Wilson County Boy Scouts were prepared Wednesday for a big crowd during Lebanon’s annual Friends of Scouting luncheon, but with Gov. Bill Haslam on hand, they may not have been prepared to receive such a large number of donations.
After all the pledges were counted, the event netted nearly $70,000 to benefit troops in Lebanon and across Wilson County.
“This is by far the best year we’ve ever had,” said Lebanon Friends of Scouting chair Chris Crowell. “…We need to build a solid future for our youth because they are our future.”
Haslam, who said Rep. Mark Pody was adamant about his attendance at the event at Immanuel Baptist Church, said he understands the significance Boy Scouts has in Tennessee.
“Scouting, I think if you look at its impact across our state, and the number of boys and girls involved, it is really one of those institutions in the state that makes a big difference,” Haslam told media following the luncheon. “I was proud to be a part of this. I thank Rep. Pody for making certain I got to be here.”
Haslam said he was a Cub Scout for “about two or three years.”
“Unfortunately it was the lack of volunteers that kept me from continuing,” he said.
During remarks to a packed crowd inside the church’s gym, Haslam said the day also marked his two-year anniversary of being sworn in as governor.
“It is an incredible honor to do this,” Haslam said. “I don’t know a better job…Through the process, you get to know a lot of great people, and a see some of those people here today.”
Haslam shared antidotes throughout his address, including tales of duck hunting, being recognized as commander in chief of the Tennessee National Guard and a friendship between former Gov. Lamar Alexander and “Roots” author Alex Haley.
“I think if you told stories, people might actually listen,” Haslam said, referring to a comment Haley told Alexander following a past speech.
Pody showed his appreciation for Haslam’s attendance while he introduced the governor.
“I’ve seen him,” Pody said. “This is a gentleman who truly cares about our state.”
While many braved cold and rain to meet and have pictures taken with Haslam, it was the scouts who became the stars of the day. That included Jameson Sorrels, an Eagle Scout and senior at Friendship Christian School who will soon join his three older brothers – all also Eagle Scouts – at the University of Tennessee.
“An Eagle Scout is challenged with giving more back to scouting than he received from scouting,” Sorrels said. “I have a lot of work to do there.”
Sea Scout Corey Walker, one of only nine achieve the rank of Quartermaster in Tennessee this year, told the crowd how fortunate and blessed he was to be a part of scouting.
“If these two men don’t inspire you, I don’t know what will,” said Mitchell Bone.
The luncheon, normally held at Cumberland University, was moved to Immanuel Baptist Church to accommodate the large crowd, which totaled more than 200 people.