By Nathanael Rodriguez | For The Signal
On Nov. 8, a devastating blaze known as the Camp Fire burned through 153,336 acres of Butte County.
Among the wreckage was Elks Lodge 2267, the meeting place of Boy Scout Troop 316 in the town of Paradise.
The Scouts lost their meeting place, as well as all of their equipment, in the fire.
Almost 450 miles away in Valencia on a random Saturday, Robert Clarke was scrolling through Facebook and came across the story of Paradise Troop 316’s loss. Being the Scoutmaster of Valencia Troop 316, Clarke immediately felt a connection and decided he wanted to help.
“I reached out to Scoutmaster Dan Genna to see what their need was, and got some more information on the loss they had suffered,” Clarke said.
The troop in Paradise had just recently purchased a trailer they had been saving up for to store their equipment. When the fire hit, the trailer was destroyed. The troop lost all of their gear including flags, uniforms, Scout books and records.
Paradise 316 currently meets in a local Scout shop without uniforms or Scout booklets. Many of the Scouts’ houses were burned down, as well.
“We’re kinda in limbo right now,” said Assistant Scoutmaster Walter Seidenglanz. “The fire burned 80 (percent) to 90 percent of our Scouts’ houses. Parents are unable to find work and housing, so families are starting to move.”
After hearing the effect that the fire had, Clarke had a desire to bring some normalcy back to the lives of his fellow Scouts. He began by attempting to bring some normalcy back to their scouting.
Clarke quickly brought the situation to his troop’s executive leadership. They were more than happy to reach out and help in any way they could. A fundraising campaign commenced.
Valencia Troop 316 launched a GoFundMe page Jan. 31. Clarke set a goal of $1,000. As of Feb. 13, the page has raised over $1,600.
“We knew that he was going to start the account, but we didn’t know he set a goal of $1,000,” said Paradise 316 Scoutmaster Dan Genna. “I was blown away by the amount.”
Next week, during their troop meeting, Genna plans to let the Scouts know about the money that was raised. He’s confident they will be as ecstatic as he was.
The generosity of Valencia’s Troop 316 doesn’t end there, however. The troop went on to offer some of their old gear and Clarke is planning on setting up a troop outing where they can meet up with Paradise 316 and hand it off.
“It does the soul good to have another troop that has never met you to reach out in your time of need,” said Genna.
Despite the devastation of the fire, Genna and the other troop leaders encourage the Scouts to keep their chins up. It’s a slow road to recovery but thanks to Valencia troop 316 and other troops around America, Genna’s troop is becoming whole again.
Clarke sees it as divine intervention that helped him come across Paradise 316’s story and is taking every opportunity to help them. They plan to keep the GoFundMe page running for at least another 30 days in hopes of raising even more money than they already have.
“My hat is off to Robert,” said Genna. “He wants to make sure our boys get the most out of Scouting.”