Every year, a group of East Tennessee men are honored for being standout fathers or father figures by the Beta Theta Boule Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing scholarships to area young people.
One of the honorees exemplifies the Boy Scouts creed: “It is better to build men than to mend men.”
Anthony Ingram is the director of the Chehote District Boy Scouts Council. We visited the three-day camp for kids in Chehote’s district for Cub Scouts.
Almost every boy and girl at camp is there on full scholarship thanks to the tireless recruitment and fundraising efforts by Ingram.
“Let’s keep our young people so busy and so tired doing something positive they don’t have the time or the energy to get into trouble,” Ingram says.
Ingram, who earned the rank of Eagle Scout when he was a teen, makes sure to give his own time and energy to introduce as many kids as he can to scouting.
His district covers Knoxville’s inner city and there’s a method behind his message to young recruits.
“I’ve usually never run into a youth that says ‘I don’t want to have fun,'” Ingram says with a smile. “We don’t talk about character development, hey who wants character development? It’s like crickets in the room. But when you say, ‘who wants to have fun? Throw your hands up in the air-who wants to have s’mores, who wants hot dogs, who wants bb guns, and bows and arrows and slingshots and swimming and camping and pinewood derby cars and building things?’ The room erupts.”
“We talk about the fun, but here come the life lessons. ‘Hey, let’s work together as a team. Let’s do conflict resolution. Let’s do project management. Let’s get into the outdoors and have some fun. Let’s do some conservation, let’s do some civic service.
It’s working. Through Ingram’s efforts, the Chehote Council District has increased its total youth enrollment by 506 percent. It ended 2017 with 544 scouts who signed up.
At the fresh air camp, the day starts with food and fellowship, and a group of volunteers who share the same commitment, giving their time for the kids.
The camp’s program director, Chelsey Mynatt says, “they need somewhere where they can come and have fun, and let loose, in the summer especially.”
Ingram is always scouting for more volunteers to make an impact on a young person’s life.
“The biggest need that we have by far,” he says, “is manpower. Because it doesn’t matter if there are 100 boys at the door right now, applications in hand, money in hand, I can’t do anything with them if I don’t have a unit to put them in.”
Our thanks to Anthony Ingram for being a strong example to young men in our area, and congratulations for the Fatherhood Excellence award.
“I am truly humbled,” Ingram says. “It certainly isn’t something I had even heard about, so certainly was not expecting. I do feel that this is a calling. There are days when you feel dog tired, physically and even emotionally, but then you stop and remember, ‘it’s not about me, it’s about the kids.’