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Luncheon will help send inner-city Scouts to camp

Inner-city Boy Scouts are getting a chance to meet the supporters who are helping them attend summer camp.

The Seventh Annual Inner-City Boy Scout Luncheon on Saturday aims to raise money for economically disadvantaged Scouts to participate in summer activities.

The event is the Trail Blazer district's main fund-raiser. Last year, about $6,000 was raised at the event and Leerone Benjamin, senior district executive for the Trail Blazers area, said he hopes to double that amount this year.

"We have more people coming and the community support has grown a lot just since last year, so we expect to do even better," said Benjamin, who was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout.

About 160 people are expected to attend this year's luncheon. Proceeds will help send the Scouts to day and overnight camps this summer where they will learn sailboating, snorkeling and nature crafts. Camp costs range from $30 a week for day camp to $95 a week for overnight camping.

"It may not seem like a lot of money to some of us," Benjamin said. "But when you don't have any money, it doesn't really matter what it costs, you just can't go."

The luncheon was formed seven years ago to raise funds to support inner-city Boy Scout troops that may not have the money to participate in many activities. The inner-city Cub and Boy Scout troops deliver scouting to at-risk boys from low-income or single-parent families. The program has a slightly different structure from other Boy Scout units in order to meet the needs of the inner-city youths.

"This is the part of our population that needs scouting the most, but has the least advantage of getting involved," Benjamin said. "Some parents keep their kids out because they can't afford to buy uniforms, but we find ways to work around these things."

There are more than 800 boys in 46 units involved in the Inner-City Trail Blazers program, which is part of the Gulf Ridge Council. Extra emphasis is put on working hard toward goals and this year's theme is "Achieving the Dream."

"We want to teach young men that they achieve their dreams by working hard," Benjamin said. "If they try to be the best they can, things will happen for them."

The luncheon is sponsored by former Boy Scouts Frederick Reddy, Kirk Woodson and Clarence McKee. Boy Scouts and leaders also will attend the luncheon to meet their sponsors and share their aspirations for the future. Adrian Joyner, a member of Troop 897 who recently received his Eagle Scout Award, will be the master of ceremonies along with McKee. Sanford Woods, owner of Brandon Dodge and a former Boy Scout, will deliver the luncheon address.

"This year, we're really letting the Scouts run the show since this is all for them anyway," said McKee, who is on the board for the Gulf Ridge Council. "We're trying to give them self-esteem through an organized activity since this is lacking in the inner cities."

The luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Tampa Club on the 42nd floor of the Barnett Bank building at 101 W Kennedy Blvd. For more information on the luncheon and sponsorship opportunities, call Leerone Benjamin at 872-2691 or Clarence McKee at 286-2533.

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