The generosity of strangers has replaced any hurt or disillusionment a bunch of Bega Valley Scouts might have felt following the theft of their camping gear at Aragunnu recently.
“I’ve hiked all over the world and this has never happened,” Venturer leader Jo Thorpe told Region Media at the time.
Jo and her husband Don Peterson set out with three fourteen-year-olds from Goalen Head on a brilliant Saturday morning, headed for the idyllic campground at Aragunna within Mimosa Rocks National Park under their own steam.
It was the first big overnight hike for all three kids, for one of the boys it was the first use of his treasured hiking backpack.
Having made it to their destination and spent the night cooking noodles with sea water, the party of five packed up and were getting ready to hike back when they decided to take a look at the ancient Aboriginal middens in the area and track down the wreck of the old steamer, SS Mimosa.
“It was all only 500 metres from our camp, so we didn’t take our packs, we put them down behind a really big log, and in the 10 – 15 minutes we were away our packs disappeared,” Jo said.
Thousands of dollars worth of camping gear was taken along with Jo and Don’s phones, GPS, car keys, and wallets.
Upon hearing the story, people far and wide responded with donations and words of support, enough money has now been raised to replace all the camping equipment and tents.
“There has been an outpouring of support from around Australia,” Jo says.
“$5,300 has been raised, including $3,000 from the Dick and Pip Smith Foundation, as well as $1,000 from Merimbula Rotary, the balance – $1,300 has come for lovely concerned citizens. Thank you!”
It’s hoped insurance will take care of the rest and cover any gap.
“How Dick and Pip Smith got involved is a bit of a mystery. I believe he may have somehow seen a Facebook post but I suspect Jim Clarke our Group Leader might also have something to do with it, he is being a bit coy,” Jo smiles.
“National Parks even waived our fees for camping!”
Police have been taken by the story as well and have searched two homes in Nowra and Bega but to no avail.
“They are currently looking for a white 4WD ute, possibly a Nissan Patrol driven by a red P-Plater, if anyone has information please contact Bega Police.”
Jo says it’s been heartened to realise how important the Scouts movement is to so many people.
“There seems to be a real understanding that the organisation is a solid contributor to helping kids build confidence, resilience, teamwork, leadership, and amazing life skills. That makes me all goeey and goosebumpt.”
One donation in particular echos Jo’s thoughts, Elizabeth and Robert Lawson of Bermagui donated $500 and wrote; “It was our pleasure to be able to assist in some small way with the replacement of your equipment. We’ve enjoyed full pack walks for over forty years and are fully aware of the immense joy and personal fulfillment that getting away from the white noise of life offers. Maybe with the allure of new equipment, you’ll receive a flood of new recruits.”
Merimbula Scouts are hoping to take advantage of pre-Easter sales to push the money raised a bit further in the hope of being able to own gear that in the past they have had to borrow.
And you’ll be pleased to know, the group’s spirit for adventure wasn’t stolen, “We are going canyoning at Tuross Falls on the first weekend in April and then there is the annual bike hike, now in its 25th year on Anzac Day,” Jo says.
“In the end, the memory of what they do and achieve will be bigger than the memory of losing their stuff.”
Check the Scouts website to get involved with Merimbula Scouts.