2020 has been a year like no other for everyone – and Scouting. We haven’t had physical meetings since March. Philmont trip was rescheduled, and ultimately cancelled (and remember, we also missed because of the fires in 2018). The few activities we have been able to do are kept smaller. We can’t do overnights. Scouts now have to try to get excited for yet another Zoom meeting.
Last time I talked about how some parts of Scouting are the same as when I was a Scout. It’s this resilience that will get Scouting through these times, and hopefully emerge stronger. The Scouts started in the US in 1910, so it’s been through a pandemic before. It has been through other hard times. The world wars. The Great Depression. And countless other trials of the 20’th and 21’st century. Scouting will get through this too.

The good news is that Troop 26 has shown their “gotta wanna do it” attitude through all this! They made face shields in the early days of the pandemic (donated to CALM, a children’s support service). They collected for Scouting for Food to help the heavily impacted Foodbank. Right now we are working to replace failed bands on thousands of N-95 masks for health care workers We’ve continued to do some day hikes – and with it, some have surpassed Mr. Soga’s 100/250/500 mile awards! They’ve worked on merit badges and advancements. Even 10 months into this, most of the troop joins in every Tuesday night at 7pm for an online meeting.
There has actually been a positive side to the Zoom meetings too. We’ve invited back a number of Troop 26 Alumni to speak to the scouts! We’ve had: Don Logan – who even re-joined the troop as an ASM! Aaron Dalton, talking about his life as a Missionary in Alaska. Greg Crouch, once on climbing in Patagonia and once on caving on Oman. The Santa Barbara Search and Rescue team gave a talk – we met them in a pre-pandemic hike (no, they weren’t rescuing us, we just ran into them on the trail) – and when we can, the Rescue Team will have the Scouts to the station for a visit. These meetings have been wildly popular, with parents also calling in too, we are seeing over 60 people on these calls!

However, the scouts are generally carrying on their regular meetings too. They teach skill sessions. They play games. They are on and off paying attention. They chat with their friends on side channels. All just like during regular meetings.

We also held a drive-in Court of Honor. People generally stayed in their cars, but we bought up small groups to give out awards, and we got to see smiling faces again. It was so popular, another troop in Ventura borrowed our radio transmitter and did one. And we’re doing another one in the new year once the current COVID flare up calms down.

The Scoutmasters keep working on planning overnights, and then have to pull the plug, but when we’re finally able to again, we’re ready to get back out there!

We have a big group of a dozen scouts aging out over the next 8 months. It’s been a pleasure to watch them grow from young boys to young men. They struggled up their first climbs. And in their last climbs they waited patiently at the top for the adults. They learned to be good and reliable people. They learned the importance of caring, citizenship, and the joy of volunteering to help. And there’s one other thing that I hope they don’t lose with growing older. Over the years I’ve seen them in heated discussions about politics, religions, laws, etc. and an hour later be buddies again, laughing and swimming together, or playing ‘mafia’ around the campfire. I do hope that they never lose this shared connection with their fellow Americans. If these are indeed our future leaders – we are in good shape.
It’s been a rough couple of years to be Scoutmaster, through the fires, Montecito mudslides, the bankruptcy, and COVID – but the silver lining has been to see how all of our scouts have grown and responded. Here’s to what hopes to be a glorious new year for Troop 26!!

Yours in Scouting,
Mr. Weakliem
Current Scoutmaster