Let’s Move Quad Cities celebrates the spirit and determination Quad City area residents take to promote movement and fitness. QC Boy Scout leader and Kittan District Klondike Derby Co-Chair Tom Ervin, 70, shares his love of scouting and the annual wintertime Klondike Derby.
How did you personally get involved in Scouting?
I joined Scouting as a Cub Scout in Perry, Iowa, when I was 8 years old. 2015 marked my 50th year in Scouting.
As a youth, I enjoyed the campouts, summer camp and the camaraderie of other Scouts. In High School, the Explorer Post to which I belonged made several annual trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota.
I became an Eagle Scout in 1963. In 1975, after college, I joined scouting as an adult in Troop 7, at First Presbyterian Church in Davenport. Then, with my son involved, I became a leader in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Exploring.
Currently: I am an Assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 7, I am the Advancement Chairman for the Illowa Council (QCA, Clinton, Lost Nation, West Liberty, DeWitt, Muscatine, Burlington, Galesburg, Macomb Bushnell, Kewanee, el al.), I am also the Advancement Coordinator for the Scout Councils in Area #3 (comprised of eight Councils like Illowa, in the states of Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin).
Have you always enjoyed young people?
I have always loved working with young people. In fact, I come from a family of teachers: two of my sisters, my daughter, and my wife were teachers.
I was a science teacher in Davenport, where I taught science for 36 years, 26 in Junior High, and my final 10 at High School. After retirement, I substitute taught in Davenport for another 10 years.
Tell us about the annual Klondike Derby.
The Klondike Derby is an annual wintertime Boy Scout event that goes back locally to the 1960’s and possibly further. (I know that I have collected local Klondike patches dating from the 1960’s).
The over-arching purpose of the Klondike is to promote Scouting skills, while developing team-work, and of course having fun doing so.
Each patrol of 6-8 boys has a sled that they have built. They pull this sled and follow a map on a course around the camp, completing wintertime activities as they go: fire building with flint and steel, finding North without a compass, knowing first aid for hypothermia, working as a team as they walk on a pair of 5-man giant skis, cutting a log with a 2-man saw, identifying wintertime Nature sights, etc.
How do you possibly manage 250 – 300 boys going in so many directions?
To manage such a large group of boys on a cold winter morning takes a well-trained, dedicated staff of adults.
This year’s staff numbered 55, not counting the 10-12 in the kitchen preparing the hot, noon meal.
Each group of scouts has a Patrol leader who leads his scouts. For the Klondike, we also include an adult, a Patrol Dad or Patrol Mom, who accompanies each patrol for the whole day on the trail.
Why do you get such a great turnout even in the middle of winter?
The Klondike is set up to be fun, as it allows the scouts to use, for real, those scouting skills they’ve been practicing during their weekly troop meetings.
We run the Klondike as a competition, with ribbons for all patrols, and place ribbons for the top patrols.
Part of the Klondike is a sled race with scouting “tasks” to accomplish along the way.
The 3 fastest times for the patrols who complete the race and successfully complete the tasks, also receive place ribbons. I believe that we get a great turnout because the Klondike is FUN.
Who comes up with all the fun and crazy activities?
The activities we run were, for the most part, developed by adult scouters and then polished from year to year by the staff who return to run that same activity.
For me, the most fun activity to watch is the “Giant Skis,” where teamwork makes it look so simple, but where a lack of teamwork makes the activity as funny as a clowns at the circus. You can’t help but laugh, and the Scouts laugh at themselves, too.
Why is this event successful, even in an era of video games, organized sports and other distractions?
I believe that this event is successful, even in an era of video games and other distractions, because it combines competition, teamwork, authentic skill application, exercise, a boy’s sense of fair-play, Scouting’s ideals, a good hot lunch and tons of fun.
What do you enjoy most about being a Scout Leader?
As a teacher, I loved seeing a student, over time, grow in confidence. I loved to see the “light bulb” come on in their eyes as they grasped a concept.
In Scouting, I get to do the same. In Scouting, my aim/goal is to help scouts become good fathers, good husbands, good citizens …. good men. This alone makes Scouting worth my efforts and worth my time.
What do you hope your scouts remember most about their youth in scouting?
My hope is that my scouts will look back on their time in Scouting and know that it was worth their time as well. To know that they are better, because of Scouting, and that when they have a son, they might want to be involved in Scouting, with him.
Have you ever thought of retiring after 40+ years? What keeps you going strong?
Well, this year is my 51st year in Scouting, and I suppose that there will come a day when I’ll have to stand down, but so far, the enjoyment that I receive from my involvement keeps me going strong.
Unlike other men I know, I don’t have a bass boat, and I don’t golf very well, so I continue to employ the skills that I do have, and to “Do My Best,” just as my old Scoutmaster, back in Perry, taught me to do, so many years ago.