Trail Life USA troop meetings to start soon
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Trail Life is a new national organization for young men formed in June 2013. An inaugural national convention was held in September 2013 in Nashville, Tenn. and Aaron Olson and his son, Tucker, attended.
“We drove,” Olson said. “My son, Jonah, came too and my dad, Al, came along to share driving. It was a blessing to have him along. Some very generous donors helped pay for the trip.”
When Trail Life’s organizational committee (now the Board of Directors) met for a prayer and planning session June 29, 2013, members laid out the organization’s curriculum.
“When we got to Nashville, we still didn’t know it was going to be called Trail Life,” Olson said. “It could have been a disorganized pipe dream, but it was unbelievable how much the committee had done.”
Only 68 days had passed between the organizational meeting and the convention, but a constitution and bylaws, logo and other organization documents and procedures had been created.
“At the conference I got to sit in on sessions where I learned how the ranks will work and how boys will earn them,” said Tucker. “I also got to be a part of a session where decisions were made about uniforms and shirts. It was cool to be a part of the beginning of a faith-based adventure program that will be around for future generations.”
Trail Life’s vision statement is to “be the premier national character development organization for young men which produced godly and responsible husbands, fathers and citizens.”
“The motto is ‘Walk Worthy,’ taken from Colossians 1:10,” said Olson. “The values of Trail Life are specific to the Bible.”
The group’s mission statement is “to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others and experience outdoor adventure.”
“It’s about getting boys outdoors, learning skills like camping and canoeing,” said Olson. “What a better way to explore the creation God’s made than by being in the outdoors.”
Olson describes an organization which is very conservative with funds.
“They are very conscious of where their dollars are coming from,” he said. “They don’t want to be ruled by donors.”
The Trail Life program begins with boys in kindergarten, with groups organized in two-year increments as part of the Woodlands Trail. Kindergartners and first graders are fox, second and third graders are hawks and fourth and fifth graders are mountain lions.
Sixth through eighth-graders are navigators and ninth through 12th graders are adventurers. A member aged 18-25 is a guidon. The highest award in Trail Life is the Freedom Award.
“Adult leaders agree to a Christian statement of faith,” Olson said. “While the kids do not, there is a clear understanding that what’s being taught has a Christian foundation.”
Trail Life began chartering programs Jan. 1. Little Falls Troop 19 was chartered in late February. Faith Lutheran Church is the charter organization and Olson is the troopmaster.
“The charter org ‘owns’ the troop,” Olson said. “The troop committee includes Rich Collins – chair, Mark Whittington – charter rep, Tom Lippert – treasurer, Pastor Nate Bjorge – chaplain and Matt Anderson – (younger boys’) leader.”
While Aaron and Tucker were at the conference, Al and Jonah explored Nashville. Jonah is eager to join Trail Life as well.
“I’m really excited about Trail Life because I love climbing trees, rocks and I can’t wait to try a zipline,” he said. “I’m glad that Trail Life will teach me lots of things about the outdoors and about being a boy of integrity, but won’t leave Jesus out of our activities,.”
“When the opportunity came up to join this program, we jumped at it,” Olson said. “It’s a great way to build on father-son relationships.”
For more information about the history of Trail Life visit www.traillifeusa.org. For more information about joining Troop 19, call Olson at (320) 632-8330.