Stephanie Smith – “Winona” (2006)

Most of you have not met my daughter before tonight and may be a bit bewildered, as I am sure she is, as to why she is up here. Let me tell you.

She was an eighth grader at Dutch Fork Middle School then, a bit of a Tom-boy, who loved the outdoors and grew more jealous by the day of her brother, an Eagle Scout, for being able to camp and travel on fun outdoor adventures all over the country as a Boy Scout. She had tried Girl Scouts and looked forward to her first outing in the wild. The weekend finally came and when I asked her about it I got a smoldering look in her eyes. Her first Girl Scout campout, you see, was at Embassy Suites.

She pleaded with me to find a way for her to join Boy Scouts. At the time I was an assistant Scoutmaster in Troop 312. I was aware of Explorer posts and thought maybe I can find one that did camping. Just then fate intervened and the Council asked if I would be the advisor for a new co-ed program called Venturing. They wanted all the members to be in the ninth grade and 14. Knowing this was my daughter’s shot at the outdoors, I told them I would take the job if they allowed me to take in eighth graders, since my daughter was in the eighth grade. They said fine. For those of you in the eighth grade this year, or who joined in previous years as an eighth grader, you have Stephanie to thank.

The first year was chaotic and fun. We had about 8-10 regulars. Our first president was female. Our first campout in January 1999, was at Hunting Island State Park. Stephanie loved the stars. One of my favorite memories was taking her to Crowder Mountain State Park in May of that year. It was a hot weekend. We backpacked a mile to our campsite – the first time she had backpacked. But she didn’t complain. The next day, we hiked to the top of Crowder Mountain from our campsite, a roundtrip of 10 miles. The heat was awful and we ran out of fluids. Her face was red as an apple. I thought she was having heat stroke at one point. But she made it and it ended up being a fun weekend.

Later that year she moved to North Carolina with her mother. But she visited and came on other campouts over the years. She even brought her cousin on our trip to Florida four years ago.

Her life as a teenager gave me the inspiration for countless stories over the years at the close of meetings. Some were funny, others poignant. Some were tearjerkers. She didn’t always know that I was telling tales of her life to other teens. But there was always a moral to the story, a lesson worth passing on.

Our separation was a painful one for both of us. We missed each other terribly. Stephanie, in fact, has at times been very jealous of all the girls of Crew 312 for getting to have so many fun weekends and meetings with her father. She has had to endure countless stories from me over the years about our adventures, including the fun I’ve had getting to know various girls and watching them blossom. One day she complained that it was hard for her to hear me talk about them, so I explained that every girl who joins this crew is a surrogate daughter for me. Not a replacement of her but a reminder of what I miss most.

The truth is that every female youth in this unit owes Stephanie a word of thanks, not only for being the inspiration for this unit’s creation but also for all the attention, love and devotion I have shown at one time or another to each of you.

So when it came time to find a name for her, there really wasn’t any choice. You see, while I tell people that I have many daughters, meaning all the girls in this crew, there is only one who came first. And tonight, Stephanie, I am proud to award you the Sioux name, Winona, which means, first-born daughter. Congratulations!

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