Scouts are among the first to respond when a disaster strikes. They swoop in to serve, often helping complete strangers without expecting even a simple thanks.
This week, though, it wasn’t just strangers who needed helping. It was a fellow Scout.
The tornadoes that ripped through Dallas on Sunday left a troop without a place to meet and one of that troop’s Scouts without a place to call home.
Slaton Strey, a 13-year-old Life Scout in Troop 577 of the BSA’s Circle Ten Council, lost his house in the powerful storm.
“Their house was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Oliver Burke, a 13-year-old First Class Scout in Troop 577. “Roofs were ripped off of houses, trees were uprooted. It looked like a war zone.”
Just 12 hours after the tornado sirens went silent, the Scouts of Troop 577 were there to help Slaton and his family. With school closed for most of the Scouts, they felt they had to do something more than sitting at home.
“Being there and working to clean up the damage was important because it’s our responsibility as a Scout, and as a friend, to help others in times of need,” Oliver says.
Troop 577 is doing more than just helping one of its own. This weekend, the troop is mobilizing to help neighbors, clear storm debris from nearby parks and begin a massive cleanup operation at its chartered organization.
‘All of the help they could get’
Massive, densely packed and lovingly manicured, the trees of Preston Hollow are considered one of the Dallas neighborhood’s best features.
But on Sunday, those same trees became shrapnel. The tornadoes pulled trees from the ground and sent branches flying. Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported in Dallas.
Slaton’s street, Pemberton Drive, was directly in the path of one of nine tornadoes that hit Dallas that night. At Slaton’s house, windows disappeared, half the roof went missing and a fencepost was found sticking out of a second-floor window.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the tornado brought rain that soaked everything inside the house.
When Brayden Girata, a 13-year-old Life Scout in Troop 577, learned all this, he knew he had to help his friend and fellow Scout.
“My mom and I came to help the family as soon as we heard about this catastrophe,” he says. “I knew that this was a moment that this family needed all of the help they could get.”
‘It feels really good to help people’
Brayden and his mom had to park almost a mile away from Slaton’s house because the roads were so littered with debris. Carrying boxes, tape and trash bags, Brayden and his mom carefully navigated a minefield of branches and drywall.
“I was amazed that the Streys were in about as high spirits as they could be for a family in a situation like theirs,” Brayden says. “And I was so glad they were safe and not hurt.”
Joined by Oliver and about 50 others from Troop 577 — adults, Scouts and siblings — Brayden and his mom got to work. Wearing gloves and, when necessary, eye protection, the Scouts cleared debris and helped Slaton’s family pack up belongings in a house now deemed uninhabitable.
Working together, the group packed up the entire Strey house in a single day.
“To me, it feels really good to help people,” Brayden says. “It was a really intense but bonding experience — and one that I will remember for years to come.”
The work wasn’t over after the Streys belongings were boxed up.
Will Grogan, a Life Scout in Troop 577, led the effort to unload those boxes into his garage and a pair of offsite storage units.
“Many people stopped what they were doing and showed up to help the Streys,” Will says. “It was incredible to see the outpouring of support for this family.”
Ready to help
The storm also damaged Troop 577’s meeting place at its chartered organization, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Now that downed powerlines near the church have been cleared, it’s safe for the Scouts to begin completing work there.
They’ll spend this weekend doing just that.
“We are currently attempting to find another temporary location to hold our Scout meetings,” says Nancy Burke, Troop 577 committee chairwoman. “Our Scouts are eager to get in and start cleaning up that area.”
Nancy was among the volunteers who helped the Streys on Monday. So she has firsthand knowledge of just how powerful it can be to have a bunch of Scouts working together to help others — even when those “others” are Scouts themselves. In other words, when the church is ready for help, the Scouts will be ready to help.
Nancy says this ordeal resulted in some important conversations with her son. It’s often in the most trying times that life brings us the greatest clarity.
“Oliver told me that he felt it was his responsibility as a Scout to help others in time of need,” Nancy says. “Although he was very frightened walking through the devastation that morning, he left at the end of the day with a renewed sense of appreciation for others. He was amazed at how much everyone pulled together to help those who needed it the most.”