Caribou Scouting volunteer receives highest honor

3 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou Scout Troop 184 volunteer Scott Belanger was recently awarded the District Award of Merit, the highest possible honor for the position.

Belanger, who started his Scouting career as a Tiger adult partner in 2009, has since sat in almost every chair possible within the program, including Cubmaster, assistant Cubmaster, committee chairman, parent coordinator, pack trainer, and assistant Scoutmaster.

He was nominated by Cubmaster Troy Laplante and Scoutmaster Vaughn Keaton. 

“I believe there is no one more deserving than this man,” Laplante wrote in his nomination letter.

Laplante said Belanger played a major role in setting up a user-friendly email system allowing parents and Scouting officials to communicate quickly and efficiently, and that he was always available to help Eagle Scout candidates with their projects.

And Belanger was critical for the success of the Scouts’ annual Winterama event, which puts their skills to the test and involves building a shelter and participating in numerous events such as cooking outdoors and knot tying, Laplante said.

“He is out there on the cold nights prior, setting up the course, packing the trail, setting up the signs and stations, making sure all the details are in place so the Scouts have a fun and positive experience,” Laplante said. “After all that prep work is done he has run a station for the past four years and then tears it down.”

And most notably, Belanger was instrumental in ensuring the Scouts would be able to attend the International Jamboree in Nova Scotia. Not only did he set up meetings with the Canadian Scouters, but he ensured the experience with Customs was smooth on both sides of the border.

“As you can assume crossing an international border with 20 boys who are not your own comes with its own challenges,” Laplante said.

And on top of this, Laplante said he has in-laws who live near the Jamboree site and was able to coordinate a check-in at their home while arranging for camping that night. 

“This Jamboree was a huge success in large part because of Scott’s efforts,” Laplante said.

Outside of the Scouting world, Belanger has helped with the Caribou Nordic and Alpine ski teams, he sits on the Automotive Advisory Board for the Caribou Technology Center and is a member of the Presque Isle Fish and Game Club.

Keaton said Belanger lives in Caribou and works at Belanger Automotive, also based in Caribou, with his father, adding that it’s a family-owned business. 

Recently his eldest son rose to the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout, and Laplante says he has another son who is on his way to achieving the rank as well.

Keaton said when the Scout committee was discussing awards for the year, he recommended Belanger as a good candidate for the District Award of Merit. 

The Scoutmaster said this is the highest award possible within the North Star District, which encompasses Aroostook County. 

He said the logistics of holding the awards ceremony in late December amid the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to plan, but that they were eventually able to hold a small gathering at the Scout Hall in Caribou.

“I was able to get the council to approve the number of people that were going to be in the hall and to make sure we followed the guidelines so we could present him with this award,” he said. “The adults from the troop and pack in Caribou were there to witness and a lot of the boys in our troop were there. It worked out pretty good.”

Since the pandemic hit, Keaton said it has been difficult to organize events, but that they are managing by holding meetings on Zoom and practicing mask wearing and social distancing if they meet at the Scout Hall.

“It’s been tough,” Keaton said.

On Belanger’s nomination and subsequent award, Laplante concluded that he has proven himself to be a true role model for all the boys that go through the program.

“He not only teaches the Scout law, but he lives it every day,” Laplante said. “There is no one I know who is more trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent than Scott is.”