Summer Adventures 2021 - Recap

My Summer of Camping
in the Verdugo Hills Council

(AKA - The Blue Gatorade Chronicles)

 

The summer of 2021 begins with the COVID Summer of 2020.  Having just taken on the role of “Camping & Outdoor Programs Chair” for the council… I found myself not in camp, but on zoom meetings where we were cancelling in-person meetings and camping in general. Volunteers were mad! Parents were upset and confused! Everyone was in a funk and the world was upside down.

From the lemons of 2020 came lemonade in the form of our first ever, highly successful Cyber Film Camp run on Zoom.  Scouts from all over the country were able to join us and talk with show-biz professionals.  It was a shining example of Scouting cutting through the doom and gloom and something that saved the sanity and Scout Spirit of the Scouts and Scouters who made the event happen in that horrible pandemic summer.

With that success under our belts, I was determined that 2021 would be a summer to remember!

The planning started with the full-color brochure we were able to publish at the beginning of the year. The plan was simple… provide the programs we have always done as a council and that our parents know and rely on to be quality… and expand on our offerings with programs for Families, Cubs, Scouts BSA and Venturing.

David Potter said it best “If You Build It, They Will Come!”  Someone should put that in a movie…

WEEK 1 - National Camp School, Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center

At the end of May, I reported to Camp School along with 150 other Scouters from all over the country… from Louisiana to Alaska.  It was both tiring and inspiring as Camp School always is… but mostly I left feeling and seeing that the program was in good hands.  I left knowing that the Scout leaders here were committed to a great summer.  The mission was simple. Deliver the program. Our youth missed out on 2020 and wanted something great in summer camp… we had to deliver!

I would be the National Camp School Trained Program Director for all 2021 summer programs.  No turning back now… here we go!

PANEL 2

WEEK 2 – Cubs Use the Force Resident Camp at Camp Verdugo Oaks

June 13th and we were in CVO getting ready to welcome Cub Scouts back to the first week-long overnight camp since 2019!  I first experienced the Cub Scout Resident program while getting back involved in Scouting with my son as a Cub Scout. This is a staple program of the VHC and all involved were dedicated to making it as successful as years past!

Memories from the week:

  • Almost 120 people in camp that week.
  • Crazy Heat!! (110 on the parade ground anyone?)
  • Wearing a down jacket, hat and ski gloves to remind Cubs to dress properly for the weather!  (110 degrees anyone?)
  • Putting the entire camp in the pool on Thursday!
  • Kelly & Potter in the kitchen!!
  • A Scout Executive in camp?? Serving Breakfast!!
  • Peter Ciulla from Exec Board visiting camp with his family
  • Past camp director Joe Wilke visiting camp
  • Craig Harris stepping up as Camp Director for first time!
  • A brand new Action Archery Course was introduced
  • A successful National Camp inspection!
  • Young David Artiz being well enough to come to the closing campfire to feel the LOVE!

Fun Fact:

  • 1,650 meals served this week.
  • 44 Cubs In Camp
  • 14 Cub Leaders in Camp

Overheard in Camp:

  • “This food is better than Camp Fiesta Island!”
  • “This staff is amazing!”
  • “How can I be on staff next year?”… from one of the out of council leaders!
PANEL 3

WEEK 3 – Cubs Weird Science Day Camp at St. Dominic’s Church in Eagle Rock

The last week of June saw us load in to a beautiful new facility in Eagle Rock for Day Camp.  Thanks to David Lear we were operating in a new building where the folding tables were still in boxes and the paint seemed to be just drying on the walls… fill it with over 60 screaming Cub Scouts?? Sure no problem.

Memories from the week:

  • LAPD did an amazing program for the kids Day 1!
  • Dorothy Graff (aka Doctor Dorothy) did an amazing job showing weird science to all the kids. Liquid nitrogen ice cream anyone?
  • How sticky can a black top surface get??? So many experiments – volcanoes and rockets and slime, oh my!
  • Great Camp Staff Unity from the Youth Staff!  Amazing!
  • New adults and old standbys were all amazing – Catherina Stockinger, Karen Geraci, Pierre Landry as our Nurse to name just a few!
  • A team of adult leaders that would spend the summer at camp was formed – with John Lopez, Aaron Botel and Erica Peters among them!
  • Wait… is that a Scout Executive at Day Camp??
  • The ending Campfire for parents was AMAZING!!

Fun Fact:

  • 61 Cubs In Camp
  • Cub Scouts can get handprints (and footprints) everywhere!

Overheard in Camp:

  • “My son is having the BEST time!”
  • “See you next year!”
  • “This is a great location!” from a La Canada parent!

WEEK 4 – Scouts BSA - Cyber Film Camp – “The Art of Storytelling” on Zoom

Okay, so technically I wasn’t in camp for this week.  Should it even count for a week of summer camp?  Well once again like in 2020 we served 56 Scouts from all over the US online.  And we had guest speakers from Film & Television on each day for our guest speakers series all the while teaching three merit badges and getting Scouts ready to showcase their short films at our online film festival!

Tired and dusty from camp?  No. Tired and drained from teaching Moviemaking Merit Badge and advising these Scouts all day??  You bet!

 

Memories from the week:

  • John Lawson did an amazing job as a first time camp director!
  • Justin Walker and Caroline Solberg were amazing as our Animation and Photography merit badge counselors.
  • Great involvement from the Scouts in their breakout sessions.
  • That one actress from “The Mandalorian” who happened to be a guest speaker!! Wow!!

Fun Fact:

  • 56 Scouts in Cyber Film Camp
  • 141 completed Merit Badges from Cyber Film Camp

Feedback from parents:

  • “This is the most amazing program!”
  • “We will tell our whole Troop about this program”
  • “My daughter is still creating movies after camp is over!”

WEEK 5 – Scouts BSA - Film and Art Camp – Camp Verdugo Oaks

July 11th found me back in Camp Verdugo Oaks for the start of Film & Art Camp. We had 10 Scouts for launch of this new program.  Day one started off with improv games for Theater merit badge and I knew this was going to be a different and awesome camp.  We had out of council campers who came with their Scoutmaster Joe Magana and he camped in the site and acted as the Scoutmaster for the camp.

Because he was past firefighter and was originally stationed at Oak Flats in the early 90s we were able to get a full tour of the facilities and he worked with the Scouts to earn Fire Safety merit badge.

 

The week ended with a joint film festival with the Cyber and In-Person Film Camps and the closing campfire, which parents attended, featured original plays performed by the Scouts!

Memories from the week:

  • Watching plays every evening
  • Ben Noble taught animation and killed it!!
  • Having a family of skunks join us for dinner every night!
  • Woodcarving with Joe Magana
  • Clown face painting for all the Scouts
  • Ga-Ga Ball epic battles
  • “The FOREST” short film was a spoof of “The Office” and it was amazing!

Fun Fact:

  • 10 Scouts In Camp
  • 56 merit badges earned
  • 360 meals served

Overheard in Camp:

  • “This is Willy’s first Scout Camp experience and he LOVED it!”
  • “Quiet on set! Roll Camera! Action!”

 

WEEK 6 – Scouts BSA – Shooting Sports Camp – Camp Verdugo Oaks

July 18th was our last full week on camp for the summer and we ended strong with 17 Scouts in Shooting Sports Camp! We converted the archery range to Scout distance and the BB range into a pellet gun range and the Scouts started working on their accuracy from Day 1. 

We had three Homenetmen (aka Armenian Scouts) join us this week and they were an awesome addition to the camp!  For a half day Wednesday and a full day Thursday, we took the whole camp to the nearby Burbank Revolver and Rifle Club for rifle shooting and instruction.  The facility is awesome and David Chase acted as lead instructor and liaison between the two groups.

The National Inspection Team returned to award us accreditation for Cub and Scout Camping at Camp Verdugo Oaks for 2021.  Congrats to all!

The week ended like the week before with a the closing campfire, which parents attended, and featured awards and Scout Spirit!

 
 
 
Memories from the week:
  • Homenetmen showing how it’s done at the flag ceremony!
  • Campwide games in the pool!
  • Watching those who couldn’t hit the side of a barn day 1 learn to shoot!
  • Working on leatherwork, woodcarving and basketry in the evenings!

Fun Fact:

  • 17 Scouts In Camp
  • 79 merit badges earned
  • 600 meals served

Overheard in Camp:

  • “See you next year on Staff!!”
  • “OMG! I am totally getting my dad to get me my own .22 rifle!!”
  • Wait. There’s no camp next week?”

Drive-In Movies and Project COPE - Weekend Events at Camp Verdugo Oaks

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible effort of Alejandro Monroy who ran three Saturday sessions for the all new Project COPE, team building and obstacle course.

 

 

And the efforts of Matt Pomfret who ran two successful Drive-In Movie Nights at CVO!  Including the ones he ran in the school year, this amounted to a dozen Drive-In Movies shown at camp!

Closing Thoughts –

During the dog days of the pandemic, I dreamed of a summer of opportunity offered to our Scouts.  It was a lot of work.  It was a HUGE effort and it was brought to fruition by the dedication of so many wonderful Scouters and Volunteers.

I believe that summer camp is the single biggest factor in a Cub or a Scout enjoying their Scouting experience.  It was for me as a Scout and that is what drives me.

Camp Verdugo Oaks was a dynamic place this summer. Each week was a new adventure with new adults and youth coming through our doors.   We reinvented every single week that we ran camp.  How amazing is that!!

I raise my water bottle filled with blue Gatorade in a toast to summer 2021!!

Next summer will be upon us soon enough.  And there are decisions to be made, but all good things as we have a plethora of riches and program opportunities ahead.

Thank you to the Verdugo Hills Council Exec Board for your support of summer camping at Camp Verdugo Oaks and beyond! 

 

Yours in Scouting,

Peter Basler

Camping & Outdoor Programs Chair

Verdugo Hills Council BSA