Marlene Stewart Streit Park was a hive of activity during the early evening recently, as dozens of youngsters scattered throughout the green space, armed with garbage bags and work gloves. The event was a park cleanup organized by the 3rd Fonthill Scouts, who view community service as part of their mission.
David Seppala, a 17-year scout leader with the troop, said that they have embraced a youth-centered leadership model, in which the adults instruct the senior kids, who in turn pass on what they have learned to the younger members.
“We brainstorm with the Scouts early in the year, asking them to come up with ideas of what they’d like to do,” he said. “They create a lot of the programming and community service ideas themselves.”
The 3rd Fonthill Scouts currently have 22 in the troop, including three girls, said Seppala, noting that Scouts Canada went coed back in 1993. The troop has eight adult scout leaders, who meet with the Scouts every Wednesday from 6 PM to 8 PM, either at Fonthill United Church or North Pelham Community Hall.
“They are both great facilities for our needs, and North Pelham has a natural setting where we can practice campfire setting and outdoor activities,” said Seppala.
The local troop is structured with three age groups, including the Beaver Colony (ages 5-7), Cub Pack (ages 8-10), and Scout Troop (ages 11-14). Scouts Canada has two divisions for older teens and young adults, called Venture Scouts (ages 15-17) and Rover Scouts (ages 18-26).
Scouts Canada is one of the country’s leading coed youth organizations, with some 50,000 young men and women, reflecting Canada’s multicultural landscape, enrolled as members. Over 12,000 volunteers donate their time as troop leaders. The organization has always believed that a connection with nature through outdoor exploration must be a key element woven throughout their programs, which frame their approach to youth development and skill acquisition. The organization is committed to helping shape young leaders for global citizenship, and does not discriminate on the basis of gender, culture, religious belief, or sexual orientation. Globally, Scouting has some 40 million members.
Long-time scouts Jacob and Russell both joined the 3rd Fonthill Troop initially because of a love of the outdoors.
“I’ve always enjoyed camping, fishing, and hiking,” said Jacob, displaying a long row of merit badges on his Scout tunic.
“Same here,” added Russell, “and the survival skill experiences are great fun.”
Camp Wetaskiwin, an 80-acre camp off Pelham Road abutting Shorthills Provincial Park, is an outdoor resource used several times each year by the 3rd Fonthill Scouts.
“It’s a beautiful camp, and we’re lucky to have it so close,” said Seppala.
Greg Davidson, a leader and group commissioner with the Beavers program since 2016, is, like Seppala, a product of the system, having worked his way up from Beavers through to Venturers.
“We have 24 enrolled currently, with a mix of country and town kids from Pelham,” he said. “Beavers and Cubs are essentially pre-Scout in nature, and involve a lot of skills that they will use at the next level: first aid and safety, compass work, survival skills, identifying things in nature. One of the first lessons we teach is what to do if you’re lost in the woods. We also introduce them to camping at Wetaskiwin and Balls Falls.”
Seppala said that the Scouts are currently fundraising to defray costs for their big adventure camping trip in August to Haliburton, located in cottage country just east of the Muskoka region.
“The Haliburton trip is fantastic,” she said. “Scouts Canada owns the massive property, which includes a lake with islands, campsites, and a big lodge. We expect to take 15 of our Scouts to the camp, to be joined by hundreds of others from different troops. Activities like fishing, canoeing, rifle and bow shooting, mountain biking, hiking, and wall climbing are available.”
The Scouts fundraisers this year include a bulk food offering through Big Red Markets, an Apple Day in October, and a drive to sell brown and black garden mulch, which is happening now. For details, and to place an order online, go to: www.zeffy.com/en-CA/ticketing/9af72f5d-06d2-4288-b70b-2189e6dc1e4c.
The 3rd Fonthill Scouts are looking for additional volunteers to supervise the age 5-7 Beavers program. Interested adults can contact the troop via its website at www.3rdfonthillscouting.ca, or through www.Scouts.ca