From left, Daniel Craighead, Nick Borsch, Dive Master Brian Lutz, Tyler Hardin, Rich Hardin, Emanuel Leventelis, Dive Instructor Brian Grindey, Panayioti Chagaris and Committee Chairman Mike Borsch pose together after diving.
TARPON SPRINGS – For Boy Scouts, every merit badge is an achievement, but some are even more special to the boys, their parents and Scout leaders.
Troop 106 out of Tarpon Springs had one of those special moments when five of their Scouts received their Open Water Scuba Diving Certification, one of the hardest merit badges to earn in the Boy Scouts, said Scout Master Rick Hardin.
“You don’t often see the scuba diving merit badge,” Hardin said.
To receive the badge, Scouts have to become certified.
“If you want to go scuba diving, you have to get certified. It’s like a driver’s license,” Hardin said, who is certified himself.
Many Scouts don’t receive this badge because scuba lessons can be expensive, but the troop came together and decided it was something they seriously wanted to achieve.
So they began to shop local scuba schools. Though others were less expensive, the troop settled on Mac’s Sports, a local Tarpon Springs scuba store.
“The guy in Tarpon Springs seemed so nice over the phone,” Hardin said, adding he liked the idea of Tarpon Springs Scouts supporting a Tarpon Springs business.
Then the boys got to work.
Members of Mac’s staff would come to Scout meetings at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, where the boys would receive lessons, and would attend the pool for practice.
Five boys from the troop participated, ages 14, 15, 17 and 20 years old. The 20-year-old is Hardin’s son, Tyler, who has special needs, and is allowed to participate in activities with younger Scouts.
During the June summer camp, the troop went to Rainbow River, where they had to pass their final certification test.
“Not everyone passes it,” Hardin said.
During the test, Hardin was in the water with the boys but was unable to give instruction or aid them. They were on their own, and yet, all who participated passed.
“Being underwater and watching them, they were so delighted to be underwater,” Hardin said.
Learning new things like cooking, camping, survival skills and scuba diving are just a few of the reasons why Hardin said scouting is a great opportunity for boys and young men in the community.
Tyler Hardin has been able to learn to shoot a bow and arrow, utilize first aid, and kayak, among other things, despite any personal challenges.
Every year, Florida Hospital North Pinellas teaches the kids CPR, and in July the troop hosts a “camp in,” where they stay overnight at the church and play video games together.
Though numbers are down because a group of boys aged out, Hardin is excited to welcome new members to the troop.
The troop meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. at 36 N. Pinellas Ave.
Members can start at any time. For more information, email Hardin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 727-313-625.