Scout leader honored for service
By DAWNE LEIKER
In his 27 years with Boy Scouts, one thing never has changed for Keith Eilts.
"It's all about fun," he said as he lined up Boy Scout Troop No. 101 for Saturday's Wild West Festival parade. "I still enjoy it.
"Every year, I ask myself, 'Do I have another year?' So far, I've always answered 'yes.' "
Eilts was to be honored Saturday evening as the All-American Citizen, but Saturday morning, he rode in style down Main Street. He waved from his seat in a convertible to the folks lining the streets. Twenty-five Boy Scouts marched close behind.
Eilts, who has logged more than 34,000 volunteer hours, has remained active as Troop 101's Scoutmaster long past the years when his son and daughter participated in the program.
Marching with the scouts Saturday, Eilts' daughter Elise Eilts-Blas, in an orange Troop 101 shirt she borrowed from her dad, said she fondly remembered her days in the Venture Crew, a girls' scouting group brought to Hays by Keith Eilts.
"There were probably 10 of us girls," Eilts-Blas said. "I so wanted to be here to show that girls can do this, too."
Keith Eilts' son, Kyle, lives in Hays and also has remained involved with the Boy Scout organization.
Eilts-Blas continues the scouting tradition in Topeka, where she's in a Venture Crew that focuses on adventures, green living and spiritual unity.
Boy Scouts has been co-ed for about 40 years, Keith Eilts said, and if a girl wanted to be part of his troop, Eilts said he was glad to get them involved in scouting. He said he enjoyed the years his daughter and 11 other high school girls participated in the Venture Crew in Hays.
"We went to the mountains and white water rafting, and we'd go shopping," he said. "I saw more chick flicks in those four years than I should ever see, but we had a blast.
"They keep inviting me to their weddings."
Eilts' wife, Renee, also has helped sponsor events during the years. However, she admits she's not always comfortable in the more risky outings.
"I leave the adventures to him," she said after telling a scary white-water rafting trip tale that ended with her taking a front flip off the raft.
Among the more than two dozen Boy Scout parents and leaders who nominated Eilts for the award was Steve Urban, assistant Scoutmaster. Urban said Eilts "looks after these boys like they are his own sons."
"He goes above and beyond," Urban said. "It's like having another full-time job just doing this, plus owning his business."
Eilts is the owner of Arrow Maytag Home Appliance Center in Hays.
The work of Troop 101 continued throughout the WWF, as scouts and leaders pitched in to clean the WWF grounds as a fundraising project each morning after evening concerts.
"We were down there before 7 a.m. picking up the mess," Eilts said, laughing. "But I think it's funny -- I'm the All-American Citizen (today), but tomorrow I'll be cleaning up the trash."
Fifty-three Boy Scouts make up the roster of Troop 101, eight of which will be heading to National Jamboree in West Virginia Monday morning. Working with Scouts through the years, Eilts said, requires effort on the part of leaders to create a meaningful program. That effort, in turn, can impact lives years from now.
"It's really nice to be recognized and a boost for the scout troop," he said. "To let us know that Boy Scouts is alive and well and we're still out there.
"When the world needs help, they call for Boy Scouts and here we are, producing leaders. The majority of civic leaders and government leaders, if you look at them, have a scouting background. It's a proven 104-year-old program."