June 12, 2014
Our scouting year coincides with the school year, so we always plan a blow-out canoe trip bash at the end of June. This end-of-year paddling extravaganza is extremely popular with our troop as guests and family are invited and alumni scouts often come out for the day. It is not uncommon for us to have over 30 canoes and kayaks spread out along the Delaware River–it looks something like a Spanish Armada…except with water fights! Getting everyone (including the many adults) paddle-ready, means lots of prep work: BSA Swim test, Safety Afloat, Safe Swim Defense, review required equipment and parts of canoe and various strokes, and an actual paddle practice at a nearby lake.
Paddling down the Delaware River gap is indeed a national treasure. The area is full of wildlife. In addition to fish, we have seen deer, black bears and numerous eagles & hawks! One year, several of us paddled through a massive 20 minute down pour–which was nothing short of exhilarating (except for the pesky flies afterwards). There are plenty of places along the way to stop and enjoy lunch or a swim and it is not uncommon for scouts to spend more time out of the canoes than IN the canoes. Typically, the other big challenge is ensuring the scouts drink enough water to stay hydrated under the summer sun.
At the end of the day, our caravan motors over to a nearby campsite at Ten Mile River scout camp where the scent of bug spray replaces the smell of sunscreen! It is our tradition to have a yearend “spoof” awards at our post-dinner bonfire, recalling some of the funnier moments of many individuals during the prior 12 months. The Annual Frank McCluskey Friendship Outing is destined to be a favorite for years to come! Pictures say a 1000 words about how much fund this trip really is to everyone! Here are great pictures from 2011 and 2012!
May 30, 2014
It is not every day that a child with disabilities gets to have a social outing at a local swimming pool. It is also not every day that a scout gets to “earn” community service hours for playing in a water park, but both are exactly what occurred in August 2013. Scouts from Troop 5 Bronxville and Troop 353 Eastchester participated in helping children with special needs enjoy a few hours of FUN at the local water park, Tibbetts Brook Park. The event was sponsored by the Tommie Cares Foundation (TCF), which focuses on selected sports (selected water & snow sports) for children with special needs. The TCF was started in 2013 by the founder of the Tommie Copper organization, a line of copper-infused compression sports clothing. The event was exceptionally well-organized and the pre-event training for volunteers on how to understand and play with children with special needs safely and comfortably was exceptionally practical and thorough. Even though passing thunderstorms delayed the start of the event for an hour, there was no shortage of FUN activities inside waiting for the rain to pass. After an hour or so in the pool, a special awards ceremony recognized every child! It was a particularly happy moment for many children and families. Not only did the scouts have a very gratifying time, but the special needs children had the memory of a lifetime! Here are some more great photos here!
May 24, 2014
On May 12th, 2014, Westchester-Putnam Council, BSA had their annual recognition dinner with the primary billing being the Court of Honor for the award of Silver Beaver for adult volunteers that have made exceptional council-wide contributions over time. The Silver Beaver award is the highest honor an adult volunteer can receive in a local Council. The Court of Honor MC was the incoming Council President, John G. Callahan. John is also the founding Scoutmaster of Troop 353 back on May 1, 1992. It was a very special evening for both the Callahan family as well as Troop 353 as seen in the photo above, as most of the troop’s prior and current Scoutmasters were present as well as a few Eagle scouts that started as Cub Scouts with Mr. Callahan! Congratulations to John Callahan and all his family!
From left to right: David Kindberg (Eagle Scout, Cubmaster Tuckahoe Pack 7), Mike Occhicone (Scoutmaster 2011–2013), Tom McCandless (Eagle Scout, Scoutmaster 2006–2010), Dave Flannery (present Scoutmaster), Mrs. Lynn Callahan (current Pack 7 & Troop 353 Chartered Org Representative), John Callahan (Troop 353 founding Scoutmaster, Silver Beaver 1999), Richard Schraudner (Scoutmaster 1998-2002, Silver Beaver 2006), Matt Keller (Eagle Scout 1999), Don Wauchope (Scoutmaster 2002–2005), John Clark (Eagle Scout 1999, Scoutmaster 2005), Andrew Callahan (first Eagle Scout of Troop 353, 1997).
March 29, 2014
Here in Southern Westchester County, we are blessed to live in such close proximity, from beach camping in Montauk to ice climbing in the Catskills. And with the harsh winter we have had this year, combined with specific requests from our senior scouts, the time was right to revisit ice climbing after a two year layoff. Indeed, it was two years ago exactly that the troop hired the highly regarded outfitter Alpine Endeavors out of New Paltz. Their guides have some of the best climbing credentials and many are also EMTs. Suffice it to say that not only are their guides well-qualified but they are terrific when working with youth and adults!
Ice climbing has some similarities to rock climbing (you are belayed), but in many people’s view, ice climbing is technically more challenging and gratifying and FUN! And FUN is exactly why our crew of 5 adventurous senior scouts and (two intrepid dads) braved the single digit temps that day just outside of Phoenicia, 50 miles northwest of New Paltz. A few of the scouts had been ice climbing previously and felt at ease “on the pitch”. The first-time climbers had to learn the correct techniques, including a firm planting of the toe spikes of the crampons as well as where & how to plant their hand axes. And of course everyone had to be happy being up to 40–50 feet above the ground with only your toe spikes holding you!
As their skills increased throughout the day, our guides Alan and Ron challenged the boys to try climbing with only one hand axe and many succeeded! A few even tried climbing without any hand axe or gloves! Ouch! We stayed warm by taking turns belaying or playing the role of backup belay and keeping the rope out any water and freezing. Hot chocolate also helped!
By the end of the day, everyone had exhausted their energies but enjoyed a newfound sense of pride and satisfaction at mastering one of the neatest winter sports of all: Ice Climbing! For some cool pics, click here!
February 9, 2014
It may not feel like it now with all the snow, but before the troop will be planning its annual spring time camping schedule. For the past several years, our troop has adopted a Good Turn Weekend outing which includes camping on the beautiful grounds of the Graymoor Monastery in Garrison, NY. The “Good Turn” element typically involves a “spring cleaning” of the prominent 9-11 prayer garden and surrounding area. For most scouts, and especially the adults, the 6 hours of yard work is therapeutic, as there is a strong appreciation of the thousands of visitors that frequent this sacred ground throughout the year. Our liason Brother Ted Novack is always careful in his choice of additional special projects and patient in his all-knowing horticultural guidance to the scouts.
To get the best appreciation of the importance of the troop’s work maintaining the sacred 9-11 prayer garden, please check out these videos of the reverent & respectful services from 2011 & 2013 ==> 9-11 Services video clips.
Although the scouts claim to be “exhausted” and too tired to work any longer by 4:00pm, they miraculously “rally and play either kick ball or softball for at least an hour prior to dinner prep, which often includes a dutch oven treat prepared by one of the adult leaders using the special food ingredient for the next day.
After a few years, a special feature was added to the outing: the Iron Chef cookoff on Sunday morning (after Mass) with Brother Ted the tasting judge. The winning patrol carries the coveted Golden Spatula award for the next twelve months. The troop’s PLC chooses a special ingredient to be included in the popular cookoff event, such as apple, lime, chocolate, pineapple, etc.
The scout’s breakfast concoctions often are original creations–which is often a good news/ bad news development. “Good” in that it spurs their creativity and there is planning involved, “bad” in that the end result is not always aesthetically pleasing to Brother Ted! Rule #1 is that it must be edible and something the scouts will eat–not a bad rule to follow under any condition!
Pictures from 2012 are found here!
Pictures from 2013 are seen here!
February 3, 2014
The current generation of scouts has a difficult time fully appreciating the tense & tumultuous period of the 1960s in our country. As each year passes, the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. become more and more awe-inspiring. The fight for equal treatment of all human beings against a culture of segregation that was brutally enforced at times is an unbelievable endeavor that demands everyone’s utmost respect. So it is with tremendous appreciation that our troop serves to perform the opening flag ceremony at the annual appreciation breakfast for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sponsored by the Eastchester Community Action Program. The breakfast is attended by a wide variety of public service-oriented groups, including many politicians, to honor the legendary Dr. King. And Troop 353 scouts proudly post the colors! More photos here!
January 24, 2014
Every troop has its traditional outings. For Troop 353, it is the annual winter outing in January to Ten Mile River (TMR) Scout Ranch in the southern part of the Catskills. The range of outdoor activities in this winter wonderland are more numerous than you might imagine: snow ball fights, sledding, snowshoeing, quinzee-building, snow skiing, and even ice-fishing! And even in years when snow is not as abundant most of these activities are still possible. This cabin campout is a clearly a troop favorite and you can see when viewing the pictures.
The typical schedule involves a 2.5 hour drive to TMR, dropping the gear in the 2 cabins and rushing to our snowshoeing / hiking destination near the Delaware River. After 3 hours on the trail, the troop comes back to the cabin for a quick lunch and then the ice fishing instruction by long-time troop friend Ray Evans ensues. The scouts have a few hours of sunlight to try and catch a fish, but mostly skate across the frozen pond in metal chairs, aka “chair curling”. The scouts often seem puzzled about the effectiveness of the small bait fish used, as they are literally frozen! The grand Thanksgiving feast, a flag retirement ceremony, perhaps a skit or two and then a late night cracker barrel cap a day full of fun activities! Many (but not all!) scouts typically have no problem falling asleep Saturday night against the backdrop of a warm fireplace glow.
Perhaps it is the fact that the scouts do not do have to do much to prepare meals for this trip (adult-led Thanksgiving feast) or that the cabins are heated with full kitchens and bathrooms or the ability to play board games (Risk!) late at night or the special respectful flag retirement ceremony; or maybe it is the ice sledding on the lake, or maybe it is the whole weekend!! The biggest challenge is always cleaning up Sunday morning and apportioning unmarked clothing that scouts leave laying around. Unquestionably, it is a very fun event and remains one of the scout’s and scout leader’s favorite outings of the year!
As a testament to HOW much fun the trip can be, the recent Scout of the Year winner, Andy M, created a wonderful 5 minute video highlighting the recent 2014 trip — it is full of great clips of our scouts having a blast ==> Awesome TMR video 2014!
Lots of great photos can be found here from each of the past three years: 2012, 2013 & 2014!