Wyatt Peters, 12, threw a rope to his patrol mate, Fred Dohring, 13, to rescue him Saturday from drowning in the frozen lake.
After two tries, Dohring grabbed the rope and put it around his body, and members of his patrol began pulling him to safety.
Luckily, Dohring was only pretending to have fallen through the ice so the six-member patrol from the Schenectady-based Boy Scout Troop 67 could demonstrate its ability to perform an ice rescue.
The scouts, calling their patrol team “The Psychotic Monkeys,” were participating in the 45th annual Klondike Derby at Camp Boyhaven. The competition is designed to prepare the scouts for winter survival by challenging them to six tasks: ice rescue, sledge racing, fire building, shelter building, winter first aid and orienteering.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” patrol leader Peters said. “We are learning a lot, and everyone is safe, dry and happy.”
The survival tips the scouts learn to prepare for the derby came in handy last winter when Haley Francois, then 5, fell into the frozen pond on her Scotia property.
Her brother, Avery, then 13, a member of Troop 67, used what he learned to rescue her. “I think a lot of it was instinctual, but he definitely demonstrated bravery,” said Dirk Francois, Avery’s father.
According to event director George Loucks, 28 Boy Scout troops with 45 different patrols participated in this year’s Klondike Derby. He said the six-to-eight-member patrols practice for months to prepare for the various challenges.
“This is the biggest winter event for Boy Scouts in this area,” Loucks said.
The entire weekend is a bonding experience for participants of all ages, allowing the boys to focus on leadership and team-building while their fathers and troop masters have the opportunity to get out in the woods for a winter weekend.
“This is as much for the boys as it is for the men,” Loucks said with a smile.
The Boy Scout troops mostly come from Schenectady and Gloversville to attend the event, but the second-largest troop, with 27 boys, came from Southborough, Mass. The troop is lead by Marc Cascio, a Niskayuna High School graduate, who comes back to Camp Boyhaven with his troop for the Klondike Derby every year.
Loucks has been running the event since the early 1990s and said it now operates like “a well-oiled machine.” Most of the volunteers who help organize the event return annually, even some who don’t have sons in the Scouts anymore.
““We are all suffering from post-child syndrome,” joked Andy Kopach, who has been conducting the ice rescue challenge for 10 years.
The six challenges are the same each year. Loucks said usually the older patrols win the awards and the inexperienced patrols have an opportunity to test their skills.
The boys are responsible for solving each challenge without assistance from adults. If adults give advice, patrols are automatically disqualified.
“We want to make this as unlike a soccer game as possible,” Loucks said.
The winning patrol receives the Ted Brown Snowshoe. The patrol keeps the snowshoe for one year and then returns it. At the end of 10 years, the troop with the most wins keeps it and the tradition begins again with a new trophy dedicated to one of the founders of the local derby decades ago.
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