With COVID-19 spreading across Nebraska and the nation, the Overland Trails Council says its organization has been impacted.

Overland Trails Council Scout Executive Dave Plond said the coronavirus led the organization’s board to cancel its camps at Camp Augustine this summer, as well as its annual Merit Badge University.

“We took a look at this whole issue and, first and foremost, in our mind, is the safety of our Scouts and our families. Because of that, the board made a very difficult decision to shut our camping operation for the summer, as well as the annual Merit Badge University,” he said.

Plond said overnight camping trips by individual troops can be done as long as they follow proper social distancing guidelines.

With COVID-19 canceling the Overland Trails Council’s summer Scouting events and camps, as well as its fundraising presentations, Plond said his organization is looking at a financial loss of $200,000 — almost a quarter of its budget.

“We have to figure out some pretty dramatic decisions when almost a quarter of our budget disappears income-wise,” he said. “What does that mean for us in the future? We don’t know yet.”

Despite the financial hit, Plond said the council is trying to avoid any loss of Scouting programming and/or staffing.

“We are trying to avoid that and figure out other methods to carry on,” he said. “We haven’t cut staff or programs, with the exception of not running our summer camp. But we are trying to work with leaders and give them options. We are not alone in this. Fifty percent of the camps across the nation are not going to run this summer because of the virus.”

Plond said Boy Scouts, troop leaders and Overland Trails Council leaders lived up to the Scout motto: “Be prepared” as they did their best to work through the circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said many troops and the council board, both hold their meetings virtually. Online merit badge classes are also offered to Scouts.

“Troops have been doing stuff at home and working with their parents on advancements,” Plond said. “Parents can approve those advancements.”

When it comes to Scouts obtaining their Eagle Scout rank, Plond said the council has done virtual board of reviews (a board that meets to review whether a Scout has met the Eagle Scout rank requirements) and that they have “worked extremely well.”

Moving forward, Plond said the council will have additional staff at its Scouting events to monitor health situations and to take temperatures before and after the events. He added its staff will continue to look for “new and creative” programming for troops, while gearing up for fall activities.

Plond said he expects that, by September, the council will be able to hold campouts and day camps for Cub Scouts. He said some programs originally scheduled for this summer may be moved to fall.

“With our program on a campout or a day camp, we’ll have to restructure that to groups of 10 or 12 and keep them together the whole time,” Plond said. “We will take into consideration all the CDC and American Camping Association recommendations and implement those. We will come out of this OK, we’ll figure it out and prepare for the fall.”

Plond said those interested in donating to the Overland Trails Council can do so online at overlandtrailscouncil.org/give or call the organization’s office at (308) 382-3717.

“We just ask that if people feel inclined to help support Scouting that they would send us a donation of whatever they can afford,” he said. “It makes a huge difference. You cannot put a price tag on investing in a young person’s character.”

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