Scouting activities are far more varied than tying knots.
“We’re doing all kinds of things,” said Jim Fox, general chairman of the 2012 Aaronic Priesthood Encampment for Boy Scouts. “Scouting isn’t just building fires.”
Some of the 75 activities offered at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Boy Scout encampment included fishing, swimming, wilderness survival, shooting sports, knife throwing, geocaching, Dutch-oven cooking and cinematography.
Thousands of LDS Boy Scouts converged on Camp Cowles on Diamond Lake west of Newport this week for the gathering. More than 2,400 scouts from 17 stakes – each of which consist of eight or nine individual congregations, called wards – are attending, along with 1,000 leaders.
“It’s a full day, from sunrise to sunset,” said Spokane stake President Brian Pitcher. “We keep them busy all day. It’s a time to appreciate nature and appreciate where we come from.”
The camp isn’t very structured, and the boys can choose what activities they want to do and when they want to do them.
“There’s always something to do,” said Jordan Mullen, 17, of Spokane Valley. “It’s awesome. You go every day without being bored.”
The goal of the activities is to provide the boys with camaraderie and fun, but also to instill self-esteem and the ability to persevere through challenges.
The theme of the encampment is “Catch the Vision.” Organizers hope it will reveal to campers their God-given potential and inspire them to make positive choices consistent with that potential.
“That’s really what Scouting is about,” Fox said. “Doing something fun, but doing something that will develop your character.”
The camp is for LDS troops, but those troops can sponsor friends who are not church members. About 75 scouts were not church members, Fox said. The LDS church, a benefactor of Boy Scouts of America, has a long-standing relationship with the organization, and many troops are established within religious organizations.
Boy Scouts of America was initiated in 1910. In 1913, church leaders reviewed the organization’s principals – citizenship, and physical, mental, and moral development – and decided to adopt it as an activity for boys in the church, Fox said. The church still encourages members to be involved in Boy Scouts.
“We have a partnership with Boy Scouts of America that opens up all kinds of opportunities,” Fox said. “We give to them and they give to us.”
Last year, 2,200 volunteers, including Scouts, leaders and parents, spent a day clearing the area of thick trees and brush to prepare for the encampment. Fox estimated the LDS Scouts and leaders gave 15,000 volunteer hours last year to clean the camp up. Another 5,000 hours were spent installing roads, water and electricity.
“It’s been a huge project,” Fox said. “But it’s been really fun. There’s just a phenomenal amount of time and energy that’s been donated to this camp.”
This is the first encampment in the area since 1984, when 8,000 boys and 3,000 leaders attended one at Farragut State Park.
Spokesman-Review publisher Stacey Cowles is a member of the Spokane Scouts executive board.