FROM STAFF REPORTS
Aurora -- Dec. 7 was the first session of three in the annual Merit Badge Challenge at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.
Merit Badge Challenge is an opportunity for Boy Scouts from Northeast Ohio to learn skills needed in Scouting as well as in life. About 250 Boy Scouts attended the first of three sessions that will take place through March.
The Boy Scout Council offers more than 35 merit badges, including citizenship in the community, communications, first aid, emergency preparedness, art, graphic arts, collections, genealogy, entrepreneurship, astronomy, weather, environmental science and robotics.
The day starts with boys attending two classes, and a third is offered after the lunch break. Trained counselors help the boys learn what is required to earn the merit badges and give assignments for the next session slated for January. Since many badges take a minimum of 90 days to earn, the final sessions are in early March.
Merit Badge Challenge gives boys an opportunity to work on merit badges during the winter since many troops have difficulty locating qualified counselors for many of the badges.
Since its inception in 2005, Merit Badge Challenge has been instrumental in helping Scouts earn more than 2,000 badges. This year, nearly 30 counselors and another 30 volunteers donated their time to make the first session a success.
In 2005, Boy Scout Troop 269 Scoutmaster David Stafford was completing an intensive adult leadership training course known as Wood Badge. As part of the training, the leader must create a "ticket" that is their personal vision of their role in Scouting.
STAFFORD realized many boys only have the opportunity to complete merit badges during the summer, especially at summer camp. Since boys often look for something to do over the winter, he started the first Merit Badge Challenge in December 2005, with 35 Scouts participating.
This year, the program was limited to 250 boys and all the classes were filled within 14 days after registration opened. While Stafford planned to offer the event for one year while working on Wood Badge, he quickly knew the program had to continue.
Stafford said, "I am happy the Troop 269 committee continues the program that started as a vision to assist boys in attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. The program is a success and continues because of all the men and women who are dedicated to assisting the youth and future leaders."
Another goal Stafford set during his training was to create a high adventure program within the troop. As part of the High Adventure program, the Scouts have traveled to Florida Sea Base and West Virginia to go white water rafting and rock climbing.
In the summer of 2014, the boys will hike and camp at Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico.
Participants in the Dec. 7 Merit Badge Challenge session came from Cleveland, Norwalk, Kent, Hudson, Ravenna and other communities.
Boy Scouts can learn about careers and hobbies while earning more than 100 merit badges. Any area resident who has a skill or passion to share with the leaders of tomorrow should contact Stafford at www.troop269.org or by calling 216-570-6274.