Scouts earn badges, gain knowledge at Camp Perry Summer Camp

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An empty ammunition round pops out of the chamber as a scout takes aim at a flying target Wednesday, July 5, 2023, during a free camp held by the Rio Grande Council of the Boy Scouts of America at Camp Perry. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

RIO HONDO — A shotgun blast.

The swoosh of an arrow, a spinning bicycle, a basketball’s thunderous boom across the floor.

And scouts from throughout the Rio Grande Valley have gathered for Camp Perry Summer Camp 2023 to earn merit badges, make rank, prepare for emergencies, care for the wounded and make new friends.

“I think it’s awesome,” says Ryan Huse, 16, a member of Troop 25 in San Benito.

He and his fellow archers have just qualified the previous day for their archery merit badge, so Wednesday morning they’re playing tic-tac-to by firing short range arrows into balloons placed on the targets.

“I never had been in archery before,” said Ryan. “They gave me this opportunity, and I really enjoy archery.”

The camp this year in the heat of early July has attracted about 50 scouts including some from a scouting organization in Mexico. Some of the merit badges offered at the camp aren’t available anywhere else in the Valley, said Dr. Andrew Phillips, an ER physician in Rio Grande City and health official at the camp.

And there are other reasons why so many troops sent scouts here.

“The camp is going great, lots of kids came out,” Phillips said. “There’s the resurgence from COVID now that we can be in close quarters earning merit badges we couldn’t before.”

COVID hit many families with financial hardships from which they are still recovering. In response to those hardships, the summer camp this year is free to the scouts.

“Families are struggling with the market the way it is, inflation, there are a lot of kids that couldn’t come because they were financially strapped, so we found some donors to make it happen,” Phillips said.

A Life Scout leads a group of first year campers through their first aid lesson Wednesday, July 5, 2023, during a free camp held by the Rio Grande Council of the Boy Scouts of America at Camp Perry. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The scouts spread throughout the camp are learning how to make so many things happen. In the pavilion where several boys play basketball, Miguel Molano, 11, is learning the basics of first aid and health in general.

“It’s pretty fun, and we’re learning a lot of good things,” said Miguel of Troop 6 in Brownsville.

“I’m working on making rank,” he said. “I’ve got most of my stuff for Tenderfoot and also to go on to First Class.”

Raul Sosa III, 13, has just earned his emergency preparedness merit badge by learning a variety of skills such as moving someone on a stretcher.

“The camp is going pretty good,” he says. “I did emergency preparedness and fish and wildlife management and first aid.”

His father, Raul Sosa Jr. is also his scoutmaster of Troop 4031 in Weslaco and is impressed by the success of the camp.

“They are achieving their Eagle requirements, and they are learning life lessons,” he said and then, gesturing toward his son, added, “It’s an honor. Not only with his being in scouts, he’s also in Junior National Honor Society.”

Many have asked him why is son is so well-mannered and successful. He says, “You have to put time into your kids. I don’t drink. I don’t go out. I don’t spend a lot of money.”

But he does spend time, as does his son, the scouts and the instructors across the camp. At the range where the scouts with their bows fire arrows into through the balloons and into the targets, Instructor Javier Gonzalez shouts, “Ohhhhh! You’ve got bragging rights the whole rest of the year!”

And the archers celebrate with their smile, their arrows and their camaraderie on a warm July morning. And not far away the shotgun fires as a young girl from a scouting organization in Mexico learns the basics of shooting clay pigeons. The instructor adjusts her shoulder, the height of her arm and the position of her head as she looks down the sights.

Roy Hernandez, shooting sports director, says the week is going “awesome.”

“They are learning the basics, mainly to be safe, safe, safe,” he says.

Suddenly voices rise in jubilation from the archery group.

“As you can see, they are having fun,” he says.

To see more, view Brownsville Herald photojournalist Denise Cathey’s full photo gallery here:

Photo Gallery: Scouts earn badges, gain knowledge at Camp Perry Summer Camp