Groups help save urban Boy Scout camp

Urban Boy Scout Camp is Saved!
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

EAST FELICIANA PARISH, LA (WAFB) - When the United Way announced it was pulling funding from the Boy Scouts after years of support to support another worthy cause, a program called "ScoutReach" was endangered. Suddenly, there was no funding for the troops that were being formed at the public housing facilities in the Baton Rouge Metro area.

A camp that had been happening for almost 20 years at Camp Avondale for those inner city boys was in danger, too. However, Istrouma Boy Scout Council found some way to shift funding away from other programs that could be supported by parents or donations to the urban initiative and the summer camp, which is currently underway in the Felicianas, survived.

"It would not be possible to hold this camp without the help of Baton Rouge police, sheriff's and constables' employees who volunteer and even serve on the steering committee for this camp," said Bud Conner with the Istrouma Boy Scout Council.

When 9News cameras visited this week, the waters of Camp Avondale Boy Scout facility were teeming with young boys. Conner said the number of boys at the camp has doubled since last year. There are almost 200 now.

"We're out here to give kids an opportunity that normally can't come to camp to come and enjoy the great outdoors," Conner said.

The kids enjoy swimming in the lake every day to cool down, but rock climbing, archery, BB shooting, games, and more. These kids, who have Boy Scout troops sometimes meeting at their housing authority, are doing things at this week's camp that would help them qualify for a Boy Scout merit badge.

Several boys told 9News their favorite event was shooting the BB guns. The start of those sessions is deep in safety rules. The boys wear safety glasses and have their own targets to post so they can tell how well they are shooting.

In another part of the camp, boys are holding the string of a bow taut enough to make the bow tremble. They are learning how to aim and fire with a bow and arrow. While instructors give them the basic information on archery, they also step back and let the boy adjust and find his way to the perfect shot.

Kids are allowed to shoot over and over again, improving almost each time they shoot. A bullseye draws cheers from their friends. They love this!

The volunteers are deputies and office workers from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, officers and detectives from the Baton Rouge Police Department, as well as deputy constables and office workers from the City Constable's Office. They have supported this camp, which treats children from their districts, for decades.

Lisa Jenkins from EBRSO looks forward to volunteers every year.

"This is my week, I look forward to this every year, the last week in June for the last 15 years," Jenkins said. "This is my obligation. This is my vacation time to be with the kids."

"Just like any kid for Christmas, that sparkle in their eye like wow I get to do this!" said Mike Crawford, who is also a volunteer from the sheriff's office, returning for an eighth year.

Crawford said some children wish their families could enjoy this time in the country, but Crawford encourages them to simply relax and enjoy what they're seeing.

When kids go home in the evening, it is hoped they share excitedly what they've done, and what they will do at Boy Scout Camp Avondale.

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