Couple donates new trailer to Boy Scout Troop 76

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Scoutmaster Bill Simms shows shelving he installed in the Scouts’ new, 2017 trailer, to keep supplies stationary and organized. The trailer was donated, at a cost of about $5,500, by Terry Fitzgerald and his late wife, Carole Fitzgerald, of Climax Springs, and cash for supplies, who heard about the theft of the their previous trailer on the news. Julia Kilmer/

Group finds new friend in donor; donor finds comfort; boys learn life lesson

On Nov. 8, Troop 76 Boy Scouts broke in their new, 2017 trailer, donated to the group by a Climax Springs man and his late wife after they heard about the issue on the news.

In the spring, the Scouts’ trailer was stolen from the parking lot of the group’s hut where the boys hold their meetings, packed with supplies and gear they were planning to use for an annual camping trip.

“They cut the locks off, hooked it up and pulled it off,” said Scoutmaster Bill Simms.

The 20-year-old trailer was recovered in Newton County soon thereafter, but the damage had been done. The trailer was stripped and all of their supplies, gone.

The boys were disheartened, but the story was not over.

Supplies came flooding in, from First Bank of Purdy, Eagle Scouts and other Scout groups.

“When the trailer was stolen with all their supplies, they said, ‘What are we going to do?’ Simms said. “I said, ‘Remember all the service hours you’ve put in for people? What goes around comes around.’ They couldn’t believe all the supplies that came in, and they learned a good life lesson. It was a bad situation but a win-win experience because they got real-life experience, and all the hard work they’ve done has come back to them. We survived it and are better for it.”

The ending got even better when, along with supplies, a trailer was donated.

Simms credits the media for publicizing the theft, which Climax Springs residents Terry Fitzgerald and Carole Fitzgerald saw on the KSPR 33 news the next morning. The story got their attention, because their son, who was active in the Cub Scouts, was killed by a drunk driver.

“Our son, Terry Gordon Fitzgerald, Jr., was killed at 11-years-old by a drunk driver, so it touched our hearts. My wife said, ‘We need to get the kids a trailer.’ We thought it was the best thing to do. Those kids need to be able to go out and get their merit badges and things like that.”

The Fitzgeralds purchased a new, 6-by-10 trailer for the Scouts from Trailers Plus in Springfield at a cost of about $5,500.

“He even bought a spare tire and a lock for the trailer,” Simms said. “It was originally a $9,000 trailer, but they were running a sale. He also gave us $400 for supplies and to use however we needed.”

Fitzgerald endured not only the loss of his son, but the loss of his wife, who had been battling leukemia but was in remission. She became ill and passed away shortly after the trailer was purchased.

So the trailer, which bears a dedication to his wife and son, is especially meaningful.

“It means a lot to me,” Fitzgerald said. “We didn’t really have the money, but it was one of those things that needed to be done. My wife was such as sweet, kind-hearted person and said we needed to do something about this.”

“We put a graphic on the trailer for them,” said Simms, who took the trailer to her service. “He was glad to see that.”

As generous as it was, Fitzgerald didn’t stop at the donation. He invited the Scout group to stay in touch and camp on his property near Camdenton.

“He’s kind of adopted us,” Simms said. “And, he is willing to to help us anyway he can. He has 300 acres and has offered for the Scouts to come up and camp anytime they want.”

“Kids nowadays need to be outdoors and learn good values and stay off social media,” Fitzgerald said. “We had been involved in archery many years. The boys can come out here so they can camp, hunt and fish, anything to keep them out of social media and gangs and drugs. We have too much of that as is.”

The trailer has been painted with the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) emblem, the American Flag, and Troop 76 emblems, to help identify it.

The graphics, which amounted to about $500, were completed by Lancaster Signs of Joplin, thanks to a donation from the Cassville Rotary Club, including Rotarian Herb Primrose, who facilitated the project.

“At time the of the theft, we were asked why the trailer wasn’t marked, and it was because we didn’t have the money,” Simms said. “So, the Rotarians approved the purchase. Herb picked up the trailer and took it to Joplin on Monday, and picked it up on Tuesday.”

Simms hopes the emblems will provide a deterrent for would-be thieves, adding that the absence of any markings could have made it an easier target for thieves.

“People would have recognized it if it had had emblems on it,” Simms said.

Now, the Scouts will be keeping a closer eye on the trailer.

“We put more locks on this one,” Simms said. “Just about everywhere you can put a lock, there’s a lock.”

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