BROOKINGS – For local Boy Scout Troop 13, a major annual fundraiser to earn money for a wide variety of the troop’s scouting activities had long been a spaghetti dinner, raffle and silent auction.
When it didn’t happen in 2020 and won’t happen this year – COVID-19 got in the way both times – a new way to raise funds was needed.
Especially affected are 18 Scouts who are looking to raise $2,000 each for a June trip to Sea Base in the Florida Keys. Sea Base bills itself as “a unique Scouting program that offers aquatic programs found nowhere else.”
Troop 13 had done the Sea Base program about eight years ago; but none of those who went are still in the troop.
“It’s a high-adventure Scout camp, more for older Scouts,” explained Troop 13 Scout Leader Neil Thomas. “It’s for six days on an uninhabited island, reachable by a sea kayak that holds eight people.” For this trip, the troop will be divided into three crews of eight: six Scouts and two adults per crew.
After reaching the island, the crews will set up camp. Then during their stay, they will participate in adventurous activities that include shark fishing (from a platform), deep-sea fishing, kayaking in the mangroves and snorkeling on the reefs, both during the day and at night.
But to make the adventure happen, the Troop had to come up with some fundraising to replace the revenue from the spaghetti dinner, raffle and silent auction. It did: selling firewood and bat houses. And the 18 Scouts had to come up with some money on their own.
Firewood, bat houses
“We sell lots of firewood,” Cameron Thomas, 16, said. He’s been in Scouting for five years. “We did a pretty good business. People are going back and forth to Oakwood.
“It comes from a lot of donations from farmers around us,” he said. “When storms hit and a lot of trees fall, we go out there sometimes and clean it up and they let us take the firewood out. Sometimes they’ve already cut it up into big chunks and we split it. One time last summer we had to go out and cut down the trees on the guy’s property,” Cameron Thomas added.
“They called us up because they needed some help. They had about 15 trees that had blown over. We cleaned up a lot of the stuff and were able to take the wood home.”
The troop had planned to sell bat houses at the 2020 Brookings Summer Arts Festival. But with the coming of COVID-19, that didn’t happen. Sales have been shifted to Facebook.
Building the bat houses was spearheaded by Nick Teal as his Eagle Scout project.
”The bat houses started with McCrory Gardens wanting a natural way to take care of mosquitoes,” Teal said, explaining the genesis of what became his Eagle Scout project. “So I ended up helping them. They had an idea from an existing bat house. And they wanted more.
“So I went and researched and found the amount of mosquitoes a bat can eat per night. It was a rather large number.”
Teal described a bat house as “a place where the bats can live and expand their colonies in a warm, dry place and be safe from predators.”
Getting the job done
After researching his Eagle project, Teal explained it at the McCrory Gardens annual party in August 2019. Several people, including a South Dakota state legislator, approached him and told him “they would like bat houses for their backyards and around the community.”
“That’s where the idea came from to start making them and selling them,” he said. “We thought it would be a good Troop fundraiser.”
A key requirement for an Eagle project is that the Scout undertaking it provide leadership to his fellow Scouts. While Teal did some of the work himself, he directed other Scouts in bringing the project to fruition.
“I had the younger boys come and execute the work, actually building and assembling, putting (the bat houses) together and ready for use,” he explained. A total of more than 200 bat houses have been built; ten have been sold.
“We were making 200, so we could sell them at the arts festival,” Scout Leader Thomas noted. ”Of course, the arts festival didn’t happen.” So the Scouts have the bat houses and no single venue where they can sell them.
Meanwhile, the Scouts who will be going to Sea Base are looking forward to the adventure – and pursuing ways to raise the $2,000 each needed to make it happen.
“I can only imagine how much fun this is going to be,” Jacob York, 14, the youngest Scout who’ll be taking the trip, said. “I’m super excited. I’ve been to Florida, but never like this.”
As to fundraising?
“I’ve been kind of lucky,” York said. As an eighth-grader at Mickelson Middle School, he was scheduled for a “pretty cool” trip to Washington, D.C., in 2020 at the end of the school year. That was canceled, another victim of the coronavirus. He took some of the funds from that and applied them to the Sea Base adventure.
Teal, 17, has been planning for an adventure outing like this for a while and has been setting aside funds for it.
Thomas, 16, has been shoveling snow this winter to raise money.
York, Thomas and Teal are all anticipating the unique “high-adventure Scout camp in the Florida Keys” that lies ahead. They appreciate that “South Dakota kids aren’t going to get to go deep sea fishing very often.”
Donations to help cover the cost for the 18 Scouts going can be sent to: Troop 13, 1402 17th Ave. S., Brookings, SD 57006.
Additional information about the trip and the purchase of firewood and bat houses can be directed to: Scout Leader Neil Thomas at 695-5188.
Contact John Kubal at [email protected]