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photos by Bill Reiman and Tom Watson Aldersgate United Methodist Church Boy Scout Troop 349 pose in front of the Bear Creek Playground that they helped to restore.
photos by Bill Reiman and Tom Watson Aldersgate United Methodist Church Boy Scout Troop 349 pose in front of the Bear Creek Playground that they helped to restore.
Boy Scout Troop 349, sponsored by Aldersgate United Methodist Church of Fort Wayne, Indiana returned to Bear Creek, South Dakota for a fifth time this summer from July 16 to July 24. It was a very memorable week for our scouts and the adults who went with them. The joy of the children and the generosity and gratitude of the adults who hosted us will long be remembered.

Our scouts and scouters undertook two service projects. One service project was the restoration and expansion of the Bear Creek Playground, which the troop helped build in 1997. Eight years of heavy use and the extremes of the South Dakota weather had left much of the playground unusable and unsafe. Boards had broken, swings had torn, trolleys were rusted, weeds had grown, fasteners had loosened, and one structure had collapsed. It was in major need of repair.

Life Scout Andrew Reiman stepped up to take on this challenge for his Eagle Scout Service Project. Prior to the trip, he reviewed the original construction plans and photos of the present condition, then, planned the restoration. Thanks to generous donations, he was able to take all needed materials to the job site.

Andrew’s crew of seven completed the full restoration in three days, including adding a new attraction, the “Bucking Bronco.” As you can expect, Andrew’s project was a big hit with the children of Bear Creek.

The second project was the construction of a Memorial Park in honor of four children who perished in a fire in Bear Creek last year. The children were well known to several Aldersgate Church members, and their deaths saddened us greatly. Knowing how a vacant lot can lower the spirits of a community, the troop gladly accepted the request to help create a park in their memory.

Jeff Price took on as his Eagle Service Project the challenge of turning this site of such sorrow into one of hope and fond remembrances. He succeeded far beyond what he had imagined when he drew up his plans. Jeff had talked to the surviving family members about what they would like to have in the park, and they requested a simple garden with a memorial stone. Jeff worked up a design that incorporated a circular walk around a flower garden and monument.

The monument displays photos representing the children and a prayer. Around the walk are four wooden benches, which invite the visitor to sit and remember the joy that the children brought to the community. Jeff also designed, and with help from Bob Hinty, produced tee shirts to be passed out at the Memorial Service.

What Jeff had not anticipated was how his project would stimulate the community to participate. We were all amazed at how the neighborhood and the tribal government got involved. The Tribal Housing Authority not only donated the lot, but also removed debris and leveled the land, and then fenced the property. This fall they will be planting a grove of fir trees to add to the peacefulness of the site. Neighbors brought over tools, water, power cords, and helped when needed. And even though Jeff’s crew of amateurs was ready and willing to pour the cement for the sidewalk, Aberle Redi-Mix Company sent out their professionals to ensure that the walks were done properly and on time for the dedication ceremony and memorial service. With all the help, Jeff’s crew was able to complete the tasks during our five-day stay.

As the time drew near for the park’s dedication, a noticeable change came over the community. The local Pow Wow grounds were mowed for the first time this year, and its flagpoles were restrung and cemented in place. Trash was picked up and yards cleaned. The community council organized a memorial walk and children’s activity day. The Tribal Council brought in materials for two new pavilions and several picnic tables. After a year of sadness, a time of healing was finally reached.

The people of Bear Creek were wonderful in their response to the Scout’s work on both projects. Throughout the week, they greeted and joked with us, fed us, brought us much needed water, and when two storms flattened our tents, they opened their community building for us to stay in and dry out. At the end of the week, they held honoring ceremonies for our two Eagle Candidates and presented gifts to us all.

We will never forget them.

The Waynedale News Staff
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