For boys young and old, there’s a new opportunity in White County to learn outdoor and survival skills. Eric Bond, troop master for Trail Life USA’s Troop 226, said talk of the new group began around January 2013.
“It started when the Boy Scouts of America announced a proposed change to their membership policy,” Bond said. “Some leaders and executives [within the BSA] were starting a grassroots movement to help guide the vote in a direction back toward some of the [Scouts’] core values. When that vote went the other way, they decided to go off and take their experience and their desire to raise boys into godly men to start their own organization.”
On May 23, the Boy Scouts of America voted on a resolution that states that youth may not be denied membership on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone, according to the organization’s website.
Bond said the national founding group of Trail Life USA met after there was talk of changing the BSA membership policy.
“The vote [to allow homosexual membership in the Boy Scouts] was official at the end of May, and the [TrailLife] group met at the end of June. From the end of June to the beginning of September, they put together a program and had a national leadership conference in Nashville, and 1,100 to 1,200 people showed up,” Bond said.
Though the Boy Scouts of America’s membership policy has changed, Bond said, he still has a lot of respect for the organization.
“I believe in a lot of what they do. It’s just that this program came along and really focuses more on developing the boys in a more holistic way and integrates our faith into all we do,” Bond said.
Trail Life USA Troop 226’s kickoff will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Cloverdale Church of Christ in Searcy. The meeting will mark the official launch of the program and will include an inaugural ceremony. Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend, Bond said.
“About 20 to 25 boys are interested in it already,” Bond said. “Folks can sign up when they come to the first meeting.”
Trail Life USA’s Troop 226’s name has a meaning behind it.
“Our [troop number] is based out of Proverbs 22:6,” Bond said. “The verse reads, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.’”
Bond is currently involved with the Boy Scouts of America but will leave Pack 98 at the end of February, when Trail Life USA officially starts.
“We really want the boys to spend time outside learning skills on trails and in the woods,” he said. “We’ll be doing things like a lot of hiking and different kinds of skills that might be classified as survival or outdoor skills.”
Some property has been given to the troop to use for training, Bond said.
“It’s about 40 acres, and the owner wants us to develop a campground on there, and we can build things like a shooting range, an archery range.”
The members of Trail Life USA are called Trailmen.
“The idea of Trail Life and Trailmen [is that] the members are on a journey to manhood,” Bond said. “It’s a very masculine, Christ-centered, outdoor-adventure type of program.”
The program involves each group of Trailmen going on some kind of adventure once a month.
“I expect some winter camping to go on at some time, but it may just be a trip down to Little Rock to see the Razorback — the submarine,” Bond said.
James Mulvany, committee chairman for Trail Life USA’s Troop 226, said troop leaders will address different branches of the organization at each meeting.
“We’re going to address pioneering skills, camping skills, values, hobbies, life skills, heritage, Christian heritage, science and technology,” he said.
Instead of badges, Trailmen will earn “leaves” toward awards in different areas.
“There’s less focus on the actual badge and more on what that skill is or how to use it in life,” Bond said. “The boys will receive awards of various kinds, but the goal isn’t to collect those. It’s to help them understand what those are and understand how to use them.”
Boys involved in the group will be divided into groups by age, from kindergartners to seniors in high school.
“We start at kindergarten, and kindergarten and first grade will be one subgroup, second and third are another subgroup, and fourth and fifth are another subgroup,” Bond said.
Once the boys hit sixth grade, they’ll go into a group with sixth- through eighth-graders, then to a ninth- through 12th-grade group.
“When they’re in the sixth- to eighth-grade group, they really start to focus on more advanced skills, both outdoor and really enveloping the spiritual aspect of the creation and the creator and our faith,” Bond said. “They start forming a peer responsibility group, and the leaders involved with that will really start helping them figure out how to be responsible for themselves and each other.”
When members move up to the ninth- to 12th-grade group, they become more independent, Bond said.
“The leaders, at that point, become advisers and help guide things along and think of things that maybe [the Trailmen] are not aware of,” Bond said. “The boys are responsible for setting their own schedules and meeting contents and setting up their own adventures.”
Bond said he looks forward to working with the young men in the White County area through Trail Life USA.
“I’m really looking forward to a way to really share a full development of the children,” Bond said. “We address a lot of character-based things, but I see this as really addressing more of the boy in a way, and the desires that God has for us and wants for us as we grow into adults.”
More information about Trail Life USA Troop 226 is available at www.traillifeusa226.org.
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.