Scouts plan Puerto Rico trip to rebuild camp

Two local Boy Scouts and their troop leader are headed to Puerto Rico during spring break to help rebuild a scout camp that was damaged by Hurricane Maria.

Cathy Lucas, a scoutmaster for Boy Scouts of America Troop 585, will visit Guajataka, Puerto Rico, from March 11 to 18 with Boy Scouts Jacoby Ward and Kayeden Messina. Ward is a freshman at Columbus North, while Messina attends Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech High School, also as a freshman.

Lucas, who purchased plane tickets totaling $1,700 out of pocket, learned about the camp needing assistance through Order of the Arrow, the Scout’s national honor society. Lucas, Ward, Messina and another Boy Scout also assisted with hurricane relief efforts two years ago in Charleston, South Carolina.

That effort involved working with the Salvation Army to help set up and take down cots over a three-day period, Lucas said.

Lucas said the trip to Puerto Rico aligns with a Boy Scouts’ slogan, “Do a good turn daily.” She wants the teens to understand the importance of helping others.

“We really don’t know what to expect,” Lucas said of the upcoming visit. “We told the boys to expect the worst, but hope for the best.”

Ward and Messina both said they decided to volunteer their time during spring break to help others in need.

“That hurricane pretty much destroyed the whole place,” Ward said. “As a Scout, you’re supposed to be respectful and help out whenever anyone needs help.”

Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico Sept. 20, resulted in campsites at Camp Guajataka being flooded with more than 3 feet of water, according to the Boy Scouts of America’s Order of the Arrow website.

The site also indicated that there was no water or electricity at the camp due to the hurricane, with the exception of power generators running on diesel. Lucas said she has heard that electricity at the camp may be restored by the end of this month, but that remains uncertain.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Hurricane Maria is the third-costliest hurricane on record for all United States hurricanes with damage at $90 billion. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 ranked second, while Hurricane Katrina topped the list, according to the federal agency’s website.

Ward and Messina volunteered to assist with cleanup efforts in Puerto Rico after Lucas asked the eight members of the Scout troop whether any of them wanted to volunteer their time. She said she is proud of the teens for their willingness to help.

“If it was something they wanted to do, I said I would do my darnedest to make it happen,” she said.

Robbin Ward, the mother of Jacoby Ward, commended Lucas for her leadership role.

“I just think it’s awesome that she’s willing to do that with these boys,” Robbin Ward said.