The whole concept of scouting revolves around the ideas of embracing one’s roots, of acknowledging a simpler way of life, of getting back to nature.
It’s what Camp Mack is currently celebrating. That, and five decades of enriching lives and helping young people get in touch with who they really are.
Here’s to another 50 more!
Camp Mack, a 926-acre cub Scout reservation located along Route 501 in Heidelberg Township—squarely on the border between Lebanon and Lancaster Counties—is commemorating its founding in 1969. It has been estimated that over those last 50 years, the Pennsylvania Dutch Council of the Boy Scouts of America has wholesomely impacted more than 170,000 young lives through outdoor summer activities at Camp Mack.
“Our mission is to provide character development and leadership skills,” said Dan Hanson, the program director for the Pennsylvania Dutch Council of the Boy Scouts of America. “To say that we’ve impacted nearly 200,000 individuals’ lives in that way is phenomenal. We’re changing lives. We’re helping kids grow. We’re also teaching parents. That, to me, is why the camp is important.
“It’s exciting we got to 50 years,” continued Hanson. “More and more camps have been sold and gone away. But we’re still going. We want to grow scouting in the area. If kids go to camp, they’re 70 percent more likely to stay in scouting. It’s an exciting time because Camp Mack still exists. We have to provide more and more opportunities for youth.”
Some of the specifics about the founding of Camp Mack are sketchy. It originated through the efforts of Lancaster businessman J. Edward Mack, himself a former Boy Scout, in the late 1960s, and is still officially called the J. Edward Mack Scout Reservation.
“He was a coffee man, and he was involved in Lancaster,” said Hanson. “When this was built, the two counties we serve, Lebanon and Lancaster, merged in the (19)70’s. I know he was in Scouts, and he was an Eagle Scout. He donated the money for the property, to build the camp. He didn’t own the land.
“It was originally built as a BSA Scout camp, for ages 11 to 18,” added Hanson. “In the 1990s, it became a Cub Scout focused camp.” For his efforts, Mack, who died in 1985, held the Silver Beaver award, scouting’s highest adult honor.
Through its most fundamental application, Camp Mack has done the most good by simply getting kids outside.
On any given week or weekend during the summer, up to 150 elementary-aged kids and their parents can be found at Camp Mack, enjoying nature, hiking or swimming. There’s also outdoor activities like mountain biking, boating, fishing, archery and BB gun shooting, crafts, human foosball, a rock-climbing wall and the wildly popular gaga pit (a kind of dodgeball played in an octagonal ring).
Camp Mack also features numerous structural amenities nestled in its woods, including a nature lodge, a general store, a dining facility, a health lodge and six camping sites for tents.
“They’re in a tent, on a cot,” said Hanson of Camp Mack’s guests. “They’re not cooking food. We have electricity at every camp site. It’s camping, but it’s not primitive camping. There are a lot of activities. We teach a lot of outdoor skills. We kind of ask the kids what they want to learn.
“We kind of believe we have to keep kids engaged and balanced,” Hanson continued. “We don’t police that (internet use on the property). That’s a position the adults can take. We don’t encourage it, but we don’t discourage it.”
It would seem that scouting locally is a bit stronger than it is nationally. And while our ever-changing society continues to evolve, Camp Mack and the Boy Scouts of America are standing firm in their beliefs and goals.
“We welcome all youth, male and female,” said Hanson. “I can’t put a demographic or profile on them (today’s Scouts). We just want to serve kids. We don’t care what kind of families they come from, we just want to provide opportunities.
“Locally, we’ve been fortunate,” concluded Hanson. “Over the last three years, we’ve grown in membership. Some of that is just awareness. Nationally, we’re doing OK. We’ve pretty much been flat (in growth) over the last few years. But we’re not where we used to be. Now there’s a lot more opportunities for youth.”
Camp Mack Grace
Bless the flowers and the trees.
Bless the person I call me.
Bless the sun that warms the land.
Bless this camp he made so grand.
Bless the fellowship we feel.
As we gather for this meal. Amen.
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.