By Bonnie Mentel

Trail Life USA formed in January 2014. The organization describes itself as, “a Christian Outdoor Adventure, Character, and Leadership Program for boys and young men.”

A typical year in Trail Life includes weekly meetings, activities, community service, fun outings and monthly camping trips.

“Once a month we have what’s called a ‘Hit the Trail Meeting.’ Instead of a meeting, we will go off and do a community service project for somebody. Or, we’ll go hike a trail. Or, we’ll go to a shooting range or go bowling,” said Mike Dowell, Troop Master for Troop 1901 in Brandon.

The troop continues to meet during the summer. They went to Family Firearms in Brandon for a safety demonstration and shooting practice at the range. They’ve gone biking on Brandon Parkway. But, a big part of the outdoor adventure program is the monthly camping trips.

“We try to do a weekend campout every month. Sometimes we don’t get one in December because of everyone’s schedules. We also have a Summer Adventure, for Navigators and Adventurers, where we take a longer trip somewhere. This summer we went to hike the mountains and waterfalls in Georgia,” Dowell said.

Participants are called “Trailmen” and they are divided into categories based on age with the Woodlands Trails being Kindergarten through fifth grade, Navigators are sixth through eighth grade, Adventurers are ninth through twelfth grade, and Guidon are ages 18 through 25 but is not currently offered in Tampa.

Regular meetings will be on Monday nights from 6:30-8:30, starting Monday, September 14 at The First United Methodist Church of Brandon, although participants can join at any time. Dues at Troop 1901 are only $1 each week and registration with Trail Life USA is $26. This year, the Brandon troop will be ordering formal uniforms.

According to its website, “We welcome boys whose parents are seeking a faith-based outdoor adventure program that places an emphasis on character development, leadership, and moral purity, and who aspire to live in accordance with the values expressed in the program’s Oath and Creed.”

There is also a program for girls. Trail Life USA partners with another organization called American Heritage Girls. Charter churches are encouraged to host both programs so that there is a place for everyone.

More information can be found at Complete a “Contact Form” on the website to get in touch with an area Trail Life volunteer.