The troop of 12- and
coordinated the trip.
By REBECCA SLOAN
KINSMAN — Summer is far from over, but it’s already been an unforgettable season for youths from the Boy Scouts of America Troop 93 of Kinsman.
After 10 months of planning, hard work and fundraisers, the troop collected enough money to take a five-day trip to Washington, D.C.
During the June 21-25 stay in the nation’s capital the Scouts got V.I.P. access to many historic sites.
“They got to see and do things the regular tourist does not,” said troop leader Joel Ford. “They laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, toured the Pentagon and camped at Antietam Battlefield, which is a privilege reserved for Boy Scouts.”
During the trip, the troop also received assistance from the staff of Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette.
Staff members gave a tour of LaTourette’s office “and showed us some of the sights,” Ford explained.
To raise money for the trip, the boys collected aluminum cans, updated messages on the Kinsman community sign and assisted with benefit dinners hosted by the Kinsman Presbyterian Church and the Kinsman Fire Department. Troop members also received financial support from local sponsors and friends.
“They really did most of the planning themselves,” Ford said. “It’s quite an accomplishment for a troop of 12- and 13-year-old-boys to coordinate a trip like this. I know of no other local troops who’ve done something comparable to this.”
Although the D.C. trip was packed with fun and adventure, many of the Scouts also used the opportunity to knuckle down and earn merit badges toward making Eagle Scout — the highest honor attainable by Boy Scouts. (Only about 2 percent of scouts ever attain the Eagle status.)
During the trip, boys from Troop 93 fulfilled requirements for merit badges in citizenship, camping and cycling.
“Scouts have four months to earn a merit badge, so work toward these badges started at home,” Ford explained.
To earn their citizenship merit badges, for example, the boys learned about how government works and wrote essays on political issues such as global warming and health care. The trip to the nation’s capital was the final step in earning the badge.
Perhaps the most challenging merit badge to snag, however, was the cycling badge. To get it, the boys were required to bike 100 miles, 80 of which must be completed within one eight-hour time slot.
The boys decided to tackle the cycling badge challenge while on their trip.
“There were some sore muscles, but they came through pretty good,” Ford said of the Scouts’ marathon bike ride. “They finished with 20 minutes to spare and still had a lot of energy afterward — enough to set up camp and cook a meal [at Antietam].”
The boys rode their bikes along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, a national park trail that snakes through West Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia along the Potomac River. The mostly shaded trail is scenic and rich in history.
“The boys got to see Harper’s Ferry, remnants of the old canal and many beautiful waterfalls,” said assistant Scoutmaster Gary Cook.
Troop member Tim White, 13, of Kinsman, enjoyed venturing into caves along the trail that were once used as campsites by Civil War soldiers.
While in the capital, White was also very excited to locate his grandfather’s name on the World War II Memorial.
Scout Sean Dunfee, 13, also of Kinsman, enjoyed his first ride on a big city subway, while Alex Cook, 12, and Jared Ford, 13, will never forget their visit to the Pentagon and all the famous monuments they’d seen on television.
Troop leader Ford said about two-thirds of Troop 93 are already Star Scouts, which is two steps away from becoming an Eagle Scout.
“Star Scout [status] is pretty far advanced for a troop of 12- and 13 year-old boys,” Ford said, adding, “We are a very active troop. We typically go on outings every month, but this is the biggest trip we’ve been on so far.”
Troop 93 was restarted only 21⁄2 years ago. “It had existed for decades but hadn’t been active until just recently,” Ford explained.
There are 15 scouts in Troop 93. Most of them live in Kinsman, but a few are from Cortland, and one is from Canfield.
Including parents and siblings, 52 people made the trip to Washington D.C.
“There’s nothing competitive in it. It’s about working together as a team. The reason the Boy Scouts do this is to learn to be responsible and do their best,” Ford said.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the D.C. trip was devoid of humorous twists and surprises, especially for the parents.
Cook said there were challenges in transporting a big load of bikes on a flatbed trailer and more challenges in moving a big group of people on and off the city subways.
Cook, Ford, Ford’s wife, Linda, and Rob and Susan White, parents of Scout Tim White, laughed wryly when they recalled the rain-soaked night of primitive camping at Antietam and the subsequent two-day wait for a hot shower.
What elicited even more laughs, however, was the memory of spotting famed TV journalist Ted Koppel in an unexpected place.
“One of the moms saw Ted Koppel,” Ford said. “What made it humorous was that he was emerging from a port-a-john.”