There were the familiar sights of a Scout camp: tents, remnants of a campfire, kids learning skills like archery.
But instead of a setting tucked away in the woods, this camp was in a field next to a church on Northampton Street on the East Side.
The two-day Buffalo District Camporee, which ended Saturday, gave dozens of Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts a chance to enjoy some of the activities that make Scouting popular without having to travel far from home. The event was also good for recruitment and a reminder that Scouting is not just for children who live in the suburbs.
Troop 139 at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church hosted the camporee, which also involved several other troops, mostly from the city. About 100 young people ages 6 to 18 participated, including about 60 boys who camped overnight, said James Morrell, Troop 139’s Scoutmaster.
“This is very similar to an open field in the woods,” Morrell said. “The only big thing, and good thing, is that individuals are able to get here really quickly. The other big thing about having this type of activity inside the city is, you have individuals that are driving by or are in the community who bring their kids over and say, ‘Hey, I want my kid to be part of this.’ ”
This was the fourth such camporee held on the church grounds, and each year, features are added to the event, Morrell said. Saturday’s busy lineup included lessons in archery, air rifle, and hatchet throwing, as well as demonstrations involving fire trucks and a bomb squad. Scouts earned merit badges, and enjoyed a lunch provided by event sponsors.
Ramon Winfrey, 13, found a lot to like about Scouting.
“We do a lot of fun things with people you don’t know and make new friends,” said Winfrey, a member of Troop 139.
David White II, who is 8, enjoyed that “we have badges and we get better at things.” Santos Torres, 13, was among the Scouts who camped out overnight: it was a bit cold, but he and his friends said they didn’t mind.
Scout leaders say the urban camporee helps build enthusiasm for Scouting. And the participants “experience something that normally they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do: stay out in a tent overnight, and sit by a campfire,” Morrell said.
Leona Harper, committee chairwoman for Troop 139, sees valuable life benefits coming from Scouting. “In the inner city, most people don’t know that there are black Scouts,” she said. “I wanted to bring that into the city, and mainly the inner city because there’s a lot of single parents, children being raised by grandparents, and they need a male role figure in their life.”
Hosting the camporee in the city has worked just as Harper hoped.
“I had three boys join over the weekend because their parents drove by and they saw the kids out here, and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know we had Scouting in the city,’ ” Harper said. “And a lot of the boys, they’ve never seen or gone camping, they’ve never experienced archery, slingshot. They haven’t experienced the outdoor life. So we’ve brought the outdoor camping experience in the middle of the city.”