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Prepared for life

February 17, 2017 - 12:45am

NORTH HAWAII — More than 100 years ago, the first Boy Scout troop was formed in North Hawaii in Niulii, near Pololu Valley.

Nowadays, nearly 750 youth are involved in scout programs from kindergarten through high school in West Hawaii. The Aloha Council fulfills the Boy Scouts of America mission by incorporating traditional Hawaiian values of kuleana (responsibility), kokua (teamwork) and malama ka aina (respect for the land) with aloha.

But as living costs increase in Hawaii, so does the cost to run the scout programs.

“The cost is around $200 per boy, but dues for the year is $24 — or $2 per month — and that goes to the national office to help with processing, insurance and support they provide. The council itself is responsible for finding the funding needed to run the program i.e. facilities, training, support staff and events,” said Jason Ontiveros, district executive director of Aloha Council West Hawaii.

There are other limiting factors.

“Scouting membership is down overall. There have been many contributing factors. Year-round sports and working parents tend to be the biggest hurdles that mostly applies in the cub scouting ages,” he said. “One of the things that makes the scouting program special is it provides mom, dad, grandpa, or whoever, a medium in which to work side by side with their child, and offer mentorship while they see them grow in the program.”

Scouting continues throughout the boys’ childhood.

“Boys can start as young as kindergarten as lion cubs, then cub scouts, and in fourth and fifth grades boys prepare to join a Boy Scout troop, while learning outdoors skills and participating in many adventures. From 11-18 they are boy scouts and ultimately eagle couts,” Ontiveros said.

He has been involved since he was 7, and has seen Aloha Council West Hawaii active in all five parts of North Hawaii.

“In Kohala they have five units — two boy scouts, two cub scouts and one varsity team. Waikoloa Village has their own boy and Cub Scout troops, and Waimea has three Cub Scout troops and three Boy Scout troops. Honokaa and Paauilo each have their own Cub and Boy Scout troops,” he said.

According to the Aloha Council, young people develop values, ethical and moral choices throughout the program.

“The main purpose is character development,” Ontiveros said. “The ways this has been possible is through programs such as camping and what we call ‘delivering the mail’ — meaning how to be a leader or any lesson we can teach them. The easiest way to do this is to arrange worthwhile experiences such as camping, fishing and community projects.”

One of North and West Hawaii’s biggest supporters throughout the years has been Earl Veloria, the scout committee chairman in Hawi.

“I first became involved in Boy Scouts 1963 as an adult. I was a Boy Scout in the early ‘50s. When you go to a program you enjoy, you want others to enjoy it too. It’s been almost 50 years now. It’s been good to me, the boys and the community. The program teaches lifelong values. I like it because it isn’t ‘me against you,’ like sports with winners and losers. In scouting everyone has the same opportunities if it’s a family affair. Our Friends of Scouting campaign begins in March. The scouts go and ask people and businesses for donations. The money will remain here for the boys to use.”

Another big supporter is the owner of McDonald’s in Waimea and Kona.

“Robert Leopoldino flies people in for training and provides lunch,” Ontiveros said. “It’s also a lot of little hands, including families and old-time scouters who contribute.”

The next big Aloha Council West Hawaii event is Ellison Onizuka Day of Exploration on April 8.

“It will be a STEM festival being put on by the Boy Scouts of the island for youth to experience different STEM activities at Old Kona Airport,” Ontiveros said. “It was named after Ellison Onizuka because he was an Eagle Scout.”

A favorite annual program is the 3-week Boy Scout summer camp in Honokaa that resumes in June.

“Troops can come for one week and each sets up their own camp. They have wake up, clean their clothes and cook for themselves. In a lot of cases it’s the first time the boys are away from home,” he said. “We also have more than 50 volunteers teaching merit badges, and an NRA shooting program to learn safety. It’s what I got to experience at their age and it gave me a good leg to stand on.”

North Hawaii residents often donate whether they have children in the program or not.

“They can mail contributions or do so online,” Ontiveros said. “Stipulating West Hawaii makes sure the funds go to boys specifically in our region.”

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