter, and for everything that must be done in a day, there''s a plethora of choices to be made.
There are more single parents and grandparents raising families. There are more summer activities to choose between, from Vacation Bible School to soccer, Little League and summer theater.
Lingering recession woes and escalating gas prices make the $75 per child fee, and the long drive to Camp Seminole, an extra challenge.
But those who got to participate said meeting the challenges was part of the fun.
''That''s what being a boy''s all about''
Green leaned over a printer in the Camp Seminole administration office and tried to coax the recalcitrant machine to spit forth its bounty. In the background, a NOAA weather radio screeched, warning of an impending thunderstorm.
Pack leaders and Scoutmasters drifted in and out of the office, scurrying to finalize plans for the evening''s family picnic. A few buildings away, Cub Scouts relaxed after lunch by playing board games.
Green said for many Scouts, the almost quaint pleasure of playing chess on a rainy day is a novelty, as is getting to go outside and play in the wet stuff.
Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Chris Dewey, of Starkville Martial Arts Academy, put them through a rigorous session of jumping jacks and pushups -- all in the rain.
Green said the boys didn''t grumble at all. In fact, Dewey was so impressed with their attitudes that he gave one-semester Martial Arts Academy scholarships to Cub Scouts Karl Grebner and Evan Claude of Starkville, and Tyler Smith of West Point.
"Sometimes we forget that''s what being a boy''s all about," Green said. "We focused a lot this week on respect, courage, faith and especially health and fitness. Kids just don''t get outside much. They''ve probably been outside more this week than all year."
Every day featured a different activity.
Monday, Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and Becky Roland of Gulf States Manufacturers helped kick things into high gear.
Tuesday, Dewey talked with the boys about health and physical fitness.
Wednesday, vision therapist Sheri Robertson of Snider Therapy (which has offices in Columbus and Birmingham, Ala.), spoke about vision problems that can affect reading and learning.
On Thursday, tennis coach Vanessa Shaffer of Starkville-based Active & Able, introduced the boys to the President''s Challenge, which encourages young people to track their physical activities and improve their fitness.
Friday, Starkville firemen Todd Palmer and Steen McMullen talked about their jobs and the importance of trust, communication and staying in good physical shape.
At times, it was hard to tell who was having more fun, the Scouts or their leaders.
''I''d send every one to camp''
Jerry Green, leader of Pack 1 in Columbus, said he looks forward to attending the summer camp every year. Out of his pack of 18 boys though, only his son, Korey Green, was able to attend.
Most of his pack is made up of single parents, and between the long drive from Columbus and the attendance fee, he said the day camp might have been too much of a financial strain.
Still, though, he feels it''s such an important part of a Cub Scout''s experience, he wishes every child could have the opportunity to attend.
It''s not just about learning outdoors skills, some of which are only available at the day camp, he said. It''s also about having the chance to meet Scouts from across the Council, introducing them to people -- and potential new friends -- they wouldn''t otherwise get to meet.
"If I could take $10,000, I''d send every one of them to camp," Green said. "Some of them, maybe their dads don''t ever get to throw a ball to them. Sometimes they''ll come talk to you about stuff. I get that warm, cozy feeling when I come out here. I think it''s wonderful."
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.