Boy Scouts Turn 100 as Buffalo Attorney William Mattar Chairs Gala Event

It was a foggy London night in 1908, and American newspaperman William Boyce was lost and alone. As Boyce wandered, he came across a boy who offered to help. After he guided Boyce to his destination, Boyce offered to tip.
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Feb. 1, 2010 - PRLog -- He was impressed when the boy refused.  "I'm a Scout," the boy explained, adding that helping Boyce was his good turn for the day.

Boyce was taken with the idea of Scouting. He met with Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting in Britain. He returned home determined to introduce Boy Scouting to America.

On Feb. 8, 1910, he officially incorporated the Boy Scouts of America. One hundred years later, his vision is still going strong. Boy Scouts across the nation will celebrate 100 years of Scouting in America in 2010.

One of this year's centennial events hosted by the Greater Niagara Frontier Council is the Boy Scouts' 100th Anniversary Gala. The gala will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Buffalo at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 13. Active in Scouting and an Eagle Scout himself, attorney William Mattar ( has been chosen as the chairman of the event. Past Scouts and anyone interested in Scouting are encouraged to attend the once-in-a-lifetime celebration. For tickets, call 891-4022.

To celebrate, the Greater Niagara Frontier Council will hold a councilwide encampment the weekend of May 14 at Old Fort Niagara. The patch for the encampment will depict a Scout guiding William Boyce through the London fog. They will also host a 100th Anniversary Gala at the Hyatt Regency in Buffalo on March 13. Some Western New York Scouts will hike and camp at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. But even ordinary Scouting activities have a sheen of excitement during this year.

"Everything we do will take on a special flair," said Bob Bene, scoutmaster of Troop 440 at St. Gregory the Great Church. "The boys will always be able to say that they were part of this."

Troop 440 will take part in the encampment at Fort Niagara. It will also hold a 100th Anniversary Scout Sunday celebration at the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Gregory the Great on Feb. 7.

Scout Sundays, in which Scouts attend church service in uniform, are a yearly tradition for Troop 440. This year's event will feature a reception with a display of troop photos. It's an opportunity for Boy Scout alumni to reflect on what Scouting has meant to them.

Two generations of Scouting tradition are represented in the Zgoda family of Amherst. Jay Zgoda, left, and son Andrew, right, will take part in the Philmont Scout Ranch trek this summer during the Boy Scout centennial.

For John Schunak, assistant scoutmaster for Troop 440, Scouting is part of his personal heritage. "I am an Eagle Scout, as was my father and as is my son," he said.

Schunak volunteers a great deal of time with his troop and as advancement chair of the Onondaga Region, which encompasses Amherst, Clarence, Newstead, Lancaster and Cheektowaga. Though Schunak had served as scoutmaster for Troop 440, a national tragedy influenced him to expand his involvement in Scouting.

"For days after the shooting in Columbine, I felt very uncomfortable as to what I could do to avert such happenings in the future. I realized I couldn't change the whole world, but I might be able to help a few boys," he recalled. Schunak feels strongly that Scouting has had a positive influence on his life.

"It's set a baseline in terms of what I believe and how I behave. The Boy Scout Oath and Laws are guidelines for adults, too." Schunak made many memories through Scouting, although some of them are funnier in retrospect.

"I remember the time we went to Evangola for our Camporall. It was early spring. I was about 12. We 'd set up the tents, and the weather was decent, but then this huge storm of freezing rain came in." Temperatures dropped below freezing, and the Scouts were forced to pack up and head home.

"Tents back then were not as waterproof as they are today," he recalled.

Although times have changed from Schunak's ill-fated camping trip, he feels that Scouting still has a great deal to offer modern boys.

"The program's been updated to reflect the times," he said. "We now teach about Internet safety, for example."

Jay Zgoda, assistant scoutmaster at Troop 440, was stumped when asked how the organization had changed since his own Scouting days in the 1970s.

"The core values and ideas are pretty much the same," he said. "Not much has changed. There aren't too many other things that have remained constant for that long."

Zgoda, along with his 14-year-old son Andrew and several others in Troop 440, will travel to New Mexico this summer for a 12-day hiking and camping trek at Philmont Scout Ranch. For the elder Zgoda, it will be a chance to share his most prized memory of his Scouting days with his son. Jay Zgoda did the Philmont trek twice as a Scout, once at 15 and once at 17.

"The fact that my dad did it definitely inspired me to do it," Andrew Zgoda said at a recent troop meeting. Andrew Zgoda has been involved in Scouting since first grade. His best Scouting memory was of a much more pleasant camping trip than John Schunak's sleet-filled Evangola excursion.

"One summer, when I was about 10, I went to summer camp for the first time. I'd only gone camping on weekends before. It was cool going for a whole week. I got to do so many different things and meet a lot of different kids," he recalled.

Unlike the Zgodas and the Schunaks, florist Frank Mischler did not have a Scouting tradition in his family. Mischler didn't participate in Scouting as a youth, but when his son's troop needed help, he volunteered. Today, his son is grown, but Mischler has continued as assistant scoutmaster of Troop 262 at Mill Middle School. He also serves on the Eagle Board of Review.

For him, the best part is what he's been able to offer the boys.

"We develop leadership in the youth of America. Boys learn how to make the right decisions throughout their life," Mischler said. "It's an opportunity to do things you normally don't do. Many times, kids come home from school and play video games. Scouting gets them outside and active," he explained.

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William K. Mattar, P.C. is a personal injury law firm whose focus is on helping those injured in motor vehicle accidents in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and throughout New York state. Hurt in a Car, Call William Mattar.
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