Emergency preparedness was the theme of the Boy Scout’s "camporee" held last weekend at J.F. Gregory Park in Richmond Hill.
Scout troops from Bryan, Liberty, Evans, Toombs and Long counties came to the park to participate in scouting activities such as canoeing and campfire cooking, as well as learn with the community on Saturday the importance of being prepared for both natural and man-made emergencies.
The scouts spent Friday and Saturday nights at the park but Saturday morning and afternoon the public was invited to come out and talk with representatives from the American Red Cross, Forestry Commission, Fish and Wildlife Service and local EMS and fire units. The Coast Guard, Chatham County Mosquito Control and MedStar all flew in on their helicopters.
"People need to be aware of how to prepare," said Alan Gerrett, assistant scout master for troop 400 in Richmond Hill and one of the event organizers. "We hope the community comes out and sees what the scouts do and learn from them."
He said the event is in line with the Boy Scouts motto "be prepared."
The Saturday events were kicked off with talks from Richmond Hill Mayor Richard Davis as well as First District Congressional Representative Jack Kingston.
Davis told the scouts he was proud of what they do for the community.
"It’s certainly thrilling and wonderful for me to be here with you today," he said. "My favorite place is J.F. Gregory Park and my favorite people to talk to are Boy Scouts. I want to thank you scouts for being on the front line of community service and for everything you do in the community."
Kingston, who has been a strong advocate for the Boy Scouts, told the boys they are the future of this country.
"In this group over here we all know what we’re looking at — we’re looking at future leaders. We’re looking at teachers, we’re looking at business leaders, we’re looking at elected officials, we’re looking at soldiers," he said. "We’re looking at the next generation that will carry the freedom that keeps American independent. And we appreciate that."
Kingston said the Boy Scouts have been under attack lately, mainly because of their stance on religion, and he cited an example in Valdosta where a national bank chain refused to sponsor the group because of that stance, and that the bank decided "Boy Scout values are not in the interest of America."
"The most controversial value seems to be your belief in God," Kingston said. "And it’s odd that in America today that would be under attack, because as we look back at the history of this country you cannot divide America from its religion, and you cannot divide American from Judeo-Christian ethics." He cited a speech by Abraham Lincoln in which he mentioned God 14 times and Franklin D. Roosevelt leading the nation in a nine-minute prayer on national radio during World War II as examples of the country’s deep Christian roots.
Brian Calkins, who lives in Richmond Hill and is a member of troop 400, became an Eagle Scout – the group’s highest honor – on Feb. 24. He said scouting has made a huge impact on his life.
"I think what’s been most important about scouting is the leadership aspect," Calkins said. "I plan to be a pastor in the Army, and it’s helped me be able to connect with other people in life. It’s also helped me get along with others." He said his favorite part of being a scout is being outdoors.
"I like the backpacking portion of it, where you can go out without anything just you and a couple of the other guys carrying your own food, self-survival, stuff like that," he said. "Give me a hammock and a knife and I’ll be good. Leave me out there for a week and come back and I’ll be fine. It’s taught me how to find things whenever they seem not to be there, such as searching for food, searching for a fire, searching for a place to sleep and searching for water."
The camporee, attended by about 100 scouts from and nearly 60 chaperones, was sponsored by the Liberty District of the Coastal Empire Council of the Boy Scouts of America.