Local Cub Scouts mounted horses and geared up in armor to travel back to the Middle Ages on Friday morning during the Okee Tuklo district’s Cub Scout Day Camp at The University of Texas at Tyler.
Volunteers helped struggling Scouts climb onto the saddles and gave them a blue baseball helmet for safety. After the Scout was secure on the horse, the horse trotted along the parking lot in a circle.
While some Scouts rode horses, others tried on armor, such as helmets and gloves, which were too oversized to fit their small frames.
This year’s day camp theme is “Knights of the Roundtable,” and activities centered on medieval times, designed to test a scout’s imagination, Carl Hanke, Okee Tuklo senior district executive, said.
Each year has a different theme selected by the East Texas Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
The camp had 115 scouts in the first through fifth grades participate in activities since Monday, including candle making, fishing, leather crafts and geocaching, where Scouts searched for “treasure” with a GPS.
A scheduled jousting match performed by Four Winds Renaissance Fair was cancelled because rain from Thursday made the grass too muddy.
The rain did not put much of a damper on the Scouts, and Hanke said one of the week’s highlights was a giant sling-shot range. Scouts were tasked with shooting tennis balls at a wooden cut-out castle.
Fourth- and fifth-grade Scouts were also able to start a fire without the use of matches. Younger Scouts learned the basic principles.
Teamwork also is a skill learned throughout the week.
“These boys have never really worked together. There may be one or two of them that are from the same local Cub Scout pack, but for the most part, they have to learn teamwork and how to come together,” Hanke said. “We’re also teaching them how to be leaders; we’re teaching them how to be cooperative and polite. So those are skills they can use for the rest of their lives.”
Although the camp is not initially designed to help with a Scout’s advancement, Hanke said it’s possible.
“It’s not necessarily designed that way. We want them to come out and have a good time, and if we help them earn part of their rank advancement for whatever group that they’re in, then that’s kind of a bonus,” he said.
The camp is organized with the help of volunteers for youth in the Smith and Wood counties.
About 42 volunteers were present, day camp director Gary Ellard said. He’s been involved in the camp for five years.
Ellard said the volunteers are the backbone of the camp. He said they help activity stations, act as den leaders and even run a small day care for volunteers who have other children besides registered Scouts.
Parent volunteer Michelle Randell has been helping with Cub Scouts for five years, but this is her first year with the Okee Tuklo district.
She said it’s important for parents to volunteer so they participate in family activities.
“To participate in your child’s interest and to show family unity, it’s important,” she said.
Ellard said the best part of the camp is watching the smiles on every Scout’s face.
“Seeing them learn and have fun,” he said. “We’re trying to send them home tired and happy.