DeKALB – The members of DeKalb Boy Scout Troop 33 had a different idea of what the “break” in spring break means.
Ten members of the troop went to Harrisburg to break concrete, break a sweat and break any rubble that was in the way of rebuilding the southern Illinois community after a February tornado.
Cliff Golden, Scoutmaster for Troop 33, said the boys saw the disaster on the news and decided to use their spring vacation to help the victims. The Feb. 29 tornado killed seven people and caused millions of dollars in damage.
"The boys worked more than I could have ever imagined,” Golden said.
Golden said the Scouts, ages 10-16, performed “backbreaking” work because they had only a sledgehammer and buckets to dispose of concrete bricks, foundations and other rubble. They also cleared the debris on a four-mile stretch of Route 45.
Caeden Keith said the project was a lot of work but worth the effort. The 12-year-old said the site was not what he expected because some houses were completely destroyed while others nearby had no damage.
“I thought it would be a good project,” he said. “If it wasn’t for us cleaning up the area, two families wouldn’t have a home right now.”
The five-day trip, which ended Wednesday, was another example of how Troop 33 goes above and beyond, Golden said. He has been Scoutmaster of the troop since 1976 and has gone on similar relief trips, including one for Hurricane Katrina.
“When they do these projects, they actually enjoy doing them,” Golden said of Scouts. “I want to expand their sense of community beyond DeKalb and DeKalb County.”
Jim Ryan was a Scout under Golden in the 1980s and now has his stepson in the troop. Ryan joined his stepson in Harrisburg and said he could not have been prouder of the Scouts.
“I was very impressed with each and every boy,” he said. “They split concrete in half and loaded it in buckets and Dumpsters by hand.”
Some Scouts even opened the doors to volunteerism for others.
Chris Christopherson, whose grandson brought him along for the trip, said it was the first time he had ever helped at a disaster site. Watching his 10-year-old grandson – the youngest of the Scouts – put in tough, physical labor every day made the experience more rewarding.
"They just never gave up,” he said. “There are a lot of us grown men who couldn’t last as long as they did all day.”
Christopherson, who runs a remodeling business, enjoyed the experience so much he signed up to help the community rebuild homes.
The boys’ work ethic was matched only by their seemingly unending supply of energy, Golden said. Every day after working in 80-plus degree heat, the Scouts would go back to the church where they were staying and play basketball until 10 p.m. on many nights.
Caeden said he isn’t sure where he found the energy.
“I really don’t how we did it,” he said. “We were pretty tired when we got back.”
Published in Daily Chronicle on April 7, 2012