Each year, the Eagle Scout Recognition Dinner brings together the business community, Scout leaders, and Scouting families to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of that year’s Eagle Scout class. It’s a great evening of celebration for everyone who attends and a source of tremendous pride for the New Birth of Freedom Council. This year’s dinner is scheduled for November 24.
After thoughtful consideration and discussion, the Eagle Scout Recognition Dinner committee has decided to conduct this year’s event virtually. It will come as no surprise to anyone that attempting to safely hold this event (which typically draws over 700 attendees) in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is a primary concern. The health and safety of our youth members, leaders, Scouting families, and guests is always our foremost priority.
We understand that this decision will be disappointing to everyone planning to attend this year’s event. COVID-19 has been disrupting our lives and the things we care about and love to do since mid-March, and it’s beyond frustrating. Several of the critical factors that influenced this determination included the following:
- We had deferred making a decision to see how infection trends would be going closer to the event. Unfortunately, the number of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania has been increasing sharply in recent weeks. Public health officials have expressed concern for months that a spike in the number of people contracting COVID-19 would happen this fall as respiratory viruses traditionally spread as people spend more time indoors. While it’s hard to predict what will happen with the spread of the virus in the future, it seems likely that COVID-19 will be a significant concern six weeks from now.
- Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine recently announced that large indoor venues could host events at between 10-20% of the facility’s maximum capacity. Under these guidelines, we would have needed to limit attendance to approximately 300 people – far fewer than the 754 people at the Eagle Dinner last year. Along with their families and friends, Eagle Scouts accounted for 74% of the attendance in 2019. Even if Scoutmasters, event sponsors, and donors participated virtually, with 198 new Eagle Scouts in this year’s class, it seemed likely that we would be unable to permit attendance by all the parents, family members, and friends who would want to attend.
- The Eagle Scout Recognition Dinner Committee considered taking a “hybrid” approach to the event, having some in-person attendees, and then live streaming the event to all others online. Taking this approach, we would still face the virus’s challenges and how to fairly limit attendance, as cited above.
- Given the pandemic, we have been working on contingency plans for conducting the Eagle Dinner virtually and feel that we can put together an excellent and memorable program to be delivered online that will appropriately honor our newest Eagle Scouts. It is a common misconception that conducting virtual events is less work than in-person ones when the exact opposite is the reality, but we’re 100% committed to overcoming those challenges and coming up with ways to engage our Eagle Scouts in the program that night. We will provide our Eagle Scouts with a printed copy of the traditional Eagle Scout Recognition Dinner program along with a digital copy of the live broadcast of the event as keepsakes.
- As an additional recognition opportunity, early planning has begun to conduct a “Gathering of Eagles” next summer, anticipating that the COVID-19 threat will be significantly diminished or (hopefully) even behind us by that time. Our council will be inviting the 2020 Eagle Scout class and all Eagle Scouts in our council to participate in this brand-new event. This event will provide an additional, exciting opportunity to recognize our 2020 Eagle Scouts in person.
We hope that this explanation provides some insight into the committee’s decision-making process. This call was a heartbreaking and challenging decision to make. We will be communicating very soon with all Eagle Scouts in this year’s class on plans to collect their traditional self-introductions for use as part of the event program.
Please mark your calendar for 7 PM on Tuesday, November 24, and make plans to participate in this year’s virtual Eagle Scout Recognition Dinner. We will be posting details on how to access the live stream of this event on our website (newbirthoffreedom.org) closer to the day of the event.