CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — It’s not often that one sees a kayak; a dog sled, and a rough-hewn Boy Scout camp-o-ree gateway inside the ballroom of the Hilton Garden Inn in Clifton Park but they were all there last week.
The three exhibits of scouting in action were part of a reception-fundraiser for the Twin Rivers Council of Boy Scouts’ presentation of its Good Scout Awards. This year’s honorees were well-known area figures Joyce Maddalone, the founder of Mother Teresa Academy and Chamber of Southern Saratoga County President and CEO Pete Bardunias.
In past years the award presentation has been a more formal affair with a catered dinner and speeches. However, for the May 23 event, the Twin Rivers Council thought it might be more fun for the scouts and their families if they included a “Scouting Expo” component to the evening.
They were right. With the Expo’s exhibition tables, the silent auction, buffet-style dining and a less formal award presentation ceremony, it was a fun affair for everyone. The interaction between the scouts and the public was face to face; the buffet was delicious, and the honorees’ remarks were buoyant and heartfelt.
The ballroom’s perimeter was filled with examples of today’s scouting. The kayak represented the Scouts’ Venturing and Aquatics component, while a table full of electronics and computer parts represented the organization’s move into STEM activities.
There was even an exhibit titled “Shooting Sports” from Troop 357-G of Rotterdam representing Scouts BSA-G, the newly established female component of the Boy Scouts.
“We have the same exact programs as the boy sand it gives us the opportunity to do the same things as the but separately,” said troop member Victoria Bubie, 17, of Poestenkill.
Bubie, who drives 45 minutes each week for troop meetings, was asked why she joined Scouts BSA-G when she could have simply remained in Girl Scouts.
“I was looking for the structure of Boy Scouts,” she said. “Girl Scouts is based on what your troop does; what the troop wants to do. I was seeking something more individually-focused.”
At the other end of the room Twin Rivers Council’s Venturing Chairwoman Sara Gray explained what Venturing was all about.
“It’s for those scouts between the ages of 14 and 20 who want to do things that are a little more adventurous,” she said. “They form a crew, decide what it is they’d like to do, be it white water rafting or going to a (Venturing) Summit like the weeklong one in West Virginia in 2018, and then discuss ways of raising the funds to do them. And, it’s co-ed.”
Everett Noakes, of Clifton Park, belongs to the Venturing crew in Loudonville.
“I joined Venturing because we have a lot of new scouts in my troop and Venturing has more of the high adventure activities I wanted to do,” he said.
Though Gray noted the absence of a functioning Venturing program in southern Saratoga County she said one is expected to form soon out of St. Edward’s Catholic Church.
Assistant Scout Master Chris Gersey, of Troop 246 and Cub Scout Pack 45, was eager to inform anyone walking past his troop’s exhibit what the scouts are doing in STEM. Gersey works in the field each day at the Knolls Atomic Power Lab in Niskayuna.
“The things you see on this table demonstrate some of what we’ve done with the cubs and the scouts,” he said. “We break a lot of things up, reverse engineer them, so they can see what’s going on and then we discuss what they do. We’ve taken apart a CPU cooler, an old VCR, and a garage door opener.”
When it came time for the presentation of the Good Scout Awards, Maddalone and Bardunias were as swept up with the Expo as everyone else. Both related experiences they’d had with the Scouts.
Maddalone was a den mother to Cub Scouts for 10 years and a Girl Scout leader for 20.
“When I was a young girl, I would pour over the Boy Scout manual. I loved it. I wanted to be a Boy Scout so badly, but back then girls couldn’t do that so I’m so happy they have that opportunity now,” Maddalone said. “We had eight sons, and I got to be their den mother and it was so much fun. My love has always been scouting.”
Bardunias, who was once a Boy Scout, noted that despite the organization’s updating, civic responsibility and know-how remain front and center.
“Scouting is always about adapting,” he said. “I’m actually a shy guy believe it or not, but I do what I do for the members of the organization I lead. My advice to you young people is to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing; who are the people you’re standing up for. You’re supporting your friends, each other, and that is something that is really important. We are a community of friends, and it’s important to remember that.”
Twin Rivers Council Development Director Beth Bush put the evening into perspective.
“First and foremost, this is a fundraiser, and within that, we wanted to recognize and honor the recipients of the Good Scout Awards for everything they’ve done in the community,” she said. “And, with today’s event, which was an example of family scouting and a little different than what we normally do, we wanted people to see some of the things Scouts do, the fun they have, and the things they are learning," she said.