DeKALB – Hundreds of Boy Scouts and their families came prepared for Northern Illinois University’s Scout Day on Saturday.
Scout Day at NIU, sponsored by the athletics department, is packed with sports-centered activities, a movie on Huskie Stadium’s Jumbotron screen and an all-night camp out in the Convocation Center lot. Ryan Harris from the NIU Athletic Marketing Department said about 750 scouts and family members came out to enjoy Scout Day, and about 500 planned to stay the night and eat the hot breakfast served at Douglas Hall Sunday morning.
“It’s really expanded in the past few years,” Harris said. “There have always been at least 600 people, and we’ve been adding a couple more events. That’s been positive for us.”
Added this year was the option for scouts to watch a men’s soccer game between NIU and number-one ranked Akron. Before the soccer game, scouts watched a football game between NIU and Temple. Some scouts also participated in forming the “Huskie Halftime Tunnel” to welcome the football team back onto the field for the second half of the game.
“We’re always looking to reach more fans and more scouts,” Harris said. “It’s more than an opportunity to see a football game. It’s something for the pack and something for the whole family.”
Boy Scout Chris Roegner, 12, of Rockford, came with Troop 57 to spend the day at NIU and camp out all night. He said he’d been to Scout Days at other places and wanted to see what NIU had to offer. Troop 57 Assistant Scout Master Jim Smetana of Cherry Valley said the scouts got a chance to vote on where they wanted to go, and this is the third year in a row they’ve voted to come to NIU’s Scout Day.
“Out of all the places in the Midwest, they want to go every year,” he said. “This is a very popular event for our troop.”
Brad Burke, committee chair for Troop 57, said the Scout Day also gives the 15 scouts in his troop a chance to visit a college.
“This is the first time a lot of them have seen a dorm, or a college football game or a soccer game,” he said.
Third-year Scout Day veteran Will Biletzi, 9, from Cub Scout Troop 123 in Malta, said he was mostly looking forward to the VIP movie night on the university’s football field.
“There’ll be a movie playing, but they’ll all be busy running around, faking football moves,” said Will’s dad, Eric Biletzi.
Steve Kotlarchik of Cortland said he and his son, John, 8, from Cub Scout Pack 134, have attended Scout Day for the last three years. This year was his 7-year-old son Jason’s first year.
“It’s always a fun time,” Kotlarchik said. “It’s an all-around thing. I get to enjoy sports and spend quality time with the boys.”