Drew Tilley, a local Boy Scout, learned much useful information during an annual Merit Badge College Saturday at North Surry High School — he just wishes he’d been exposed to some of it sooner.
Had the member of Troop 596 been able to participate in a first aid activity — which was part of Saturday’s instruction — at an earlier time, it would have made a difference when a friend recently suffered a major foot injury.
“I learned a lot about how to treat wounds and stuff,” explained Drew, 11, whose troop is based at Central United Methodist Church. Some of that knowledge he gained could have been a big help to his injured friend, the scout said.
But the good news is: “He’s healed,” Drew reported.
But while belated, the first-aid instruction — which was among a wide range of life-skills training offered Saturday to more than 200 scouts from around the region — will allow Drew to assist if a similar mishap occurs.
Numerous categories were covered during the annual, day-long Merit Badge College, which provides scouts the opportunity to meet with qualified counselors who help them earn the merit badges they need for advancement.
“The whole advantage to the Merit Badge College is that in a few hour’s time, you can get a merit badge or learn the requirements of a merit badge,” said participant Timothy Smith.
Unlike Drew Tilley, who is just getting introduced to Boy Scouts through the Webelos stage that is a transition from Cub Scouts, Timothy is a Life Scout with a troop in King who has been involved with the program for six years.
Timothy, 16, said the Merit Badge College streamlines the process of earning badges as opposed to doing so at a summer camp, for example. “I’ve been to quite a few so far,” he said of the colleges.
Also included Saturday was CPR training, as part of the first aid segment; personal fitness; safety and emergency preparedness; good citizenship, in the community and elsewhere; family life; orienteering; communications; fly fishing; welding; and more.
The activities were scattered over the North Surry campus Saturday as well as conducted at off-campus sites such as Camp Raven Knob.
“It gives these boys a taste of everything that’s out there” in life, said local scout leader Danny Ledford, who along with Kent Moser has co-chaired the Dogwood District Merit Badge College for eight years.
The 201 scouts who attended Saturday’s event were from the local Dogwood District, as well as about 10 troops from elsewhere in the region representing the Laurel, Hanging Rock and Piedmont districts. About 75 adults were involved as well, including professional instructors and scout leaders, some who were undergoing instruction themselves.
“We’ve got 18 merit badges offered,” Ledford said. “The majority of them are Eagle (Scout)-required merit badges.” Scouts must earn 21 badges to become an Eagle, including 12 that are Eagle-required.
Depending on where one strolled Saturday at North Surry, uniformed scouts might have been seen carrying each other on stretchers as part of first-aid training or donning “drunk goggles” and trying to negotiate an obstacle course.
The latter exercise by Mount Airy Fire Department personnel, part of the safety and emergency-preparedness training, was designed to show the boys how alcohol can impair their focus, depth perception and motor skills.
Or scouts might have been spotted in several classrooms, learning about the importance of citizenship and other subjects. Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson was a special speaker at one of those sessions.
Meanwhile, Caleb Money, 11, of Troop 545 in Level Cross, now considers himself more capable of public speaking after listening to a communications presentation by Bruce Hodges, also known as the “Night Rider,” an area radio personality.
Caleb said Hodges taught the importance of body language and being knowledgeable of one’s subject matter, and even if he became nervous during a speech believes he is now strong enough to overcome that.
Scouting Still Popular
The creation of a learning environment to further scouting advancement goals wasn’t the only part of Saturday’s Merit Badge College. It also was a chance to enjoy good fellowship through the scouting program that remains a viable institution among today’s youth.
“This has grown every year,” Ledford said of the Merit Badge College.
Timothy Smith, the Life Scout from King, agrees that scouting is still popular among his peers, but that it faces stiff competition from other activities that capture the attention of young people. “Because scouting does take a good amount of your time.”
He believes much helpful knowledge can be learned through scouting which one can’t get through a public school classroom. “Scouting is a valuable experience that every boy should go into.”
Timothy is closing in on his Eagle Scout requirements, having achieved more than 20 merit badges. “I’m working on my Eagle right now and I’ll hopefully have all the paperwork in by June,” he said.
“That is the final part,” Timothy acknowledged of gaining the coveted Eagle Scout status, but quickly added that something else should be kept in mind:
“Scouting is more about the journey to reach that final thing.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.