BY JEFF OLSON –
During our thirty-six years in Mena, Denise and I have made many great memories in a wonderful place with wonderful people. A major part of that was raising our three children and hosting five foreign exchange students, all of which made our lives more blessed in so many ways. Some of the best memories with our son Erik centered around his experience in the Boy Scouts of America. He began in Cub Scouts in Den 5, Pack 73 in 1994 and in 1998 began his journey in Boy Scouts to Eagle Scout in Troop 92, achieving that milestone in 2003. However, this journey would not have been near as rich and rewarding had it not been for a local Scouting institution named Camp Pioneer. How many other Eagle Scouts could say that truthfully? Thousands, at least, and so here I take the liberty to speak for them also.
Before I go any further, I know that there are many other Scouters who could also share what I am about to share here and if I had the time and space to tell my/our story through it would be mostly their story as well. As we recognize its 100th anniversary, Camp Pioneer’s story is that of many thousands of people – boys, leaders, parents, volunteers and others who experienced (and gave of themselves so that others might experience) the best that Scouting had to offer during summer camp and other outdoor gatherings and events. In turn, these boys and young men grew into adults who espoused and lived out Scouting’s core values and became the men, husbands, fathers, employees and leaders who helped to make their communities, states and nation a better place for their generation and for those yet unborn.
This story has many events and chapters, full of smiles, tears, joys, fears, love and challenge. It’s the story of the young scout whose parents bring him to summer camp for the very first time and it’s a new experience for him. He’s excited about it, though still a bit nervous but the Scoutmaster assures Mom & Dad that all will be fine once the youngster gets settled in and starts all the activities and fun (sometimes it was the parents who were most nervous and at times hesitant to let go); It’s the story of the scout who really doesn’t want to follow the rules as much as he should, but with some kind but firm guidance (and an occasional ultimatum) the scout decides he really does want to stay enough to adhere to scouting rules and the Scoutmaster’s authority; It’s the story of the scout that decides he wants to go home early because he’s homesick or it’s too hot or he misses TV, video games, Mom’s cooking and his own bed. It’s the story of the Scout that completes the Rich Mountain Hike for the first time, but not without some much needed encouragement and perhaps a little more moleskin for his hurting feet from his fellow Scouters; It’s the story of a mother who realizes after camp that her worry should have included more of how to get her Scout’s clothes (and him!) clean; It’s the story of the Scoutmaster who gets so weary but is sustained by the pride he feels for his boys; It’s the story of the Camp Ranger whose full-time job gets fuller during summer camp and who is a life-saving source to keep the Camp going; It’s the story of the Camp Director pulling his hair out when contingencies arise beyond even those which were planned for and within the realm of reason and experience; It’s the story of many proud moments at camp’s end when the bonfire and closing ceremony honors and awards the scout’s and troop’s week-long achievements while Mom and Dad proudly take it in. Ultimately, it’s these and many other stories which represent the reality of boys who grew, persevered and succeeded through camp and Scouting. What these and other untold stories have in common is that boys, especially those who attended more than once, typically left Camp Pioneer with a stronger sense of self-esteem, self-reliance, self-confidence and camaraderie, but most importantly – with a stronger understanding of selflessness, team work, dependability, accountability, faith and of who they were. These qualities all constitute and instill into boys the measure of the man they will one day be.
So, how did this special place called Camp Pioneer come to be? This will be the primary subject in Part II of this series which will be in next week’s edition of the Polk County Pulse.