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September 22, 2013
By Jodi Deal
Regional Reporter - Richmond Times-Dispatch

On Saturday, Sept. 22, Tommy Justis’s Powhatan property was crawling with 10-year-old boys.

More than 120 boys spent their morning scrambling up a climbing tower, zipping down a zip line, sampling cake made in a Dutch oven, crafting gourds into birdhouses and shooting BB guns.

 

The action-packed day was hosted by the Midlothian-based Boy Scout Troop 800.

The camp facility on Justis’s property is the troop’s home base, and the activities were part of a district-wide Transition Day, designed to show boys who are nearing the end of Cub Scout activities what they’re in for if they continue with the scouting program.

Bill Mulvihill, program chairman for the Huguenot Trail District of Boy Scouts, said that only about 50 to 60 percent of boys make the transition from Cub Scout to Boy Scout nationwide. Often, he said, that’s because Webelos – Cub Couts who have ascended through the Tiger, Wolf and Bear designations to reach Cub Scouting’s highest rank – are tired of waiting for the “big kid” activities.

“We hold this event to try to get their interest – to say, ‘If you wait six months, this is what’s available to you,’ ” Mulvihill said. “We’re all about keeping the boys active.”

According to Mike Davis, who coordinates the district-wide event, the turnout Saturday was the biggest in Transition Day’s eight-year history.

Davis said the troop loves hosting the event at Camp Justis. After all, he said, not every troop has the luxury of having its very own camp.

“If you have a facility like this, it makes perfect sense to share,” Davis said.

Davis noted that every station at the camp was overseen by a qualified adult, but featured scouts from Troop 800 as instructors, too.

Paul Fulghum showed the Webelos what he’s learned in scouts about building a campfire, while Lars-Eric Pierson, Tyler Easton and George Welch helped the youngsters learn about knife sharpening under the watchful eye of adult instructor Gennaro Milo. John Matthews encouraged a Webelo who was having trouble with a bow and arrow at the archery station. At all stations, one message was constant: safety first.

Parents got into the fun during Transition Day, participating in activities their sons aren’t old enough to try, like shooting shotguns and throwing tomahawks at targets. That’s important, too, Davis said, noting that the boys who are the most successful in scouting are those whose parents take an active role.

Scoutmaster Rodney Parsons said the event is pulling in about a quarter of the eligible Webelos in the Huguenot Trail District, a big achievement. The success of the local event has drummed up plenty of attention, even earning the troop coverage in Boys Life, the national scouting magazine.

Jonathan Dilego, who is in his first year as a Boy Scout, came to the Transition Day event last year as a Webelo.

When asked by Davis whether he sees a difference in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, Dilego laughed.

“Oh, yeah!” he said, joking that a visit to a fire station was a big field trip as a Cub Scout.

Since he’s been in Boy Scouts, he said he’s been on several adventures, including a 16-mile hike in Gettysburg, PA., Dilego said.

According to Dilego, Transition Day activities definitely helped encourage him to ascend to the next level of scouting.

“It was a lot of fun. This was just so much fun,” Dilego said.