Scouts gather at Camp Perry on their quest for Eagle rank

HARLINGEN — “A scout is ‘clean,’” Roel Salinas yelled, encouraging the scouts to pick up the leftover wood from their team building project at Camp Perry yesterday.

He was reminding them of the 11th virtue in the Scout law.

Salinas was one of more than 200 Scouts, including girls, at Camp Perry’s 23rd Annual Winter Camp.

The Scouts began building a door frame for the swimming pool restroom as part of their requirement to earn the Home Repair merit badge.

“We got to learn some new skills and home repair skills,” Salinas said about the first full day of camp, which runs through tomorrow.

They drilled nails into the wood, measured and sawed off parts of the wood to make the large door frame.

Salinas said he attended Winter Camp because his goal is to become an Eagle Scout.

To earn the rank of Eagle, a Scout must earn 13 required merit badges and complement those with eight others for a total of 21 badges.

Winter Camp at Camp Perry consists of four days and five nights at the 92-year old camp ground that has been used by Scouts for generations.

Salinas said he joined McAllen Troop 40 in 2007 and was inspired by an older Scout who earned the prestigious Eagle rank.

“These kids are worth it,” said Leo Lopez, Brownsville Troop 6 merit badge counselor. “People have forgotten how good scouting is for kids.”

Lopez is teaching the Citizenship and Nation merit badge training during Winter Camp.

During Thursday’s class lecture, students learned about the branches of government and were assigned homework to do over the week.

Part of their requirements Lopez said is each Scout must know who their state, district and congressional elected officials are, and will have to write a letter to one of them about a community issue concerning them.

One of the Scouts, Juan Marruquin, with Troop 11 described what the 13 colonies represented when Lopez posed the question to the more than 30 Scouts in the group.

“It meant our declaration of Independence,” Marruquin said.

Another group of Scouts were outside led by David Garcia, who was going over the merit badge requirements for Environmental Science.

They brushed the ground with their feet to find insects, looked high into the trees at Camp Perry to find birds nests and examined the monarch butterflies.

“This is the place to come if boys are setting their goals to become Eagle Scouts,” said Rey Cantu, San Benito Troop 25 scout master. “All the tough merit badges are taught here and they can earn them in a week.”

Some of the other merit badge projects the scouts were working on Thursday were auto maintenance, public speaking and wood carving.

“There is a lot of excitement,” said Oscar Garza, Camp Perry Winter Camp director. “Since we started doing winter camp the number of Eagle Scouts at risen.”