A lifetime of Scouting recognized
For Sparta businessman Doug Dengel, Boy Scouting is more than an organization, it's a way of life.
"I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for scouting," said the former Eagle Scout, who worked professionally for the Boy Scouts of America before becoming a volunteer leader.
Those are among the credentials that earned Dengel the Wisconsin VFW Scouter of the Year Award. The VFW offers two Scouter of the Year awards, one for VFW members and another for non-members. Dengel won the non-member category. Sparta has been well represented at the award ceremony with Police Chief Dave Kuderer named as last year's recipient.
Dengel accepted his honor June 14 at the Waubeka, WI annual Flag Day celebration.
"I accepted the award not for me but for the scouts who let me tag along on the journey to let me do what I have a passion for, and that's kids," he said.
Boy Scouting is a Dengel family tradition. Doug's father Bob was his scout leader and his brothers, Dave and Don, are both fellow Eagle Scouts.
And there is a third generation of Dengel Eagle Scouts. Doug's son, Justin, and Dave's son, Bart, also hold the distinction.
Doug and his brothers all rose through the Scouting ranks in Sparta's Troop 67, sponsored by Trinity Lutheran Church. But Doug almost dropped out, telling his parents he had to play sports and didn't have time for Boy Scouts.
He credits his parents with encouraging him to stick it out, reflecting on an experience that he said shaped his confidence and gave him leadership skills.
Doug reached the pinnacle of Boy Scouts after completing his Eagle Scout project. He restored the Ridgeville Center Cemetery on the corner of Cty. Hwy. T and Kellogg Avenue, and was then hired by the town to care for it for the next four years.
He also was a member of the Explorer Post that ran the now-defunct Birchwood Valley Ski Hill off Cty. Hwy. B north of Sparta. He recalls how he and his fellow explorers built the chalet and hauled the engine that powered the tow rope up the hill.
That was followed by four summers as a counselor at Camp Decorah near Holmen, and a summer staff position at Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico, one of the Boy Scout's high adventure camps.
At the time, over 25,000 scouts came through the camp. "It was a dream job," recalls Doug.
His real dream job, though, was to become a ski hill operator. He enrolled in Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, Michigan, which offered the course. While there, his desire work at a ski hill faded but his interest in Boy Scouting bloomed.
Doug became the Scout leader for a special-needs troop he discovered in the community. And when he moved to La Crosse to finish college, he started another special-needs troop in that city.
After college, he became a paid staff member in a district-level administration position for 11 years. During that time he formed a troop of Hmong kids freshly arrived in the U.S. and living in Green Bay's inner city.
He called that one of his greatest experiences, saying he learned more from those kids, who had lived through, than he taught. He got some Vietnam vets to take over the troop before he moved back to Sparta in 1989. He eventually became his son's Cub Scout master and then his Scout leader.
Doug now is the assistant Scout leader for Troop 67, and has spent more than 40 of his adult years in Scouting in one capacity or another. He said he sees participation in Boy Scouts falling off, which he attributes to the wider variety of activities young people have available to them today.
And while he thinks those activities are also good, he's a little partial to Scouting because he owes it so much.
"I tell this to all the Eagle Scouts. 'You've got to pay it forward. What you take from the program, you've now got to give it back over your lifetime.'"
He hopes it encourages Scout to keep on the trail like he has.
"It's done so much for me, I've got to give some of it back."