JOPLIN, Mo. —
Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has abided by its slogan to “do a good turn daily.”
Saturday, in the shadow of the shattered shell of Joplin High School, hundreds of Scouts braved 100-degree heat to clear debris left by the May 22 tornado as part of a day of service.
Amy Harper drove almost eight hours to bring a group of six Scouts from Oskaloosa, Iowa. She says there aren’t words to describe the destruction in Joplin.
“We saw things mangled in every direction, but when I saw the high school, I wanted to cry,” she said. “It’s not even my high school, but I just wanted to cry.”
Harper’s troop is one of hundreds from seven states participating in the day of service. Marilyn Brown, district executive for the Boy Scouts of America, said 1,030 Scouts participated in the event. Teams of Scouts fanned out across the tornado-affected areas of Joplin and surrounding communities to help schools clear debris and prepare for the upcoming school year.
Brown said the Scouts who participated in the event will receive a patch to commemorate their service. She says the event took two months to plan and coordinate.
Gesturing to the remains of the high school, Brown said Scouts should remember to be prepared in case a disaster hits their communities.
“Just by looking at these facilities, they can see that tragedy can happen in your backyard,” she said. “I hope they learn to be alert and to use what they’ve learned in action if it comes to it.”
One of Harper’s Scouts, 12-year-old Spencer Martin, noted finding a once-treasured memento of the high school’s athletic past.
“We found a part of what looked like a trophy from the trophy case, but it was broken with the arms and legs broken off,” he said.
Martin said he enjoyed the day of service, except for the combination of the intense heat and his troop’s navy blue work shirts.
“We’re drinking a lot of water, so we should be OK, but maybe next year we could get white or gray work shirts,” he said.
The EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin on May 22 destroyed thousands of structures, including several schools and two fire stations, displaced thousands, and killed 160. Darren Sharen, a Scout leader from Wichita, Kan., said he hopes his Scouts are learning the most basic principles of civic responsibility.
“I think it’s just a good lesson for all of the Scouts just to understand that no matter what the situation, great or small, you always do your best to help out your neighbor,” he said.
Sam Munsell, a 14 year-old Scout from Wichita, said that seeing so many of his fellow Scouts gather to lend a hand gives him a sense of pride.
“It makes me feel really proud that this organization can come together to help out a town in need,” he said.
For Ken Miller, Scout executive from Kansas City, the dedication to service is one of the best characteristics of Scouting.
“It’s all about giving back, and community service,” he said. “That’s something kids need to learn. I think it’s one of the best things the Scouts do. They’ll remember this forever. You know they’ll tell their kids and grandkids about it.”
Plans called for the majority of the Scouts to stay at Frank Childress Scout Reservation on Saturday night before returning home today.