Big Bunch of Happy Campers
Our state's future leaders will meet current leaders in New Jersey's largest Camporee this weekend in Sea Girt, N.J. Boy Scouts from all across the state will rub elbows with an astronaut, a Congressional Medal of Honor Winner, government representatives, current and former State Police Colonels and lots of troopers during the First Annual New Jersey State Police - Boy Scouts of America Camporee. The huge event is a joint effort between the Jersey Shore Boy Scout Council and the New Jersey State Police. There are approximately 6,000 Scouts and leaders registered to attend.
This Camporee is a weekend camping trip that brings together Boy Scout troops from the seven New Jersey councils that cover each of the 21 counties. The event has been in development for more than one year since Major Frank Rodgers, Commander of the State Police Investigations Section, began planning with the Jersey Shore Council staff.
The plan received the full support of Colonel Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the State Police. Colonel Fuentes, who is one of the force's most decorated troopers, will be walking around the scheduled events meeting with Scouts all day Saturday and handing out some highly coveted custom Camporee patches.
"This is a perfect match. Scouts and troopers hold to many of the same values and we know Eagle Scouts often rise to positions of public leadership," said Fuentes. "We want to forge links with responsible young people, so when they grow up, they will consider serving the public through a career with the New Jersey State Police."
The campers will gather on Friday evening to pitch tents on the grounds of the New Jersey Army National Guard Facility in Sea Girt, New Jersey. This is also the location of the New Jersey State Police Training Academy. Among displays of military helicopters, jets and tanks, the campers will participate in a number of activities and watch demonstrations by a variety of State Police specialists throughout the day on Saturday.
"We planned activities that are guaranteed to make them forget about their video games," said Major Rodgers. "The Scouts will be exposed to crime fighting technologies in the forensic lab, rescue techniques by our Marine Bureau troopers and arrest tactics by our T.E.A.M.S. Unit"
Other activities give Scouts a chance to rappel down a building, work with a polygraph machine and learn first aid skills. Troopers will also display their training in helicopters, on motorcycles and even on horseback.
Scouts will be tested for four merit badges on which they have been working for months including Crime Prevention, Fingerprinting, Traffic Safety and Emergency Preparation. The last badge has been the focus of an existing partnership between the State Office of Emergency Management (run by the State Police) and the Boy Scouts.
Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness
Over the past year, Boy Scouts have distributed 250,000 disaster supply kit checklists to New Jersey homes. This is an extension of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's partnership with Boy Scouts of America. As the Scout's motto, "Be Prepared" would indicate, troops have been arming themselves with first aid, CPR and emergency preparedness skills.
"Scouts are always interested in service to the community," said the Jersey Shore Council's Ethan Draddy. "Given the major flooding and weather events in the northeast and the increased Homeland Security threat levels, this Emergency Preparedness project is very important for all our citizens."
USA Weekend magazine named this Saturday National Make A Difference Day. On Friday, Governor James E. McGreevey supported this movement with a State proclamation. Sarah Thoma, executive director of the Governor's Office of Volunteerism arranged for a large group of Boy Scouts, State Troopers and CERT volunteers to appear on the CBS Early Morning show to promote the event.
The spirit of volunteerism is one of the characteristics for which Boy Scouts are known. To reach the rank of Eagle, Scouts must complete several substantial public service projects. Nationwide, the ranks of Scouting, including volunteer leaders, tops 4 million. That's a volunteer force with enormous impact.
As part of the National Citizen Corps program, the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management has coordinated the training and equipping of more than 2,500 adult volunteers in 120 Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) throughout the state. These teams are ready to be the first responders in times of disaster.
The CERT program is sponsoring activities and a poster contest for the Scouts on Saturday. The winner will receive a top-quality mountain bike and every participant gets a folding utility tool.
Meeting Today's Leaders
Beyond all the exciting activities, Scouts will have the opportunity to meet and speak with an impressive list of leaders including:
- N.J. Attorney General and Eagle Scout Peter Harvey
- Colonel Rick Fuentes, and former Colonels Carl Williams and Clint Pagano
- Astronaut and former NJ State Trooper Mario Runco, Jr.
- H.C. "Barney" Barnum, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor
- Brigadier General Frank Carlini, Deputy Commander, N.J. Army National Guard
- Local and national political leaders including Eagle Scout, Congressman Jim Saxton and Congressman Chris Smith
- National Boy Scouts Director George Trosko
- Officers from the State Police unions
- Survivors of the Triangle - organization for the family members of troopers who died in the line of duty
Having attained the rank of Eagle Scout, Attorney General Harvey bases his support of the Boy Scouts of America on first hand experience. "Scouting has been proven to have a very positive effect on both its members and volunteers," said Harvey. "I am proud of the effort the State Police have put forth to help bring about this Camporee and I am confident the event will be remembered by all as the beginning of a great tradition."
Rick Fuentes, Mario Runco, "Barney" Barnum, and Frank Carlini will be featured presenters during a professionally staged show on Saturday evening. A huge thirty-foot video screen will give even the most distant of the 6,000 audience members a close-up view. Colonel Fuentes will be honoring 50 state troopers who attained the rank of Eagle Scout by giving them a commemorative coin. The colonel will also be giving these coins out to approximately 300 Eagle Scouts in a ceremony earlier on Saturday.
The New Jersey councils of Boy Scouts of America are using this event to reach into non-traditional bases to expand their impact and their membership. Through the Scoutreach program, numerous urban troops have been started and almost 200 children who may never have had the chance to go camping have been given scholarships to attend the Camporee for free.
Joe Yeoman, President of the Teamsters Local 331, had his union sponsor a troop in Pleasantville, Atlantic County. Many of those children will be among the 75 kids from the Atlantic City and Pleasantville areas that will be boarding two buses in full Boy Scout uniforms and making the trek to the Camporee.
"The generation now being shaped by Scouting will be strengthened
by deserved self-confidence and molded with its own history
of kindness, bravery, honesty, and its all-out pursuit of
Earl G. Graves, vice president,
Boy Scouts of America and publisher, Black Enterprise
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