The Narragansett Council of the Boy Scouts of America has not let the COVID-19 pandemic halt its programs – or its fun – as the summer months inch closer in Rhode Island.
The council has been using and extending multiple virtual programs since the outbreak shut things down in March, including its new “Cooped Up Campfires.”
These online campfires allow local Boy Scouts, troop leaders and parents to interact with one another over Zoom and enjoy traditional campfire activities.
There have been two campfires to date, and they have already seen viewership reach 1,000 people total. The events have featured a number of special guests, including Eyewitness News anchor Mike Montecalvo and chief meteorologist Tony Petrarca, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Congressman David Cicilline and URI men’s basketball coach David Cox.
“Going into a virtual environment in mid-March, we launched a bunch of online programs for our kids. Those are great and they still are great, but we were looking for a way to serve families and kids, and how we could keep them moving forward and continue scouting,” said Tim McCandless, CEO of the council, who also expects to continue these campfires moving forward. “The thing that we felt was missing was that we could not get kids outdoors, and we can’t bring them out to camp. We talked about having a traditional style campfire, having the songs, the singing, the skits, an inspiring story, a patriotic element, those things. That’s where it came from and we did our first one a month ago and people loved it.”
He added: “We’re going to continue in some form to make sure that we don’t get stale in what we do. One thing is for sure, and that it is that families love what we do and the kids love that connection. The form may grow and develop over time, but we really see this happening on a once per month basis.”
Although the council misses the outdoors and being able to interact with the scouts in person, it is excited to continue to provide activities to the boys and has learned some new ways of interacting that will be useful down the road.
“I think we’ve learned some avenues that we wouldn’t have thought would be successful in the past have actually been successful,” McCandless said. “A few of the things include the virtual merit badges. We are going back to doing it in person, but I don’t think we’re going to stop the virtual ones so families can see it even if they can’t make it. Then with the campfires, there are some advantages of doing these on an occasional basis. Families are busy, so sometimes they don’t participate because the schedule doesn’t allow it. That allows hundreds if not thousands of people to participate. Third, for our adults, it has forced us to do virtual meetings and we have been getting better participation, better attendance, better results. We had a board meeting last week and had the best attendance we’ve ever had.”
As the Boy Scouts continue to make the most of the situation, McCandless hopes to see the online numbers grow and for the community to support its scouts.
“People have really appreciated the fact that kids can stay engaged in something beyond just schoolwork. I didn’t know that we would be doing this stuff two, three months ago. Now that we are, people are pleased that we can keep the program alive and to do it in a positive, meaningful way and that’s been great for our kids,” McCandless said. “Scouting provides a great outlet for kids that allows them to explore careers, be engaged in challenging mental and physical activity, and eventually it is going to help them get outdoors more.”