January 25, 2007

surviving in the wilderness

Scouts' Klondike Derby teaches outdoor skills

By Sandra Diamond Fox

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-TIMES

Colton Cherney of Danbury, a 9-year-old Cub Scout, is confident he can start a fire to keep warm while he's out camping.

His twin brother, Corey, knows if he ever needs protection from wild animals in the woods, he can construct a shelter out of sticks and tree branches.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 431 from Ridgefield, from left, Will Wied, 13, Joseph McKibben, 13, David Konopka, 12, and Clay Golde, 12, attempt to make a fire.

Ethan Breitling, 17, of Boy Scout Troop 70 in Newtown, gets help going under a “hot steel pipe,” which is part of the obstacle course Boy Scouts navigated at the Klondike Derby Saturday in Sherman.

Jonathan Malia, 12, from Troop 70 in Newtown, gets a hand from fellow scout Dan Cragin, 14, on the rope swing part of an obstacle course.

Tucker West, 11, of Troop 431 in Ridgefield, uses a tarp to shield himself from the wind and cold.

The Cherney brothers, along with nearly 400 9- to 21-year-old Scouts from Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Redding, Ridgefield and Sherman, participated in the Scatacook District's 2007 Klondike Derby last Friday and Saturday at Sherman Town Park.

"The idea behind the Klondike Derby is all about learning," said Bob Plate of New Fairfield, assistant scoutmaster of Troop 42, and father of Jeffrey Plate, 11.

All year long, Scouts learn about surviving in the wilderness, Bob Plate said. The Klondike Derby is when they put what they learned to the test.

As part of this year's derby, the theme of which was "007 Licensed To Skill" after the James Bond movies, Scouts participated in 12 "secret agent" adventure stations along a half-mile loop.

Each station was designed to teach a different skill -- including running obstacle courses, performing first aid on a "victim," gun safety, sled racing, making a ladder, and learning how to use a map and compass.

Braving freezing temperatures, the Scouts tried their best to complete each task within a designated amount of time.

"It's such a great feeling of confidence knowing that you can make it on your own," said Boy Scout Eric Freundt of Danbury, 17, who has been a Scout since he was 6.

The Webelos, who were the youngest Scouts at the derby, were given a taste of what it's like to be a Boy Scout.

"The older Scouts had a lot of patience with us," said Sondra Cherney, of Danbury, mother of Colton and Corey Cherney of Pack 52. "All the boys learned many valuable skills that will be extremely useful to them for years to come."

The Boy Scouts of America, which will mark its 100th year in 2010, aims to help members build character and fitness while learning responsibility and good citizenship. The Klondike Derby is one of many types of activities Scouts participate in to achieve these goals.

"You never know when something the Scouts learn will come in handy," said Peter Vannucci, of New Fairfield, committee chairman of Troop 42 and father of Andrew Vannucci, 13.

Last April, while biking along a trail at White Memorial Foundation in Litchfield, Andrew Vannucci fell off his bike and cut his hand and knee. The other Scouts who were with him bandaged him up using their first aid kits, Vannucci said.

For information on Scouting, visit www.ctyankee.org