The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


February 10, 2013

No child left indoors: The thrill of a Klondike derby


My first exposure to a Klondike derby was more than 30 years ago when I was recruited to be a volunteer judge at a derby that was being organized by the "mayors" of imaginary gold rush era towns. Frank Dombroski was to be the governor of the Yukon Territory for this mythical game that he had come up with for the Klondike derby.

Each volunteer was given a cache of gold nuggets (actually pebbles Dombroski had spray painted) in a real rawhide satchel that we were to give to high-scoring patrols or to Scouts who demonstrated particularly good Scouting skills or sportsmanship.

I was the Mayor of Skagway. In this role, I coordinated the station called "hot isotope." Dombroski had erected gateways at each town, and, with the fresh snow, it didn't take too much imagination to feel like we were actually in the Klondike.

The hot isotope game tested knot tying and lashing abilities while challenging the scouts' problem-solving skills. At each station, the object was to use only the materials that the Scouts were instructed to bring along on their sleds.

The Scouts had to figure out for themselves that by lashing the poles together with the rope and spars that were on the sleds that they could lift up the "hot isotope" and move it to safety without any of the boys actually touching it.

The isotope was actually an old tennis ball that Dombroski had painted a pulsating hot pink and the containment vessel was a brightly painted coffee can. Most of the patrols were successful in moving the isotope but none of them used exactly the same method to get the job done.

Scoutmasters and other leaders could "mush" along with the boys but they were expected to stay clear of assisting in any way at the stations. Dombroski had explained to the leaders during the orientation that his Scouting philosophy, which he wanted them to adopt for the derby, was "train 'em, trust 'em, let 'em lead."

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