Simon Kenton Council of the Boy Scouts of America District Commissioner Phil Malone, conspicuously wearing his Scouting shorts, made his way to an area where five groups of Scouts anxiously awaited the start of competition Saturday afternoon, as well as classes in First Aid, basic knots, Be Prepared, information directly from the Scout handbook, Kim's game (which is a memory game) and fire building.
"This is all youth-led. These are all boys leading the groups," Malone said. "Each segment will be conducted by a youth leader, and over all it is being led by a senior patrol leader whom the boys elected last night. They're all Camporee sent, and they're here to make sure everything is safe and everybody is having a good time."
Malone said the name of the event is Okpik, an Alaskan Inuit native word for the snow owl.
"This is a lot to do with their own self-esteem," Malone said. "They can say they actually survived this weekend. You know kids will tease each other and say, "Ah, you're in Scouts. You're going camping,' but what they don't realize is not just every kid can do this.
"Most kids these days are very comfortable at home in front of the TV or playing a video game; and although these kids like those things, they are actually learning to survive in cold weather by learning what their body needs to stay warm, and how to set their tent up."
In one area of the camp, a group of boys had a fire started with a goal of burning a string placed on two pieces of wood above the fire. Nearby, Cole Keller chopped wood for the fireplace.
"We had 140 kids preregistered," Malone said. "They're not all competing. Some had to run to ball games; some are staying in tents, some are in cabins. The brave ones aren't wearing any pants, they're wearing shorts. They're having a little challenge to see If they can keep shorts on all weekend."
One of the rewards for wearing the shorts is a Polar Bear Kneed patch, which becomes a premium at a Scouting event.
Michael Mundhenk, a Scout from Minford, said he enjoyed starting the fire.
"It's supposed to get to about 5 degrees tonight, and I'm going to sleep inside a cabin," he said. He went on to say there would be a fire in the cabin.
One of those people staying in a tent was Opal Spears, district chair for the Tecumseh District, Boy Scouts of America.
"I came out last night, and I'm going to camp and stay here in a tent until Sunday," Spears said. "This gives kids a good chance to get together and to do their survival and polar experience."
Brandon Muck of Portsmouth said he still was undecided as to his favorite part of the camp out.
Scott McNeal, a 14-year-old from McDermott said he enjoyed the winter activities, and was looking forward to knot tying.
Did he anticipate being warm by sleeping in a cabin?
"Not at all. Not at all," he said.
Another of the Scouting volunteers, Becky McClay helped with the registration.
"I make sure they have a schedule and what activities are going on, and I try to answer questions," McClay said. "Every participant will get an Okpik patch, and those wearing shorts all weekend will get the Polar Bear Kneed patch."
Matt Taylor, operations director for Camp Oyo talked about the recent improvements at the camp.
"We've done a lot of cleaning up. Just hauling out old junk, and just straightening the place up," Taylor said. "A lot of our buildings are 70 years old. Our cabins were built back in the thirties, so through the years of use they have been falling into some disrepair, so we've been working on restoring some of the cabins."
Okpik began Friday night and runs through this morning, when there will be a church service and awards ceremony, and Malone knows the drill.
"Then they'll be dashing off home expecting to get hot showers and warm beds."