C hances are good that if you’ve attended an event in Whitehall you’ve probably met, or at the very least, seen a member of Boy Scout Troop 83.
During an era when Scouts can earn merit badges in areas such as video gaming, nuclear science, cinematography and robotics, the small, tight- knit group has continued to subscribe to the ethos of citizenship and civic duty upon which the Boy Scouts were founded on more than a century ago.
The troop participates in ceremonies on Memorial Day, Veterans Days, and Flag Day. Members keep the fire burning at the Ox Roast, plant flowers in Riverside Veterans Memorial Park, and wait on hungry patrons at the Legion’s weekly fish fry dinner and Our Lady of Hope’s monthly breakfast.
They adopt a local family each year for Christmas, participate in Toys for Tots, make donations to the Whitehall Food Pantry, assist fire victims and have even split and stacked wood for a man who was unable to complete the task himself.
“There are so many things, I can’t keep track of them all,” said Mike Mattison, who at 17 is the troop’s oldest member and last fall erected a pair of flag poles outside Legion Post 83 as part of his Eagle Scout (the highest distinction in Scouting) project.
“We really try to reach out to the community and assist people when they need help,” said Bob Gendron, who has been the troop’s Scoutmaster for the better part of the last decade.
That’s not to say the troop is all business, they have plenty of fun as well. Members attend jamborees each spring and fall, march in the Glens Falls Holiday Parade, go hiking, attend Camp Wakpominee in Fort Ann every summer, and navigate a 1.5 orienteering course off of County Route 21.
Although nearly every scout will tell you those activities are enjoyable, it does require a bit of juggling act to balance Scouts, school and other activities, like sports.
“I have basketball, school, this and Tae Know Do,” said John Parisi. “It can be a lot to balance.”
But that ability to manage time and balance multiple responsibilities is just one of the life lessons Scouting teaches, Gendron said.
“I’ve seen over the years their maturity levels grow. Instead of relying on their parents they have become more independent,” he said. “They learn about team work and working together.”
Heather Ashline said she has seen Scouting has affected her son.
“I think he’s learned a lot about responsibility and I think he likes the responsibility. It makes him feel important,” she said.
Kendra Holliser said her sons have learned to value responsibility and have developed empathy for things such as the environment.
“It helps them become better citizens,” she said.
But for the Scouts, themselves, it’s the opportunity to make new friends they enjoy most about scouting.
“At Camp Wakpominee I met at least 20 people there I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” said Jason Ashline, who plans to enroll in the counselor in training program at the camp this summer.
“There’s been a couple of policy changes but for the most part, it (Scouting) has stayed the same. It’s about meeting people and making friends,” said Mattison.
Troop 83 currently has eight members, a majority of whom are in Jr. High. They meet at 6 p.m. every Tuesday at American Legion Post 83 on Main Street. Anyone who is interested in learning more about Boy Scouts is welcome to stop by any meeting. The troop also hopes to host a Scout Night in which they detail what Scouting entails later this month and will be selling candles as part of an upcoming fundraiser. To learn more about any of these activities, call Gendron at 499-0297.
Members of Troop 83:
John “J.P.” Parisi
Bob Gendron, Scoutmaster
Joanne Mattison, Assistant Scoutmaster