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Scout Program Brings The Klondike To White Sands

White Sands National Monument

National Park News

A lovely breeze blew gently through the dune field, sending tiny ribbons of white sand streaming across the Dunes Drive. Indeed, it was a bright, beautiful morning on Saturday, February 26th, as a line of cars began filing into the monument. Cub Scouts and their families from all over New Mexico were coming to participate in the Klondike Derby, an annual scouting event geared towards the younger members of the Boys Scouts of America.  

The sheer number of people swarming over the dunes, setting up their stations and preparing for the day’s events was amazing. No fewer than 800 Cub Scouts—ranging in age from about 7 to 10 and representing approximately 130 dens—accompanied by 1,200 family members were in attendance, yet the entire event seemed so seamless and well organized.  

The Klondike Derby has been held on the last Saturday in February every year since 1994. It’s designed to give Cub Scouts in first through fifth grades an experience of self-reliance and problem solving in a unique environment, and White Sands certainly provides that. Why White Sands? Well, as Dr. Paul Deason, the man in charge of health and safety for the event, stated, the sand mimics snow so well that it provides an excellent place for the younger boys to practice their cold-weather survival skills without having to actually deal with the cold.

“For the really young scouts, being cold and wet isn’t fun, and our foremost goal is to have fun,” he said.

Director Bruce Folmar has been coordinating the derby for the past four years. When asked how long it took to plan such a large gathering, he replied, “I started planning at the end of last year. It takes a lot to coordinate an event like this. You have to have a lot going for you.  We had to have standards of measurements in place and everything. But you know, the most important thing is to make sure we have the scouting spirit. That’s why each den makes up a cheer and a flag.”

The flag and cheer give each den extra points added on to the score they earn participating in 29 different activities, including sled races, baton races, and a log haul.

The derby has been incredibly successful, thanks not only to the massive coordination efforts, but also due to the community support the event has received.   Companies like Alamo West, a local ambulance company, provided emergency support and medical services, while the National Guard provided tents and water for all of the participants.  And the scouts themselves helped out immensely, too.  Not only were they incredibly well mannered, but each activity station was manned by older boys, who helped the younger ones participating in the event.

The Scout Corvette also was there, showing its support not only for the Cub Scouts, but for the entire Boy Scouts of America organization.  The uniquely decorated sports car, owned and designed by John Tillman, has been touring the country since the summer of 2010.  When asked how he came up with the idea for the car, he said that he and a few others had been tossing around the question of how to pay homage to the 100-year anniversary of scouting. After much debate, they had their answer.  “How do you celebrate 100 years of scouting?  You put it on a car!” he grinned.

In light of current trends in which children spend much of their time indoors playing video games or watching television, it was incredibly refreshing to see so many young people out and enjoying one of nature’s many wonders.  The Klondike Derby was certainly a remarkable showcasing of the ethics upheld by the Boy Scouts of America and the wonderful skills being taught to a new generation of scouts.  As Bill Dickson, District Executive of the Boy Scouts of America, stated, “It’s all about education.  We want to get kids outside and into nature.”


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