by Jon Dalrymple
COLLEGE PLACE, Wash., - Eight hundred twenty nine Pathfinders set up camp on the campus of Walla Walla Valley Academy, May 14-16, 2010 for a weekend of fun activities, community service and spiritual growth. The annual Pathfinder fair is the grand finale of the year's activities for 34 Pathfinder clubs around the Upper Columbia Conference.
Known around the world for marching, uniforms, camping, and honor patches, Pathfinders is often perceived as just a fun activity for grade school kids. But for Pathfinders in Upper Columbia Conference, it is much more than that.
"The most impressionable age for kids is between 10 and 12 years old," says Wayne Hicks, Pathfinder Director for Upper Columbia Conference, "That's why we encourage clubs to give kids that age as many teachable moments as possible. Chances to make the decision to follow Jesus. We had 68 requests for baptism this year. But even after that decision is made, Pathfinder clubs continue to disciple young people in leadership skills and community outreach all the way into academy and adulthood."
At the fair each year, many teen pathfinders receive the Teen Pathfinder of the Year Award. All teen pathfinders can receive the award by reaching participation requirements and completing certain devotional or Bible reading assignment during the year. At this year's Pathfinder Fair 79 youth earned the Teen Pathfinder of the Year award.
Amanda Johnson, a senior at Upper Columbia Academy, received the Teen Pathfinder of the Year Award for the sixth year in a row. "I've been doing pathfinders forever since my mom is a director, but one year I saw a teen pathfinder receive the award for their sixth time, and I was impressed. I leaned over to my mom and said, 'mom, someday I'm gonna do that.'"
Dave Parkhurst, a staff member of the Wind Valley Pathfinder Club in Ellensburg says, "One of the reasons I come to the fair is to learn from other clubs. I want to find ways to keep the interest of the kids as they get into their teen years."
"What keeps me coming to Pathfinders is my friends," says Johnson, "I've been in all the activities and I have made some close friendships with kids and staff over the years. I'm really busy with school and work at UCA, but when I come to Pathfinders it's like an escape—a chance to relax."
Throughout the weekend of the fair, Pathfinders have many opportunities to use their talents to glorify God and witness to others. Whether it is the craft display, the drill and marching competition, or a chance to speak or sing up front there is always something they can participate in or learn from.
One of the learning opportunities at this year's fair was a community outreach project. Pathfinders helped collect canned food for the Blue Mountain Area Community (BMAC) Food Bank in Walla Walla. Each club was assigned a section of town and asked to go door-to-door requesting a few non-perishable items for the food bank. In just a few hours at least 7,940 pounds of food was collected.
"What a successful food drive the Pathfinder youth had for us on Saturday," said Gail McGhee, director of the BMAC Food Bank. "Those young people should be commended for their efforts. They don't have any idea of the impact this has on what we are able to give to families that are less fortunate at this time. It is a huge boost for us as well as our clients. The community was very generous and I know that it has a lot to do with the way the youth presented themselves at the door."
"Our kids and staff made me proud again," said Hicks. "Figuring about 1 pound per can, that's just 10 cans for each staff and Pathfinder attending. Awesome!"