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Boy Scouts test outdoor skills at Klondike Derby on Saturday

Members of Troop 403, from Cranberry Township — Callen Schmitt, Stone Ocehslein and Maddox Grupp — participate in the “sled” racing station during the Klondike Derby at Camp Bucoco on Saturday, Feb. 10. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

SLIPPERY ROCK TWP — Smoke and competitive spirit filled the air at Camp Bucoco as local Boy Scout troops put outdoor skills to the test during the Klondike Derby on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Over the course of a whole day, troops from Butler, New Castle, Ford City and beyond went head-to-head in fire building, First Aid, plant identification and “sled” racing contests, all for the purpose of advancing their training.

Amy Kamis, one of the district executives, said 15 troops were present with 170 total participants ages 11 through 17, all vying for “The North Pole” award.

“It’s like our Stanley Cup … whoever wins it gets to keep it in their troop for a year,” she said, pointing out a candy cane striped, 3-foot pole that would be awarded to the troop with the highest combined scores from the competitions.

The most exciting event is the derby itself, which requires Scouts to build a small sled, with attachments for wheels for weather accommodation, and race against other groups.

The added challenge was placing a Scout in the sled, and having him successfully hold a bucket of water through the race without spilling it.

“They want the lightest, youngest kids in there,” Kamis said. “So the young, brand-new Scouts get to be at the center of it.”

Caelan Hinterlang, another district executive, said troops start preparing for these competitions months in advance.

“With all Klondike sleds, you have to be prepared. More often than not, it’s just mud,” he said. “The competition helps a lot. Our kids are fiercely competitive.”

Scouts also practiced knot-tying skills, basic medical skills and, most notably, fire building.

Harper Lauer with Troop 683 out of Cabot participates in the gondola rescue station during the Klondike Derby at Camp Bucoco on Saturday, Feb. 10. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

Troop 33, from Butler, and Troop 743, from New Castle, were neck and neck during their crack at the fire challenge. Each team constructed a fire, which had to burn through two strings and make a kettle whistle.

Scott Stone, a leader of Troop 743, said he felt his team was doing well during their challenges.

“Today is the best indicator of whether they’re really learning,” he said.

When Troop 33 came out on top, senior patrol leader Wade Freehling said he felt his fellow Scouts excelled in this area.

“We usually do a lot better in fire building,” he said, explaining that their derby race did not go as planned.

“The first turn, (the water) all fell out,” he said.

Todd Freehling, Wade’s father and a leader of Troop 33, said 11 of his Scouts were present at the derby. They are also defending champions, having won the whole derby in 2023.

“We’re fortunate to have the older Scouts lead the younger boys,” he said of his troop.

He added that he finds what’s most rewarding about the competition is how it helps his boys grow.

“I’m very proud of them … Some of these kids I’ve known since kindergarten … seeing them develop those leadership roles is really cool,” he said.

Members of Troop 19, from Butler — Nathan Swartzbeck, Ryan Jackson and Marek Dumbaugh — learn how to build a fire during the Klondike Derby at Camp Bucoco on Saturday, Feb. 10. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Boy Scout and Girls Scout troops get their gear ready ahead of the Klondike Derby at Camp Bucoco on Saturday, Feb. 10. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Boy Scout and Girls Scout Troops get their gear ready ahead of the Klondike Derby at Camp Bucoco on Saturday, Feb. 10. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/10/2024)
Harper Lauer with Troop 683 out of Cabot participates in the gondola rescue station during the Klondike Derby at Camp Bucoco on Saturday, Feb. 10. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/10/2024)
Members of Troop 403 out of Cranberry Township, from left, Callen Schmitt, Stone Ocehslein and Maddox Grupp participate in the sled racing station during the Klondike Derby at Camp Bucoco on Saturday, Feb. 10. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/10/2024)

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