The first time Reggie Morehead headed off to Camp Grimes with a group of Boy Scouts, “Grease” was big at the box office, “Happy Days” was on TV and Jimmy Carter was president.
Morehead, who leads Boy Scout Troop 63 out of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in north Charlotte, first took two boys to the Boy Scout camp about 90 miles northwest of Charlotte in 1978.
With just a few exceptions, he’s been back every summer. Two weeks ago, Morehead, a chemist with Duke Energy, led 22 boys from his troop through the six-day camp.
At Camp Grimes, they sleep in canvas tents, hike in the woods and earn merit badges in everything from riflery and swimming to welding and waterskiing.
Morehead, 64, says the best part about taking the boys to Camp Grimes is “seeing them grow.”
“I’ve had guys come to me the first night and say, ‘Mr. Morehead, I don’t think I’m going to make it. I don’t think I’m going to like it,’ and at the end of the week, they say, ‘I‘d like to come back.’ ”
The camp, operated by the Mecklenburg County Council of the Boy Scouts of America, costs about $240 per child. Some in Morehead’s troop benefit from scholarships including the Charlotte Observer’s Summer Camp Fund, which relies on donations from readers and corporate sponsors to send children from low-income families to day and overnight summer camps.
In its fifth year, the fund is sending 206 children to camp this summer.
Morehead, who is married to Jennie Green-Morehead, and has a daughter, Bliss Green-Morehead, talks with the pride of a father when he describes the accomplishments his scouts make at Camp Grimes.
One of his scouts won the rifle-shooting contest at camp this summer.
Another boy, who could swim but was unable to float on his back, taught himself to float at Camp Grimes after gentle encouragement by Morehead and another scout leader.
“I told the scout, I said, ‘You never cease to amaze me. You came up here, you said you couldn’t float, and you floated. You surprised me,’ ” Morehead recalls.
On the last night of camp this summer, four members of Morehead’s troop put on a skit for the 300-plus scouts and leaders at camp.
“That was a great feeling, just to see them get up there and do that on their own,” he says. “They took it on themselves to do a skit, and they did it.”
Through the years, Troop 63 has had 12 boys attain Eagle Scout, scouting’s highest level. Three more boys are expected to achieve the level by the end of 2013. Morehead never made it to Eagle Scout, so when he first agreed to lead a Boy Scout troop soon after graduating from college, he decided that he would try to help as many young men as possible reach that achievement.
Alan Keiger, district director of the Mecklenburg County Council of the Boy Scouts of America, says there were years that Morehead had trouble recruiting boys for the troop.
Some years, his numbers dwindled into the single digits and he had only a few kids with him at camp. Now, more than 30 boys are on the Troop 63 roster.
“He never gave up. He kept trying to recruit kids, kept working at it. He’s done a phenomenal job,” Keiger says.
Keiger, who has been with the council for 16 years, says Morehead stays busy during his week at the 1,200-acre Camp Grimes.
“Reggie is all over that camp, making sure his boys are where they need to be each morning. Every time I see Reggie, he’s sitting at a picnic table talking to a scout,” Keiger says. “He is very hands-on and just enjoys working with the boys and knowing what they’re doing at camp.”
Through the years, Morehead says his goal as a scoutmaster hasn’t wavered.
“One of my goals was to try to influence young men and to encourage them and make them good citizens, and let them know there’s nothing they couldn’t do,” he said.
The skills they learn at Camp Grimes are skills they’ll take with them wherever they go.
“They learn knife safety, they learn fire safety. They learn to tie knots and sleep in tents,” Morehead says.
For a lot of the boys, it’s at Camp Grimes where they get their first taste of sleeping in tents in the great outdoors. Morehead loves watching them attempt a new skill at camp and conquer it.
“That’s the meaningful thing to me, to see them accomplish something and be successful at it,” he says. “What I try to do is take them up there and encourage them and if they have problems, they come to me and we talk about it and resolve it.”
“We try to overcome fear,” he says. “A lot of guys are scared of spiders and I tell them I’m afraid of snakes. But I say, ‘Let’s get out there and let’s camp.’ ”