By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Twilight camp, an evening version of day camp, enabled local parents to volunteer and participate in their sons’ Cub Scout summer camp last week at Cunningham Park without missing work.
While day camp is still the norm for many districts, parents and other adult volunteers in the Mahican district indicated that holding a non-overnight camp in the evening would allow more working adults to volunteer, and more Cub Scouts to attend. Siblings in grades 1 to 5 may join in the activities, and a tot lot play area helps entertain preschoolers.
The Boys Scouts of America’s Great Lakes Field Service Council, formed in 2009 by merging the Clinton Valley and Detroit Area councils, covers Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, and is divided into eight districts.
In the Downriver area, the Mahican district serves the school districts of Allen Park, Crestwood, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights No. 7, Lincoln Park, Melvindale/Northern Allen Park, Riverview, Southgate, Taylor, Trenton, Westwood, Wyandotte, Ecorse, Flat Rock, Gibraltar, Grosse Ile, Huron, River Rouge and Woodhaven.
Program specialist Charity Davenport of Lincoln Park said this summer’s “Rock and Roll” theme covers music and geology, with 50 participating Cub Scouts rotating through stations for three evenings, making musical instruments, learning about rocks, and taking part in archery and BB gun training.
“They are making their own fossils,” Davenport said. “They’ll learn about different rocks and the Mohs scale of hardness. We have Boomwhackers, they will be making their own thumb pianos, their own stadium cushions – a lot of different activities.”
Boomwhackers are plastic percussive tubes like xylophones.
Davenport said some of the activities will earn Cub Scout participants adventure loops (formerly known as belt loops), that slide on the Cub Scout’s uniform belt. They represent adventures completed at the Tiger, Wolf and Bear level.
Sue Knoch of Allen Park said the boys like the geology station, where they learned to identify rocks like amethyst and hematite, and the camp gets the boys out and moving, while showing them how much fun they can have while learning Scout skills, and meeting boys from other Cub packs.
Cara Ciltes, unit service executive for the Mahican District, said the camp is a great opportunity for boys to interact with other Cub Scouts from the district.
“They are making such great friends that they haven’t met before, and it is really the culmination of the Scouting year, putting to the test or to use all of the skills that they have learned,” Ciltes said.
She said the archery and BB gun training locally is an exciting opportunity for many Cub Scouts, since many packs don’t have trained range officers, and not all packs can afford to go to an overnight camp for training.
Many of the Cub Scouts will also leave with traditional camp songs stuck in their head, Ciltes said.
“I hear those songs even in January after a June camp,” Ciltes said. “They will be excited about everything they were able to do, meeting all these new friends, and excited about moving on to Boy Scouts and doing even more good things.”
In the archery area, Logan Lancaster, 6, of Taylor was excited to have hit the target with his arrows.
His father, Matt Lancaster, said his son and some of the Cub Scouts associate archery skills with comic superheroes like the Avengers, and the Green Arrow, an archer who uses his skills as a member of the Justice League.
He remembers participating in Cub Scout day camp at Elizabeth Park in Trenton in the late 1980s, and he’s glad his son is meeting other boys and developing camaraderie.
“All my kid wants to do is play video games,” Lancaster said. “This gets him out and gets him some exercise. He crashed last night when we went home. He went straight to bed.”
Scout volunteer Patrick Berryman, 19, of Dearborn said the Cub Scouts learn basic stability skill in the archery range, enough that they can hit a target. He said archery is a fun, recreational activity for the Cub Scouts, and it prepares them for a more intensive experience at sleepover camp later.
Archery range master Craig Schuler of Dearborn, who is also Cub Master of Pack 1148 at Snow School, said the Cub Scouts learn to follow instructions at the archery range while having a good time.
“This is one of the favorite things for the kids to do, archery and the BB guns, the shooting sports,” Schuler said. “They like to do it, and this is a controlled environment, with certified range officers, and it’s fun. It is something they don’t get to do a lot.”
Volunteer Debbie Sherman of Livonia goes to day and twilight camps to make sure safety guidelines are followed. She said shooting sport safety, and easy availability to water for hydration are important checklist items.
Sherman said twilight camps not only let working parents participate, but it allows Cub Scouts who would otherwise not have anyone to bring them to attend.
She said the sports and crafts are fun for the boys, and as an occupational therapist, she sees the importance of the activities that help Cub Scouts develop hand-eye coordination.
“It’s all the hand stuff that’s different from watching an iPad or TV, which is super important,” Sherman said, “because what if one of them wants to be a mechanic? They need to learn how to use their fingers when they are younger.”
Day camp program director and Lincoln Park native Beth Payter said they try to keep the activities age appropriate.
“We give the older boys something a little more challenging, and the younger boys something that is easier so that they can handle it,” Payter said. “We’ve always got a sports area so they get some good running around. This year we are working on Frisbee skills.”
She said the Cub Scouts usually leave tired, but come back the next day ready for more activities.
“Scouts is always looking for new people,” Payter said. “Not only as volunteers, but as Scouts. If anybody wants to join, just call the council office, and we can get you set up with a group in your area.”
She said Scouts can start at any level and age, from kindergarten up to 18 years old.
For more information, call 313-897-1965, or go to michiganscouting.org.