National organization has big plans for its centennial year
By Kyle LoJacono
ZEPHYRHILLS (Change to Wesley Chapel) — While it might seem like Boys Scouts of America has been around forever, it is only celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
“Boy Scouts is a pretty amazing group,” said Gregg Hilferding, Scout Master of Troop 72 in Zephyrhills. “It’s very special that scouts is turning 100 this year.”
Hilferding, 29, has lived in Zephyrhills since he was less than 1-year-old. He and his father and brother, Robert and Eric respectively, each earned their Eagle Scout awards. He now owns a T-shirt company, Class B, which makes the shirts that scouts wear when not in full uniform, known as their “class B.”
Zephyrhills (Change to Wesley Chapel here) and all BSA troops in Pasco County east of the Suncoast Parkway are part of the Allohak District of the Gulf Ridge Council, which serves all Boys Scout troops in Pasco, Hillsborough, Hernando, Sumter, Citrus, Polk Highlands and Hardee counties.
“It’s very symbolic, especially for my old troop,” said Steven Kubasek, Allohak District Executive. “My troop is also 100-years-old this year, so I’ve been anticipating this for 10 to 15 years.
“Scouting has been around so long because of the timelessness of the program. The main goals are the same as they were 100 years ago.”
Kubasek’s troop was Troop 4 in Younkers, N.Y., were he earned his Eagle award.
William Boyce, of Chicago, founded BSA on Feb. 8, 1910. Before then, there were several groups that were based on getting teenage boys outside and tied only through the name Boy Scouts, which was founded in Britain by Gen. Robert Baden-Powell in 1907.
The group was officially incorporated in this country in Washington D.C. with the financial backing of Boyce. The young BSA used the structure of other existing youth groups, such the YMCA, to create its program.
Boys can become a boy scout when enter fifth-grade. Boys are grouped into troops of 10 to 30 boys based on their location.
“Scouting is just a fantastic organization that teaches leadership development, citizenship, physical fitness and many other important lessons to young men,” said John Russell, committee member of Troop 33 in Land O’ Lakes. “I thought I was loaded with everything as a kid, but kids today are completely overloaded with school and electronics.”
Russell was the Scout Master of Troop 33 for four years. His oldest son, Chris, earned his Eagle Award in 2006, and his second son, Tim, is a Life scout in the troop.
Gulf Ridge and Allohak have planned several events to celebrate the year, with one of the biggest coming at the Strawberry Festival in Dade City on March 13 and 14. That is when Adventure Base 100 makes one of its two stops in Florida.
The base is a “full sensory experience,” where people will be able to see what scouts do, hear a crackling fire and smell roasting marshmallows. It will also include a BSA museum.
Troop 33 meets each Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, 2348 Collier Parkway in Land O’ Lakes, and has scouts from Land O’ Lakes, Lutz, New Tampa, Wesley Chapel and Dade City. Russell said the troop has no individual plans for celebrating the centennial, but will be participating in several district events.
Troop 72, which has kids from Zephyrhills and Dade City, has more ambitious planes for the anniversary.
“On the troop level, we are planning an alumina dinner for all past troop members to come to,” Hilferding said. “The troop has been around since 1936, so we have plenty of former members. We will also have an open house so the public can come and see what we do at our meetings, and we’ll have a display at Founder’s Day in March during Zephyrhills’ 100th birthday celebration.”
Zephyrhills was founded on March 10, 1910, so BSA is one month and two days older than the city.
Details about Troop 72 events were not yet confirmed, but for more information, e-mail Hilferding at .
“Scouting is making an effort across the board to diversify itself,” Kubasek said. “It’s using nontraditional scouting activities to make new groups of kids interested in scouting. One of those ways is the ‘Scouts and Soccer’ program, which allows kids to play soccer for half a meeting and do scout activities the other half.”
There have tended to be few Hispanic and other minority children in BSA, according to Kubasek. He also said a soccer program is starting in the Zephyrhills and Dade City area.
“BSA is really trying to get people to recognize that scouting is still here,” Kubasek continued. “Some people think scouting is something from the past. We want to be more visible for the next 100 years.”