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Boy Scout Troop 183 is celebrating its anniversary this weekend.
The troop started in 1957 and was originally sponsored by St. John’s Episcopal Church. Harold Wilkes was the first scout master and the Rev. G. William Beale was rector of St. John’s at the time. The troop became associated with Bedford Presbyterian Church in the 1980s and both churches jointly sponsor it. They meet in a facility owned by Bedford Presbyterian on Center Street. It is the oldest continuing troop in the Bedford area.
A Boy Scout troop depends on adult involvement, and the adults who make things happen for the boys got involved in different ways.
John Sites, St. John’s liaison with the troop, got involved when his three sons were members, serving as scout master in the late ‘70s.
“We camped once a month,” he said.
At that point, there were 50 boys in the troop and they camped everywhere. They hiked the Appalachian Trail, taking hikes ranging in length from five to 10 miles. There were also district-wide camps at a 17,000 acre Boy Scout facility in Pulaski County. According to Sites, it’s the largest Scout reservation in the United States, second only to Philmont, in New Mexico. The facility consists of multiple camps, each with a different focus.
Dr. John Kent, who served as the county’s superintendent of schools in the 1990s, worked with the troop at one time.
“All the kids called him ‘Tenderfoot’ in camp,” said Sites.
Sites attributes the troop’s success to having good adult involvement most of the time.
“We had the adults who wanted to help the kids,” he said
Sites said that a troop can’t go anywhere without adults and Troop 183 has always been known as a troop that does activities.
Jason Moore, the current scoutmaster, was a scout in the ‘90s and recalls a back country canoe and backpacking trip.
“That was a lot of fun,” he said. “They drop you off and say, ‘We’ll see you in five days,’” he said.
The troop also hiked up Mount Katahdin, which marks the northern end of the Appalachian Trail. Moore said that it is exactly one mile high and is the tallest mountain in Maine.
“I just love the outdoors,” he said.
He recalled that it gave him an opportunity to get away from his parents and hang out with friends.
“And, you get to play with fire and all that fun stuff,” he added.
What’s even better, he noted, is that everybody learned how to do that fun stuff safely.
Moore said that another great aspect about Boy Scout activities is that walking over two or three peaks in succession on a 15 mile hike, carrying a 30 pound pack, gives a sense of accomplishment.
The troop, under Moore’s leadership, does frequent major hikes, and held a Klondike Derby, a winter event, in Big Island this past winter on the last weekend of January. The weather cooperated by dumping a major load of snow on the ground for them.
They also do long distance trips. They’ve been whitewater rafting in the New River and backpacking in the Smokies. They’ve also been to Philmont. This camp is in the southern part of the Rocky Mountains.
The scouts also do service projects. The troop constructed and set up luminaries at the National D-Day Memorial on the 65th anniversary of D-Day in 2009. They also lent a hand wherever needed during that event, which attracted D-Day veterans from all over the Eastern half of the United States.
“They really enjoyed that,” Moore said, stating that the youth liked talking to the veterans.
Parental involvement is critical. Moore said that the boys get more out of scouting if their parents are involved. Some fathers even have backgrounds that make them good resources for teaching merit badge classes.
It’s been an active troop and has produced 90 Eagle Scouts over its five-decade history. Eagle is the highest achievement for a Boy Scout and Sites said that, normally, only 3 percent of Scouts reach it. Sites said Troop 183 has beat that average by a substantial amount.
This year mark’s the 100th anniversary of Boy Scouts in America and Troop 183 will have a celebration of its own anniversary at Falling Creek Park this Saturday. The troop hopes that some of the original members show up. For more information about this anniversary celebration, contact Jason Moore at 586-4828 or John Sites at 586-9090. Moore is also the contact for you if you have a son who would like to be a Boy Scout, or you want to help out as an adult volunteer.