By Sean Barron
Patrick Brennan stood atop a slight hill holding a flag while sending to part of his patrol a secret message to be decoded.
Perhaps the biggest message the 15-year-old member of Poland-based Boy Scout Troop 2 received, though, was a better understanding of the importance of critical-thinking and collaboration in problem-solving.
“I’ve learned teamwork and how to get things done on your own,” Patrick said while participating in the signaling activity, one of seven stations that made up Saturday’s 2014 Boy Scout Klondike Derby at Camp Stambaugh, 3712 Leffing-well Road.
Sponsoring the annual all-day winter outdoor gathering was the Whispering Pines District Greater Western Reserve Council Boy Scouts of America.
Patrick was among the estimated 177 Mahoning County Scouts age 11 to 18 participating in the derby, noted Byron Harnishfeger, a Scoutmaster with Troop 60 of Boardman, which hosted the event.
Patrick was part of one patrol group that was handed the challenge of sending to the second group a message to decode via Morse code, flags and other means before the patrols switched roles. Points were awarded for skill level and teamwork.
All seven events were given names reminiscent of the Klondike gold rush in Alaska: Sitka, a mule pull and log hoist; Grizzley, a timed sled race; Cheekachoo, multiple-choice questions pertaining to compasses and topographic maps; Anchorage, first-aid skills training; Fairbanks, fire-building methods as well as knife and ax safety; Kodiak, signaling techniques; and Whitehorse, shelling and cooking corn to be ground into cornmeal using various utensils.
To test their first-aid knowledge, the Scouts were given four simulated scenarios in which fellow troop members played the victims. One hypothetical situation challenged them to know what to do for someone who’s unconscious with a blue complexion near a shore.
The first – and often most-overlooked step – is to determine if the scene is safe, noted Joe Vasko, a Troop 60 committee member.
If so, it’s vital to quickly but carefully administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation if the person is not breathing. Other important factors that have to be considered include determining if other injures are present. If the victim has a broken leg, for example, it’s critical to know how to immobilize the person before summoning professional help, Vasko explained.
Good listening skills were paramount for the mule-pull event, in which 13-year-old Alexander Mazon of Youngstown-based Troop 22 was patrol leader.
“The first time was kind of exciting, a new experience,” the seven-year Boy Scout said, referring to having given directions to six fellow Scouts who were blindfolded and had to maneuver a sled between cones and through a serpentine course.
The only commands Alexander was allowed to give from behind the boys were one-word sounds that represented stopping, going and moving right or left.
One of those doing his best to heed Alexander’s directives was Tyler Bartell, 15, a six-year Scout.
“It’s about trusting your leader and all about teamwork” Tyler said. “I knew he would guide us through the course safely.”
Beyond providing fun but challenging activities such as the mule pull, Scouting has fostered his appreciation of the value of teamwork and cooperation, he added. In addition, he said, the experience likely will prime him for success in college, finding a job and other long-term goals.
Adding to the event’s difficulty was having the boys’ backpacks and other items on the sled, said Steve Gibson, an assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 44 of Poland.
Nearby, other Scouts took part in the log hoist in which the groups threw ropes over a 12-foot-high level bar, tied one rope end around a log with a timber-hitch knot, thrust the log off the ground and tied it to a stake without allowing it to touch the ground.
Like the other activities, the hoist offered points for demonstrating skill level, teamwork and a spirit of cooperation, noted Martin Larue of Troop 44.
The Klondike’s purpose was to teach a variety of skills, but also to reinforce the importance of Scouting’s 12 core values and life-lessons that include respect for others, health and fitness, resourcefulness, courage and responsibility, officials said.