THEY HAD WAITED for what seemed forever and a day for that trip.
After a number of grueling months in which the plans of Lake Forest Troop 48 were completely altered due to the ongoing pandemic, the active scouting group was finally getting the chance to travel to Door County, Wisconsin for an all-day kayaking trip. Keeping all safety protocols in mind, the young men and women were eagerly looked forward to a day of fun and adventure and time with their dear friends.
But then, it rained … all day … for 18 hours straight.
So, they were left with another decision to make—do they pack up and drive home, wallowing in the unfortunate circumstances? Or do they stand tall, figure out what to do next, and proceed with a fun-filled day?
In case you are wondering, they picked the latter.
“Bravery, courage, perseverance, and grit are all things we are trying to teach our youth, and they not only lived it that day, but they are living it everyday in this troop,” explains Mike Borkowski, who took on the role of scoutmaster of Troop 48 earlier this year. “There was no complaining. There was no sulking. Plan A didn’t work, so they came up with plan B.”
Indeed, in a world and during a year in which nothing goes according to plan, the boys and girls that make up this phenomenal troop not only learn how to live a life of fun with a purpose, but also learn a set of skills that will undoubtedly help them face and lead through the unknown of the real world.
“Scouting, in my mind, is the best leadership development program that exists anywhere, that I have ever seen,” explains Borkowski, who arranged for Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy to speak virtually to his troop about leadership and perseverance during the recent COVID-19 shutdown. “I have watched these boys, many who I have known since the first grade, develop into young men prepared for leading into the future. It’s a special and wonderful thing to see.”
Scouting in itself has had a long tradition of preparing young men, and now women, with a foundation built on an oath, the law and a shared mission. Since scouting’s inception in England in 1910, more than 130 million young men and women have participated in scout programs, with over 35 million adults guiding them throughout the process.
In fact, Troop 48 was chartered in 1928, and then rechartered in 1988, and through its history, has helped over 130 young people reach the prestigious Eagle Scout rank. Just last year, the troop also founded one of the first female Scouts BSA units.
“I remember, in the beginning, looking up to the older scouts who took up the leadership positions and ran the meetings and organized the campouts, and I knew that I wanted to do that someday,” explains Isaac Vander Velde, the current Senior Patrol Leader for Troop 48. “It was the best thing I could have done for myself.”
“During a campout for example, the scouts do everything from plan the meal to cooking their own food to pitching the tents,” adds Borkowski. “If they do those well, fantastic. If they do those poorly, they learn.”
Recent projects completed by members of Troop 48 include everything from collecting personal care items like soap, toothpaste, and masks for families in Waukegan, to installing plant beds at a local park, and 20 scouts working to completely renovate the Lake Forest High School Robotics Room with new work tables and additional shelves.
“Our troop really tries to be completely Scout-led, but we couldn’t do that without the support of not only our adult leaders, but also the community in which we serve,” explains Vander Velde, whose troop offers 20 different leadership positions to its members. “It’s through those community projects that we truly live the ideals of scouting.”
And yes, even years after one steps out of Troop 48 and into the real world, the foundation that scouting establishes in one’s youth continues to have a number of lasting affects. Take, for example, former Troop 48 member Michael Rohrs. While he currently works as a metro police officer in Las Vegas, it wasn’t too long ago that he was just a shy, quiet kid looking for a place to fit in.
“Scouting provides training in areas that youth aren’t exposed to in other areas of their life, and that is learning the basics of survival skills,” explains Rohrs, who became an Eagle Scout with Troop 48 back in 2014 and whose mother Wendy now serves as one of the many Assistant Scoutmasters of Troop 48—American Legion Post 264. “We learned everything from learning to tie knots to safely utilizing knives to how to start a fire to keep warm, and implemented all of these things during our monthly campouts.”
But that is just the beginning.
“My years in scouting through earning my Eagle have contributed to these areas in my life today: leadership, morals, ethics, community service, survival skills, and learning to apply these in the real world,” says Rohrs. Scouting helped me to be prepared for life in many ways and it is a beneficial program for today’s youth that I hope continues for years to come.”
Troop 48 invites boys and girls who are interested in scouting, along with a parent, to its Annual City of Lake Forest Holiday Wreath Hanging Event on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., at the downtown Lake Forest train station. For more information on the event and scouting for sons and daughters, please contact Lake Forest Troop 48 Committee Chair Chris Collins at 773-425-462, [email protected] or Lake Forest Troop 48 Recruitment Chair Maureen Anger at 847-421-5636, [email protected].