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Inaugural ‘National Backyard Campout’ encourages families to ‘make memories’

By Dawn Burleigh

Boys adventure movement Trail Life USA is encouraging families to make memories during this Stay at Home time by participating in its first-ever “National Backyard Campout”.

At a time when “outward bound” has become “homebound” for families across the nation, Trail Life USA is inviting America’s families to take a break from their valid preoccupation with the COVID-19 crisis and have a camping adventure in their own backyards April 17.

“Our resourceful troops have held their meetings online for the past few weeks during self-isolating,” said Mark Hancock, CEO of Trail Life USA, which has more than 30,000 members in 830-plus troops across all 50 states. “But this is a time when cabin fever sets in — and boys especially need to get outdoors in a safe environment.”

While many parents will look back on COVID-19 as a time of uncertainty and anxiety, it’s an opportunity for boys — and girls — “to remember this time at home with positive memories,” said Hancock, author of Let Boys be Boys and 5 Critical Needs of Boys.

“Anything we can do as parents to help re-cast this tense time is good for our kids,” he said.

Organizers hope the National Backyard Campout will bring together families “virtually” across the nation via a live web broadcast, including story readings. Trail Life USA has posted suggestions for games, activities, and outdoor cooking recipes on its website at www.TrailLifeUSA.com/BackyardCampout.

“This is a way to stay connected,” Regional Team Leader volunteer Ron Orr said.

Orr has been with the organization since the idea was introduced and officially organized in 2014.

“I grew up in the scouting movement,” Orr said.

He recalls many fond memories from camping with his grandfather and later with his own sons.

“I love being around a campfire and seeing the nighttime stars,” Orr said. “My grandfather told his stories about his experiences around a campfire.”

And while everyone may not have a backyard to camp out on Friday, Orr said that should not be a determent.

“We have families camping in the back yard, but we also have some camping indoors,” Orr said. “It is about the experience of putting up a tent, even a makeshift tent with the couch chairs and a sheet.”

The adventure begins with the tent but lasts a lifetime.

“There is something about being outside in uniquely family time,” Orr said. “It is about new experiences with family.”

Orr said there are many types of campers from those who camp with air mattresses, others with cots and even hammock campers.

“There are lots of ways to camp,” Orr said.

Trail Life USA partners with churches and parents across America as the premier national character development organization for young men which produces the next generation of godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens. In over 750 churches in nearly 50 states, fathers and sons are connecting, relationship are deepening, and legacies are beginning as a new generation of godly leaders rises up, according to its official website.

Families will also have the opportunity to share their own magical moments with others via photo and video posts.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said national event leader Steve Padgett. “This is a great opportunity for families to spend time together, and create memories and habits that will continue long after this homebound time is over.”

Families are urged to respect all emergency restrictions in their area — including self-isolating and social distancing from non-family members, Hancock said.

Launched six years ago, Trail Life USA describes itself as a “Christ-centered, boy-focused, character, leadership, and adventure organization,” with troops meeting at local churches nationwide.

To find or start a Trail Life USA troop in your community, visit www.FindATroop.com

“The nearest troop is in Groves,” Orr said. “I would love to help a troop start in Orange.”