Submitted by Peter Ricci
There was talk of rain for the weekend, but Saturday morning had sun showing, with a slight breeze at Camp Collier in Gardner, Massachusetts as our own Boy Scouts from Troop 194 began morning activities during the 44th American Legion Camporee. This event showcases traditional scout activities and skills, designed in a friendly competition, where boys use the teamwork and leadership abilities that are the foundation building blocks of the National Boy Scouting Program.
The American Legion is considered the second largest civic group sponsor of scouting troops nationwide. Troops sponsored by the Legion (as it is informally known) in Massachusetts have been invited to this camporee since 1972. This year, 17 troops and 2 packs from across Massachusetts attended the event, wearing patches or tee shirts showing town names such as Ashby, Wilmington, Sterling, and our own Bedford. Larger troops broke down into smaller groups, carrying flags identifying their “patrol” names, creating 27 separate groups that participated in the event. Individual patrols could earn place ribbons in the many events offered, so patrols within troops could challenge each other, though the overall judging for the coveted “Commanders Trophy” combined scoring of each patrol within a troop, using a specially designed algorithm to ensure fairness, known as the Coady Formula.
The American Legion’s mission to be “Committed to Mentoring Youth,” could be clearly seen, as Legionnaires, sporting their caps and jackets, roamed around the camp encouraging youth at events, staffing in some areas and acting as judges at camp inspection, with their smiles getting broader as they recognized boys from troops in their own towns. One Legionnaire’s voice could be heard booming like thunder over the camp PA system as he alerted scouts about the day’s events.
The competition day ended with a nighttime campfire, an event that is always looked forward to, with many troops entertaining their fellow scouts with a skit or song, and emceed by Bedford Troop 194’s own Star Scout, Cameron Maurice. The cheering, the laughter, and even the moaning at times, helped energize the scouts, exhausted from an active day, to make it back to their campsites just as the rain started.
On Sunday morning, Fathers’ Day, groups that braved the elements of the night awoke to continued wet weather. Comments such as, “It wouldn’t be scout camping, if there wasn’t any rain,” and “My tent needed a good washing” could be heard, and many scouts remained cheerful and anxious to hear the results of Saturday’s skill stations. Boy Scout Chairman Legionnaire Arthur Smith, of Methuen, reminded the boys in his booming voice that the “liquid sunshine” we were experiencing would not stop the awards ceremony, just move it indoors, though it was only the second time in remembered history that this had occurred.
The boys from Troop 194 lined up in the old mess hall, to await results, and the three patrols they had formed, now mingled together with anxious looks, as the first award ribbons were called out. With every ribbon, a cheer went up from all boys, as they supported their brother scouts. In the end, Troop 194 received 10 ribbons, including a first place in First Aid, and was ranked the 2nd best troop overall, just missing the Commanders Trophy. Hair matted down on their heads from the hours of rainfall, the boys from 194 showed broad smiles as they posed for a final picture holding their awards, a little cold and soggy, but satisfied with this year’s performance.