The pandemic of 2020 has affected everything – even Scout troops. Here is how we have reacted:
March 2020: Our last ‘regular’ troop meeting was March 11, a gym night at the St. Ambrose school gymnasium. After an hour of whatever games the Scouts chose to play – dodge ball, indoor soccer, some other game that defied explanation – with the Scouts flush from excitement, we reviewed our upcoming programming: a pancake breakfast fund-raiser, hockey night with the Amerks, a visit by a couple cub scout Webelos dens, a maple sugaring campout, a bowling party. And that was just through April.
Within a couple days that entire program was wiped out. What to do? It took a couple weeks to figure it out, but…
April 2020: Like so many others we learned that “Zoom” was a noun, a verb, and a window into the new world we entered. Our first Zoom Troop Meeting was April 15. Attendance was strong and the Scouts seemed to enjoy ‘seeing’ each other (and seeing each other’s bedrooms, family rooms, cars or whatever). Meetings opened with the Scout Oath and closed with Vespers. Advancement work was engaged in, but mostly it was a break from everything else going on, with Kahoots! games, hidden room games, household scavenger hunts etc. Attendance was strong, week after week.
And the Burke Family went all-in on online merit badges, counseling hundreds of Scouts around the country, and even outside the country, on countless merit badges.
But, as the saying goes, three-quarters of ScOUTING is OUTING, and with New York in complete lockdown, we needed an alternative outside activity: the Easter Egg hunts. Starting the week after our first Zoom meeting, we sent out weekly instructions for our Scouts go get out to a local park with their family, hike around, and have their picture taken at some spot within the park – the picture was the collected Easter Egg. The parks we chose were near our part of Monroe County, mostly around Irondequoit Bay. The first two Easter Egg hunts, in April, were in Irondequoit Bay West and Lucien Morin Parks. Several of our families took advantage of the hikes and the opportunity to get the heck out of the house.
In other words, the Troop was doing the same outdoor activity, just not at the same time. Still, we really wanted to get together with each other…
May 2020: The month started out as the same as April, with weekly Zoom meetings and Easter Egg hunts. The old Camp Cutler Boy Scout cabins in Webster Park was the location of hike #4, and for Hike #5 we went to Ellison Park. But as New York State crept toward opening up, we scheduled our first socially distanced, low risk, outside activity: a hike around the Irondequoit Creek outlet, looping around Lucien Morin and Tryon Parks.
The following weekend, Sammy and his mother organized a weekend virtual campout, with backyard camping, proper packing contests, cooking competitions, Kahoots! games, and, right in the middle, a short in-person hike at Abraham Lincoln Park.
We also invited to these events Webelos from Pack 60, Culver Ridge Fire Department. We had great attendance from these crossover Scouts and their family members.
By the end of May, a new phrase entered the language: ‘Zoomed out’, to describe the countless Zoom meetings Scouts had to participate in for school and other activities. Time to try actual in-person meetings, safely, of course…
June 2020: By the second week in June, we were ready for Wednesday night outdoor meetings: fishing at Irondequoit Creek in Ellison Park, geocaching in Webster Park, and bicycling to Pittsford and back along the Auburn Trail. Webelos attended all these events.
We also held our first pandemic era fund-raising activity, a bottle-and-can drive. These drives have been our main fund-raiser for 25 years, but we couldn’t operate it as we had in the past, by handing out fliers door-to-door in our neighborhoods and then returning two weeks later to drive up and down the streets looking for the returnables left out for us. Instead we had to rely on word-of-mouth and social media postings for people to bring to us their returnables, which they did, big time.
Our Senior Patrol Leader, Patrick, also needed to complete his Eagle Scout project, refurbishing the ramp and front wall of the benefits building of the Eastern Service Workers Association on Bay Street in Rochester. Scouts, leaders, and alumni, as well as community volunteers and teammates of Patrick’s football team all helped Patrick complete this project, safely.
Time for a (socially distanced) party…
July 2020: Our annual troop picnic and Court of Honor was delayed until July 1, but almost all of our families joined us on the lawn of St. James Church. Each family was stationed in their own spot and we skipped the dish-to-pass feature of prior picnics, but we enjoyed charcoal grilled hots, sausages and chicken, and welcomed five new Scouts into the Troop.
We plan to continue safe outside activities this summer, and hope to hold a week of camping in August, in place of our usual Council Summer Camp trip, but more on that when plans are finalized.