Celebrating Service and Achievement at the Central District Awards Dinner

What an incredible evening celebrating the heart and soul of Scouting in the Central Phoenix Metro of Grand Canyon Council BSA.

From heartfelt tributes to inspiring speeches, the Awards Dinner was a true testament to the dedication of our Scout families, volunteers, and Scouts. We honored outstanding contributions, shared stories of impact, and rallied around the values that make Scouting so special. Whether you’re a seasoned Scouter or new to the movement, this article captures the essence of our community’s spirit. Join us in reliving the unforgettable moments and celebrating the bright future ahead!

February 3, 2024–THANK YOU, SCOUT FAMILIES, VOLUNTEERS, AND SCOUTS, for joining us for a truly unforgettable Awards Dinner celebrating those who serve Scouting on the eve of BSA’s 114th birthday! The evening was a fabulous reminder of how amazing our Central community’s adults and youth are. Amidst a sea of 160 khaki, blue and green shirts, balloons, music, families, and lots of colorful smiles, we recognized and honored those who have made a distinctive difference in the life of Scouting in the Central District this past year!

The evening began with the Color Guard presentation from Troop 201, followed by opening words from our Council Key 3 leadership team, Tom Curzon, Jacob Benyi, and Andy Price. Their words were followed by a memorial tribute and moment of silence for our dear friend and Scouter, John Wintersteen, who significantly impacted our lives and the Scouting movement. Daniel Hayes, Pastor of Camelback Church of Christ, Charter Partner to Troop 201 (Scoutmaster Bruce Weber) and Pack 100 (Cubmaster Travis Neitz), led us in our opening prayer for the evening. Dinner was deliciously prepared and served by “The Bubbas,”. a group of Scouter friends who share a passion for Scouting and cooking with Dutch ovens, who abide by the motto, “Never trust a skinny cook,” and are proud to report that “Many have eaten here, few have died.” We enjoyed our returning musicians this year, Ian and Elliott, who shared their incredible talents entertaining everyone during our meal. Following dinner, our Keynote Speaker, Nancy Welton, Assistant Scoutmaster from Troop 4, shared inspiring words of new hope from her experiences as a Scout leader at the Adobe Mountain School, where Scouting has impacted youth at the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections for many years. Thank you, Nancy… the future is SO bright!
We also heard from our Central District Executive, Ty Simonian, who shared a positive report for 2023 as Central exceeded our fundraising and membership growth goals for the year. Throughout the evening, our incredibly talented Master of Ceremonies, Doug Ullrich, Scoutmaster of Troop 747, paved the road for a successful evening, first recognizing our dinner planning team and our District Committee, who awarded our 2023 award recipients.

We celebrated 3 Families of the Year, 21 Adult Leadership Excellence Awards, 4 Pack, and 2 Troops of the Year along with 2 Venture, 5 Scouts BSA, 2 Cub Scouts of the Year, and 2 Scouters of the Year. Our 2023 Eagle Scout Project of the Year was shared by a young man from Troop 644 who completed his project on the Navajo Reservation. We learned about how the Navajos (Dine) measure wealth based on how well their grandchildren positively affect their community – sounds a lot like Scouting! We awarded Doug Ullrich our Order of the Arrow Award for his years of service as Central’s OA Advisor and 12 Spark Plugs for new leaders who have “sparked” others and inspired their units to grow and have FUN. Three unique awards for ARRL Amateur Radio Service to Scouting across the council were given this year – two from Central and one from Lost Dutchman Districts.

All nominations were submitted by volunteers who recognize “above and beyond” unit and district service. 2023 was a year where we celebrated a District Award of Merit recipient, Lindsay Kittler, T3329/T329, and two distinguished volunteers, Judy Keith T4 and Sandy Walker P276, nominated to receive the Meritorious Service Star. Both awards are Council Honors, recognized and awarded at the Council Recognition Event the following weekend at our annual Winter Homecoming!

Congratulations to all volunteers and the spouses and families supporting them! We couldn’t do it without everyone’s help! One comment from an Eagle Scout T446 who attended the dinner, “I found the Central District Awards banquet to be such an encouragement to my Scouting journey; truly uplifting.” … and another, “From the inspirational work transforming lives in Troop 4 to the notable good work our honored Eagle Scouts accomplished this last year, the Central District has truly set the bar for next year’s event.”
The evening we concluded with a tear-jerking award to a special and very deserving 27-year Scoutmaster, Brian Cook T41, followed by closing thoughts from Lord Robert Baden-Powell himself (portrayed expertly by George Canellos). He says, “Scouting and service, building skills, leadership, the Oath and Law is needed more now than ever. By sharing these values of Scouting with everyone; every youth and every family, we will strengthen the values and moral compass within our society. We all must invite others to join the Scouting movement with us and continue to make a difference in our communities!”

We wish to thank Roger Ottaway, our District Activities and Civic Service Chair, and your committee for your leadership and coordination of this great event. Together, we planned and created a wonderful evening celebrating and honoring those who serve Scouting in our Central District within the Grand Canyon Council. Yes, indeed… the future IS very bright!