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Gary Nychka, dedicated Scout leader, led a small troop of 1st Coldwater Scouts to the World Scout Jamboree in Japan this summer.

He decided to dig up Harry. Crazy, his friends said, but once Gary Nychka got an idea in his head, he couldn't let it go. He could visualize the whole scenario. He would be like a paleontologist digging up a dinosaur, reassembling it bone by bone. After a year, Harry was sure to be a skeleton; though, in fact, Harry turned out to be a bit of a mess, his shoebox coffin in shreds.

Gary's mother let him get on with it. Perhaps she realized it was futile to interfere, or was willing to overlook such gruesomeness in the name of a school science project, or was grateful this time Gary would be reassembling a dead guinea pig instead of her kitchen toaster or the pretty, domed clock he had taken apart and failed to return to its former glory (a fact Gary's mother never lets him forget).

Perhaps Gary's mother is wise, or mothers in general more relaxed at the time, letting their children discover and learn in a natural way. Be back when the streetlights come on, she'd say as Gary headed out the door. Setting him free for hours, letting him explore the greenbelt behind their house in Malton, venture with friends into the wild park beyond. Sometimes Gary and his friends made a fort or broke a branch from a tree and made tins of maple syrup over a fire. Tame compared to Gary's habit of catching garter snakes at the cottage, stuffing up to 10 at a time down the front of his T-shirt.

Nothing in the natural world scared Gary: insects, wildlife, walking through swamps, camping in the woods, nocturnal noises, nearby rustling. He'd joined the Cubs at age eight, a group he immediately took to, having so much fun, he didn't know he was learning or that his shyness was gradually melting away. The outdoors didn't scare Gary. Not like going away to university, having to leave home, figure out how he was going to provide for himself and the family he would eventually have, make his way in the world. Though engineering was a natural fit; designing and building new machinery came as readily to Gary as digging up a dead guinea pig or meddling with a kitchen appliance.

But it took him away from the natural world, to the big city, where pulling into his garage each night, confined to a patch of yard, Gary was disconnected from the outdoors, isolated from his community.

Until he signed his children up for Scouting. Wanting them to experience the same enjoyment he'd known as kid, learn to be confident, responsible, how to take care of themselves and others.

It pulled him back to where he belonged, dropping the kids off at meetings, chatting with the Scout leaders. Why don't you volunteer, they'd say; we could use a hand.

And despite the pressure of running a business (Gary left his city job and is now president of Inventure Engineering and Machinery), despite having three kids to raise, a large property to oversee (75 acres, 65 chickens), Gary became a leader with the 1st Coldwater Scouts. (Gary has reached the level of chief Scout.) Glad to pass on the good things that came his way as a boy, that kept him out of trouble as a teenager, too busy being positive, taking on challenges, thinking of others.

He takes them out on weekends, his Coldwater troop, in the warmth of summer and the dead of winter. Teaches them how to pack their own food, cook for themselves, make a shelter, manage in the wilderness. Has them practise leadership and survival scenarios. What to do if someone falls through the ice, how to get to their side without falling through themselves, make a sled to pull them to safety, make a fire to keep them warm. So there's nothing they can't take on, no problem they won't tackle. So they'll be equipped for life, able to contribute, live with purpose, maybe even make the world a better place.

Because Scouts don't just learn about the countryside around them. The world, near and far, is introduced: factories, fire departments, warplane museums, re-enactments of the War of 1812. And this past summer, at the world jamboree (attended by some 33,000 Scouts), life across the ocean in Japan. Where Gary took a local group (aged 14 to 17), joining up with the Canadian contingent, all of them welcomed by the airline, in restaurants and hotels, because Scouts (now co-ed and inclusive of special needs) are known to be responsible and co-operative, too confident and happy and aware of others to bother misbehaving.

It meant collecting scrap metal and hosting apple days for more than two years. It took dedication and hard work and preparation. But the invigorating spirit of their jamboree adventure is sure to be carried into their various futures, as Scouting has been carried on in Coldwater since the early 1900s, established in that small community shortly after Lord Baden-Powell's Scouting movement gained momentum (around 1908). Since Baden-Powell (also a boy with an admirable mother -- "The whole secret of my getting on, lay with my mother," the British lieutenant-general said) applied his experience as a military scout (and later an intelligence officer who often disguised himself as a butterfly collector) to the edification of children the world over. So that, like Gary, they might grow up to run daring enterprises, to be positive influences, passing on the quest for each to be his best to the next generation. Or, as Baden-Powell put it, so they would -¦ be prepared to live happy."