Scouting destination builds bonds

Members of the Order of the Arrow participate in a ‘call out’ ceremony at Camp Karoondinha in Union County. Owned and operated by the Susquehanna Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the 400-acre camp has been a Scouting tradition since 1933.

MILLMONT — Nestled in the hills bordering Penn’s Creek in western Union County lies a Scouting tradition since 1933.

Camp Karoondinha, also known as “Camp K,” has offered young Scouters the chance to experience the outdoors while enhancing physical strength, knowledge and moral standards.

Owned and operated by the Susquehanna Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the facility located on 400 acres has been the origin of innumerable friendships, memorable moments and personal triumphs.

With a glistening lake and stone-facade dining hall at its center, the facility includes 11 primitive campsites, five winter cabins, a swimming pool, COPE course, health lodge and Field of Honor, where campers, their families and friends gather on warm Wednesday evenings in the summer to experience an Order of the Arrow (OA) ceremony, which recognizes Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law.

Various Scouting troops from throughout the area formed a horseshoe in a large field on a recent Wednesday to watch the “call out” ceremony featuring dancing and singing by OA members dressed in Native American clothing.

Jason Kramer, Scoutmaster of Troop 254, Shamokin, said friendships made through the OA and Camp K have lasted for decades. The week-long camping trip, he added, is the highlight for his Troop.

“It’s really a second home for me. (The) opening and closing campfires for resident camp end with the singing of the Camp K song, and it still chokes me up by the end of it — every time,” he said. “To this day, the majority of my best friends are guys I went through Scouts with as a youth.”

Kramer became a Scoutmaster when his 16-year-son, Jameson Kramer, was able to enter Scouts BSA, an experience for youth in fifth-grade through high school. He said the Troop had its “ups and downs” with leadership, but the Troop has grown significantly over the years.

There were a total of 10 Scouts who attended the camp the week of June 23, but several older boys who did not attend will instead be traveling in August to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

He described the Camp K staff as very devoted, asserting that they put their hearts into providing an excellent program. He described the facilities as “second to none” and wide ranging.

“I have no doubt that the activities and programs the youth are exposed to, here, help shape their lives well into the future,” he commented. “Exposure to ecology badges may lead to becoming a forest ranger, environmental engineer or science teacher. The next tech startup founder may have discovered a love for programming in a robotics merit badge. That Scout in welding or automotive maintenance could be your next mechanic.”

Giving back

He said the goal at Camp K is for every youth who walks through the main entrance to leave a better person. His goal as scoutmaster, he added, is to have all his Scouts return for many years and “give back to the place that has given so much to them.”

Sam Cimino, of Troop 174, Mount Carmel, has attended Camp K for 51 years, first as a Scouter with the troop and now as its Scoutmaster. This summer, a total of seven Scouts and four leaders attended Camp K.

Since 1980, Cimino has only missed one year attending Camp K with the Troop. He became Scoutmaster after serving as an assistant for several years.

“When I was a kid and came up here, you used to swim in the creek; there was not a pool or lake,” he said of the upgrades to Camp K over the years. “I love it up here.”

After earning the rank of Eagle Scout earlier this year, Don Carmine R. Scicchitano returned for his seventh outing, this time as a leader.

“They are so willing to help and always have so much energy,” he said of the staff. “The staff up here are some of the nicest people I have met in a long time.”

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