By Kristin Boza
For 100 years, Boy Scout Troop 608 has engaged the boys in Beverly/Morgan Park and taught essential life skills while having a lot of fun, too. The troop, based out of St. Paul’s Bible Church, 1960 W. 94th St., in North Beverly, is celebrating its centennial at the church on May 21, 4 p.m., with a reunion of former Boy Scouts to reminisce about canoeing, camping and friendship.
Current and former members of Troop 608 are encouraged to send their memories to Scoutmaster Bob O’Hara, email@example.com, and to bring family and friends along to celebrate at the reunion.
Since 1975, Bob O’Hara has been involved in the leadership of the Boy Scout organization as Scoutmaster, District Commissioner for the southwest side, Cub Master for Pack 3608, and, for the last 20 years, as Scoutmaster for Troop 608. His experience with scouting is expansive and he is dedicated to ensuring generations of boys get the chance to participate.
“When I was a kid [in Boy Scouts], I loved canoeing and camping. I had never done either until I was a scout,” O’Hara said. “I enjoyed sleeping under the stars on warm nights, canoe trips on the White River in Michigan, swimming and fishing in Big Blue Lake. At the time, the troop had an army surplus rubber raft that was huge; we used to rub it down with soapy water and slide off into the lake.”
O’Hara’s love for the outdoors continued through adulthood and scouting is an integral part of it. “Scouting created a lifelong interest in the outdoors including downhill and cross country skiing, water skiing, hiking, winter camping, snow shoeing and a dog sled trip,” he said. “For myself and the scouts, the most memorable overnight camping trips are usually winter tent camping in extremely cold weather with a lot of snow.”
Currently, about 25 boys are involved in Troop 608. O’Hara estimates that up to 2,000 boys have been a part of Troop 608 since its inception. During that time, 150 boys earned the Eagle Scout rank, which is the highest rank and only about 5 percent of scouts achieve it, O’Hara said. “The service projects that the Eagle candidates must complete has been estimated at about 15,000 service hours in our community,” he said.
The Boy Scouts offers many unique opportunities for boys, motivating them to earn merit badges and excel in a variety of activities. “We have a number of boys that join who cannot swim; it’s one of the first things we teach at summer camp,” O’Hara said. “There are over 100 merit badges that might offer the boys insight into future employment interests, such as first aid and the medical profession, or badges that might inspire a kid into a lifelong hobby. Scouting develops leadership skills and self-confidence that will last a lifetime.”
O’Hara is grateful to St. Paul’s Bible Church, which hosted Troop 608 for 100 years. “St. Paul’s Bible Church constantly supported the Boy Scout Program for the community. Our charter has never lapsed. It’s a testament to St. Paul’s commitment to the youth in our community,” he said.