Christian Falwell, 15, of Dayton, is happy to be with his friends and fellow Boy Scouts of Troop 48 at Mount Crawford United Methodist as they started meeting again in person a few weeks ago, while wearing masks outside and socially distancing.
“It was fun because throughout this quarantine, I haven’t been able to see them or talk to them in person, so it’s been more fun,” he said.
For months, the troop, like many others in the Virginia Headwaters Council and across the country, met remotely.
“My troop has done Zoom meetings when we would have been meeting in person and on Thursdays we’ll work on merit badges as well through Zoom,” he said.
Christian said his favorite merit badge he took remotely was personal management, a badge required to become an Eagle Scout and one that teaches scouts about finance, such as insurance, saving, charity and investing.
“Doing it in person, it’s more personal and I would think it’s more in depth, but online, it’s not quite the same,” he said of taking merit badges remotely.
Joshua Calderon is in charge of two of the four districts that comprise the Virginia Headwaters Council. The Massanutten District includes more than two dozen troops, packs or crews based in Rockingham, Harrisonburg and Pendleton County, W.Va.
“We’re a volunteer-run organization and truly our volunteers have stepped up to the plate during this time,” Calderon said.
Last year, there were around 600 members across the groups, according to Calderon.
Volunteers from all over the state have given online instruction to knowledge-hungry scouts, according to Calderon.
One of those volunteers was Pete Fenlon, of Charlottesville, who has been a game publisher for 40 years and is the CEO of Catan Studio, which develops and publishes the Catan games. Catan has sold over 32 million units since 1995, according to company data, making the game one of the bestselling board games in history.
“That brings great joy to them and to me,” Fenlon said of teaching scouts about the craft of game creation.
Fenlon is also president of the Virginia Headwaters Council, and back in 2012, he helped write the program for the Game Design merit badge.
He said having the classes online can increase access to resources or merit badge courses that scouts may not have otherwise had.
“These kids may not be able, in some cases, to have contact with a game design merit badge counselor in their area, much less one who participated in the making of a merit badge or a special expertise in the field,” Fenlon said.
Over two courses, Fenlon taught about 70 scouts from across the country what he knows and helped them earn the merit badge.
“Some of these kids are incredibly creative in terms of their thinking, especially [their] analytic thinking, artistic thinking, and their creativity is just amazing,” Fenlon said.
Other parts of scouting were also shifted online, according to Calderon.
“Back in April, I did a virtual camporee,” Calderon said. “It was one of the first in the country actually.”
Over 1,200 scouts from across the country joined in and even a handful of scouts tuned in from Brazil, he said.
“It was such a unique way to kind of start this,” Calderon said.
Christian said in addition to being grateful for being able to see his friends again, he is grateful for the hard work all the volunteers are putting in.
“I’m sure the scouts in my troop, and I as well, appreciate that the leaders and volunteers taking the effort to keep us not only occupied, but occupied with scouts, through these few months,” Christian said. “I think they appreciate that and the scouts know that they’re not forgotten.”