“I can’t think of a better place to have spent my time over the past few years,” said Richard Perrone, recently retired scoutmaster of Vista Boy Scout Troop 101.
“I would not have traded anything for the time I have spent with this troop. I feel I have had a positive impact on their lives, more gratifying than anything else I could have achieved. I have been humbled by the whole process.”
Mr. Perrone has headed Troop 101 since 2005. During his tenure he has guided an amazing 12 boys to the level of Eagle Scout, an honor that requires dedicated progression through the ranks, demonstrated leadership skills, at least 21 merit badges, and a final significant service project in the community.
Only 2% of Boy Scouts attain the rank of Eagle Scout.
Mr. Perrone, known fondly as “Mr. P” to Troop 101 Scouts and their families, got his start in scouting doing fund raising for the troop.
“My son, Charles, had joined the troop in 2003 and I went on the committee for the annual popcorn fund-raising drive,” he said. “I wanted to spend more time with my son, and helping with the troop seemed ideal.”
Shaping young lives
Two years later, in 2005, Mr. Perrone was asked to become scoutmaster and he agreed. “I felt there was a lot I could offer in terms of shaping the lives of young men,” he said.
Mr. Perrone said his philosophy, based on the Boy Scout credo, is to teach life skills to young men that encompass teamwork, leadership, planning, and concern for the community.
“I like to think of it as an envelope of activities that allow the Scouts to develop in a positive way, starting at about age 11 and continuing on through high school graduation,” he said. “These years are a period of great change for young men, and the principles of scouting can give them a real anchor and continuity.”
Mr. Perrone said he realizes scouting can be challenging on many levels.
“These boys have many areas they can be involved in,” he said. “There are lots of distractions out there, but we try to make our troop a family where they can learn important life skills in an environment of fun.”
Becoming a Scout entails “manning up” in several areas, including wearing the Boy Scout uniform to school on occasion.
“When you are wearing the uniform, you realize there are kids that think it is not ‘cool,’” Mr. Perrone said. “But our Scouts wear them with pride and realize what they stand for.”
In addition to teaching the Scouts basic survival and community-building skills, Mr. Perrone said, he emphasized special activities in Troop 101.
“For example, a group of our older boys raised funds for a trip out West, hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon and the Sedona desert with only basic provisions,” he said. “This was a great chance to bring together many of the survival skills they had been taught over the years.”
Other trips have included whitewater rafting, rock climbing and a trip to Gettysburg, where the troop camped on the grounds.
“We also took a 50-mile bike trip along the Erie Canal,” he said.
Mr. Perrone said the special trips were in addition to the regular meetings and camping expeditions of Troop 101.
“In addition, gaining the rank of Eagle Scout requires the 21 merit badges,” he said. “Some are required and others are optional. It can be quite a rigorous process, and some Scouts have to work hard to stay on track and fend off various distractions.”
Troop 101 has about a 90% retention rate of Scouts, a number that Mr. Perrone says is high.
“We have about 26 Scouts in the troop at any given time,” he said. “We draw from the local Cub Scouts, where we get five to 10 boys at a time.”
Mr. Perrone said Troop 101 had been blessed to have young men who enjoyed the troop’s strong camaraderie and its desire to help each other out.
“There is truly a drive to achieve the highest rank,” he said.
Mr. Perrone agreed that fostering 12 Eagle Scouts was a huge feat and an honor. “I am happy to say my son, Charles, was one of them,” he said.
After seven years at the helm, Mr. Perrone said, he decided to step down because he felt “the time was right.”
“We started about a year ago to look for a younger leader and found Bernie Kuehl, who became scoutmaster this month,” Mr. Perrone said. “I am leaving those winter camping trips to someone with younger bones.”
Mr. Perrone said he believes he left Troop 101 with a strong legacy.
“I’ve seen scoutmasters that lingered too long and did not want to do that,” he said. “I took my leadership role very seriously, always focusing on the development in the young men under me. In the end, it’s all about the boys.”
Scouts and parents showed their appreciation to Mr. P. at a surprise dinner held at the Horse and Hound Restaurant in South Salem just before Christmas.
“Mr. P was greeted by the 12 Eagle Scouts, all of whom credit his leadership in helping them to achieve that goal,” said Jennifer Christensen of South Salem, proud mother of Eagle Scout Peter Christensen.
“All of the older boys now attend college so it was a rare occasion for them to gather. The evening’s celebration was marked by many toasts — and roasts — commemorating the shared experience of camping, hiking, climbing, cooking, and doing community service together. All agreed Mr. Perrone was a wonderful scoutmaster.”
Mr. Perrone, a marketing program director for IBM, has lived in Vista for 20 years. He and his wife, Brenda, owner of The Perfect Thing and director of analytics and planning at the March of Dimes Foundation, both treasure living in Lewisboro.
“From the first day we drove through it on a picture-perfect autumn afternoon, we knew it was the place for us,” Mr. Perrone said. “We love it here, and I hope in the future to continue mentoring young men in the right direction.”