At SeaBreak, Arrowmen spend their spring break helping rebuild Florida camp

Cheerful service doesn’t take a week off — not even for spring break.

Arrowmen from as far away as Minnesota and Colorado traveled to the Florida Sea Base in March to complete a week of hurricane cleanup.

They called this giant spring break service project SeaBreak. You might have read about it back in January when the Order of the Arrow put out a call for volunteers.

Instead of spending their week off from school relaxing — like most of their classmates — these Arrowmen got to work.

The Scouts repaired property damaged during Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the Florida Keys. In all, they completed a combined 1,200 hours of service to the Brinton Environmental Center and Big Munson Island. There was even a visit from BSA Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh, who rolled up his sleeves to serve alongside the Scouts and Scouters.

This Florida hurricane-relief project, coupled with a similar weeklong project in Puerto Rico, offers the latest proof that the OA’s commitment to “cheerful service” is more than just a slogan.

For more, here’s Arrowman Kyle Kipple’s report.

SeaBreak: Cheerful service at Sea Base

By Kyle Kipple, SeaBreak youth co-lead 

Hurricane Irma is one of the strongest storms to have been recorded in the Atlantic hurricane basin. It made landfall on Sept. 10 on Cudjoe Key, Fla., as a Category 4 storm, unleashing winds of more than 130 mph.

The Brinton Environmental Center, located on Summerland Key, suffered minor damage compared to other locations in the Keys. Trees were uprooted, fences downed and trash widespread after the hurricane moved offshore. Sea Base’s Big Munson Island also suffered downed trees and a damaged compostable toilet system, as well as various debris brought onshore by the waves and wind. Some 3 to 4 feet of sand was dumped on the island, covering numerous camping locations, said Sea Base general manager Mike Johnson.

“Big Munson Island will survive and bounce back,” Johnson said. “The topography may be different, but the spirit of Big Munson Island lives on.”

With three days spent repairing chuckboxes and cleaning up campsites, the SeaBreak Arrowmen contributed hours of cheerful service to Big Munson’s spirit.

Work — and a little play

Each day, Sea Base staff members guided the participants in activities, such as Big Munson Island’s mangrove maze or shark fishing along the beach. The volunteers also were given a chance to snorkel at Looe Key, a small U-shaped reef, part of the reef system that parallels the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys.

While on Big Munson Island, Arrowmen had to prepare their own meals and cook in patrols. Some groups started a campfire and went around telling their favorite memories of the OA. As some slept in their tents, others slept outside underneath a blanket of stars.

The group was led by 2017 Southern Region Chief Harrison Fry, and it was organized by a group of individuals determined to provide as much service as Sea Base needed.

“The registration closed in a matter of days, and we placed numerous Arrowmen on a wait list as we didn’t have enough space to accommodate everyone,” Fry said. “The support for the SeaBreak program has truly been phenomenal.”

Tallying the service

The volunteers completed more than 1,200 hours of service to the Brinton Environmental Center and Big Munson Island.

Bonding as they prepared meals or completed service tasks, the Arrowmen worked to learn more about one another’s experiences and how to better their chapters and lodges.

During the last night on Munson, many of the participants sat around a campfire and shared their favorite OA memories and any advice they would give to younger Arrowmen.

From getting on the buses at the airport on Sunday to leaving Sea Base a week later, these Arrowmen never stopped smiling and formed friendships that I know will last a lifetime. Although they arrived as strangers, they left as brothers.

“[The OA] gives you opportunities and pushes you to go beyond what you think you are capable,” said Will B., who traveled from Georgia to attend SeaBreak. “Being able to come to Sea Base and serve alongside so many dedicated and service-minded individuals is a special experience, and I’m thrilled I had the chance to come.”

A nod to the sponsors

When these companies heard about SeaBreak, they immediately contacted the BSA to learn how they could help.

Let’s give a big Scouting salute to:

  • Jack Links for providing meat snacks.
  • Liberty Mountain for donating water bottles.
  • SOL for supplying lip balm and zinc-based sunscreen.
  • Sunsect for sending insect repellent.

Thanks to Devang Desai, Kyle Kipple, Travis Rubelee and Brian Jilka for the info and photos.

About Bryan Wendell 2855 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.